En route to Hilton Head? Don't miss these must-play golf courses in nearby Bluffton, South Carolina

By Lisa Allen, Contributor

BLUFFTON, S.C. -- You're traveling to Hilton Head Island, and you're antsy. The golf clubs are in the trunk, and that's just not quite close enough. You want to free them from their dark confines and let them swing in the open air, intent on propelling a ball exactly where you want it to go.

Crescent Pointe Golf Club - hole 9
The ninth hole from the back tees at Crescent Pointe Golf Club: The beauty is distracting.
Crescent Pointe Golf Club - hole 9Old South Golf Links - No. 1Hilton Head National golf courseIsland West Golf Club - hole 10

Hilton Head Island is only about a half hour away, but you can wait no more. You. Must. Play. Golf.

That's easy.

Here are some nearby golf courses in Bluffton on which to let your inner golfer free before you even cross the Intracoastal Waterway to Hilton Head.

A one-two punch: Crescent and Eagle's Pointe

Try the sister courses, Crescent Pointe and Eagle's Pointe, both well managed by the Sequoia group.

Crescent Pointe Golf Club is the only public Arnold Palmer course in the area. It's a delight, with lots of strategy required but not a lot of hit-out-of-your-shoes distances.

It incorporates the terrain whenever it can, including the par-3 ninth hole that is punched deep into the marsh. There isn't much "just bomb it down the fairway" on this golf course. Palmer keeps you in check with backstops (often water) for those who go for too much distance off the tee or into the green.

It's best to play this course from the green to the tee. Pick how long you want your approach shot, and make the adjustment on the tee to make it happen. The course is in great shape, and the staff is attentive and friendly.

Crescent Pointe G.C. also offers an alluring incentive to score well: The price of your first drink after your round is determined by your score. Shoot an 80, your draft beer is 80 cents.

Eagle's Pointe Golf Club, just west of Crescent Pointe, is a Davis Love III course on which every hole is different. Some feature sand assaults, and others put water right against the fairway.

The ninth has a large tree on the right side of the fairway that might make your drive a little tenuous. Love seems to like moving dirt, pushing up mounds in the fairways, along them and on the greens. What that means is a lot of fun while you try to guess where, and how, your ball will end up.

Each putt will be an adventure. Eagle's Pointe provides an interesting course with a lot of variety. Nothing boring about this place.

Old South Golf Links

Old South Golf Links is a Clyde Johnston design that is easily the marshiest in the Hilton Head area.

Memorable holes are packed into the course, including three island greens. You'll need to employ lots of water avoidance. For example, the par-5 third hole has water along its entire left side and a slash of bunkers from right to left to imperil your second shot, and another batch near the green awaits your approach. The short, par-4 seventh hole has a near island landing area before you turn right to the well guarded elevated green.

Old South's ninth is a romp through bunkers, with a pair awaiting your drive, a mega bunker left of the green and a few more short and right. It's capped off with yet another bunker behind the green.

The staff dreams up a lot of creative ways to entertain you, such as a tiny floating green near the clubhouse on which you can wager your results. There isn't a lot of development on the course, so you'll be able to relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery.

Hilton Head National Golf Club

Hilton Head National Golf Club has absolutely no development around it, a rarity right on U.S. 278, the main thoroughfare to Hilton Head Island.

Take advantage of the solitude, great service and an interesting combination course. The front was designed by Bobby Weed, known for his love of bulldozers and undulating fairways. The back is the work of Gary Player, who relies on doglegs and trees to keep you on your toes.

Holes of note are the sixth, where the green is squeezed between a large hill on the left and lots of water right, and the 13th hole, a par 3 that poses the threat of playing ping-pong between recessed bunkers that ring the elevated green.

Service at Hilton Head National G.C. is outstanding, from bag drop to starter. If you need anything, the staff will get it for you.

Island West Golf Club

Island West Golf Club is very visible, located right on well traveled U.S. 278 leading to Hilton Head Island. Fortunately, only two holes are near the road.

The Fuzzy Zoeller/Clyde Johnston course rewards strategy over length, although there is plenty of chances to let it rip. Design creativity exudes, from the first hole with a misleading bunker left of the offset green, to No. 4 that narrows to near nothing around the green, to several par 3s with lots of sand between you and the green.

There are plenty of doglegs if you want to try a little corner-cutting, but choose wisely. On several, it's just best to take your medicine and go around, not over, into trees or water. This course packs a lot of golf into a very reasonable price.

So, on your journey to Hilton Head Island, here are several excellent reasons to delay your arrival just a little while longer. Your golf clubs will thank you.

Lisa AllenLisa Allen, Contributor

Lisa Allen is a golf, travel and business writer based in Beaufort, S.C. She has edited newspapers, magazines and books in Michigan, Indiana and South Carolina. Follow her on Twitter @LAllenSC.

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