A gourmet guide to the best on-site dining options after golf on Hilton Head Island

By Jason Scott Deegan, Senior Staff Writer

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. -- Food in the Lowcountry offers plenty of tasty highlights.

Sea Pines Resort - Harbour Town Grill
Golf, great food go hand in hand in Hilton Head.
Sea Pines Resort - Harbour Town GrillSea Pines Resort - Topside Waterfront  RestaurantHilton Head Island - seafoodHarbour Town Lighthouse at The Sea Pines Resort

Golfers who hang out at the best public courses and resorts on Hilton Head Island -- and even off the island in Bluffton -- are spoiled with choices.

All that water in the surrounding saltwater marshes and the Calibogue Sound might swallow a golf ball, but those hazards reward golfers after the round with fresh shrimp, crab, oysters and seafood, the staples of Lowcountry menus. Dishes of She-Crab Soup and Frogmore Stew -- a savory South Carolina blend of shrimp, hot sausage, potatoes and corn on the cob -- showcase the flavors of the region.

Eating isn't a necessity on an island with more than 250 restaurants -- it's a passion.

"We are a golf-friendly island," said Jeff Kruse, the food and beverage director at Sea Pines Resort. "There is a whole gamut of golf-friendly places (to eat). You can't go into any well known bar or pub and not have at least one part of the restaurant be recognizable as a fun group of golfers. We take care of our golfers because they take care of us."

Sometimes, eating it up is almost as good as teeing it up. Here's a guide to some of the best on-site dining for those of you who come off the 18th hole looking for a bite.

Dining at Sea Pines Resort

Most golfers playing Harbour Town Golf Links for the first time don't realize that they're staring right at lunch, or dinner, as they come up the 18th fairway.

The Quarterdeck, an island tradition for decades in the shadow of the candy-striped lighthouse, is a great place to remember the round. Kruse said The Quarterdeck delivers "great" calamari and plenty of small plate items to share.

Above The Quarterdeck, with a panoramic view of the marina and lighthouse, is Sea Pines' Topside Waterfront Restaurant, a more refined destination. One-pound lobster nights for $19.99 highlight Thursdays until the end of February 2012.

Back at the clubhouse, The Harbour Town Grill overlooks the ninth green, serving anything from Southern-style breakfast to prime cuts of steak for dinner -- with choices of nine sides -- in an informal atmosphere.

Golfers playing the resort's Ocean Course and Heron Point Course can drop in for some great scenery and fill their bellies at the nearby Surfside Outdoor Oceanfront Restaurant & Bar at the Sea Pines Resort Beach Club.

Dining at Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort

Dining at Shelter Cove, right across from Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort, offers options for all tastes. Bistro 17 offers a French menu. Ela's Blu Water Grille and Scott's Fish Market specialize in seafood, steaks and pasta. San Miguel's Mexican Cafe brings a south-of-the-border vibe to the island.

Dining at Palmetto Dunes, the wine selection rivals the food at Alexander's Seafood Restaurant. Let's just say they're both good. Alexander's, overlooking a picturesque lagoon, has been an island tradition since 1977.

The 512-room Hilton Head Marriott Resort & Spa, snuggled between the Robert Trent Jones Course and George Fazio Course at Palmetto Dunes, is home to Conroy's, named for author Pat Conroy, famous for writing "The Great Santini" and "The Prince of Tides." This fine-dining restaurant serves tempting seafood dishes as well as pork, chicken and beef.

The Inn at Palmetto Bluff in Bluffton

While the May River Grill at May River Golf Club clubhouse serves fine golf grub, the River House is the dining hotspot for The Inn at Palmetto Bluff in Bluffton, roughly a half-hour off of Hilton Head Island.

Start with the iced oysters in a Bloody Mary mignonette and Worcestershire caviar and finish with Southern fried chicken, complemented by whipped Yukon gold potatoes, shelling peas, braised collard greens and hot sauce.

The Canoe Club rests next to the river, where blue crab cake comes with petite greens and creole remoulade, or try a Kobe Beef Burger with applewood smoked bacon.

More clubhouse charms

Clubhouse dining can be a bit repetitive, but it's where golfers tend to congregate. Plus, they're cheaper than fine-dining options and definitely more convenient for a burger and beer after a round.

All three clubhouses at Palmetto Dunes have their own grills named after the architect who designed the course: Robert's Grill, Arthur's Grill and the Fazio Grill. They offer traditional golf fare -- burgers, salads and sandwiches -- with local twists.

Port Royal Golf Club boasts Bayley's 19th Hole Grill for lunch. And the website of the Old South Golf Links touts the "best burgers and breakfast" in Bluffton, but try them to decide for yourself.

Jason Scott DeeganJason Scott Deegan, Senior Staff Writer

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed more than 700 courses and golf destinations for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Twitter at @WorldGolfer.

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