Golf in the Lowcountry: Hilton Head Island's best marsh views from the golf course
Over the years, Hilton Head Island has enlisted the help of golf's top designers to create a golf utopia: Rees Jones, Robert Trent Jones, Arthur Hills, Pete Dye, George Cobb. Beyond that talent, a foundation of marshes, maritime forests and the Atlantic Ocean make for a remarkable palate of unique courses in a small area.
Hilton Head Island sits near sea level, so water serves as a common denominator on the links. One constantly flirts with the water table, the ocean and tidal marshes.
Bring extra balls. Lots of them.
Also, bring a camera, because along these golf courses, you'll find stunning marsh views, glimpses of alligators and wading water birds. Here are some of the Hilton Head Island golf courses that have unmatched views of the Lowcountry marsh terrain ...
Oyster Reef Golf Club
No. 6, the signature hole at Oyster Reef Golf Club, sums up the beauty that is Hilton Head Island. The green on this par 3 hugs Port Royal Sound, a gorgeous backdrop that makes it difficult to concentrate on golf. Across the vast body of water, notice Parris Island, site of the U.S. Marine Corps Recruit Depot.
Oyster Reef's seventh hole also presents a view of the sound before the golf course again turns inland. Overall, it meanders through a maritime forest that tosses sand and water at golfers, plus, on two holes, there is a bird sanctuary that consumes golf balls that wander right. Also, wildlife of all kinds provides an irresistible distraction.
But Oyster Reef Golf Club isn't just pretty. Rees Jones crafted a thinking man's golf course with deft challenges throughout -- either with hazards to penalize errant shots or narrow fairways that require a long, true tee shot. Throw in a few interrupted fairways, and this is a layout of which you will not tire.
The Ocean Course at Sea Pines Resort
The Ocean Course at Sea Pines is classic throwback, allowing golfers to enjoy the views without punishing their games. The scenery steals the show, with golf almost secondary. But given its location next to the Atlantic Ocean and a clear view of the surf from the 15th hole, one understands how that can happen.
One of the island's oldest golf courses, it occupies prime property along the ocean and the lagoon system that keeps water at bay. The original Cobb design in 1960 received a freshening in 1995 by Mark McCumber. The Ocean Course at Sea Pines is a certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary and a beginner-friendly golf course.
That's not to say it's without challenges. The Ocean Course measures 6,906 yards from the tips, and plenty of hazards exist along with way -- many in one form of water or another. But with the salty breeze, sunshine and wildlife, there's something about this golf course that invites the humming of Jimmy Buffett songs. It's laid back, beautiful and features three required elements -- sand, palm trees and the ocean -- and the promise of a fourth: margaritas after the round.
Harbour Town Golf Links at Sea Pines Resort
No matter the list, Harbour Town seems to appear on it. Sports Illustrated called it "nothing short of a work of art."
It has resided on such compilations, essentially, for the past 50 years. It's made Golf Magazine's top 30 golf courses in the world and ranked as one of the best in South Carolina, as deemed by a bevy of list makers.
Harbour Town consistently lands on Golf Digest's top 100 collection. It's home to the PGA Tour's Heritage tournament and routinely rates among touring pros' favorites.
Not many holes at Harbour Town overlook the marsh, but Nos. 17 and 18 make up for it. The par-3 17th fires right toward Colibogue Sound. Then turn right to play along the marsh for the 18th hole, which heads toward the iconic Harbour Town Lighthouse. You'll remember the entire golf course, but if you must quickly conjure an image of Harbour Town, these final two come to mind.
Visit Hilton Head. You won't forget the golf, and you won't forget the Lowcountry scenery.
June 18, 2010