From Dye to Jones: A dream Hilton Head Island golf itinerary for architecture buffs

By Mike Bailey, Senior Staff Writer

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. -- There are 24 public golf courses in the Hilton Head Island/Lowcountry area, and most of them are designed by some of the biggest names in the business. Ideally, a golf trip to Hilton Head Island would include a sampling from each of them, but unless you've got a month, that would be impossible.

Robert Trent Jones Course at Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort
The Robert Trent Jones Course is one of three excellent big-name designer courses at Palmetto Dunes.
Robert Trent Jones Course at Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront ResortShipyard Golf Club in Hilton Head IslandRobert Cupp Course at Palmetto Hall Plantation - No. 13Harbour Town Golf Links - No. 17Heron Point course at Sea Pines Resort - No. 16

So if you were to settle on a four-day trip, for example, which golf courses would you choose? Which designers? Everyone might have a different answer, but how cool would it be to come back from a golf trip and say you've played courses designed by Pete Dye, Robert Trent Jones, George Fazio and George W. Cobb?

You could do just that with a fairly quick trip to Hilton Head Island. Just fly into the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport, which is a few miles south, and get in as much golf as you can.

Here's a suggested itinerary of golf courses designed by the biggest names in golf:

Day 1: Take on George Cobb at Shipyard Golf Club

Unless you're looking to go economy, staying at either the Sea Pines Resort or Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort would be ideal. Both are located in the heart of Hilton Head Island and offer outstanding accommodations.

Sea Pines, of course, is where the famed Harbour Town Golf Links is located.

Palmetto Dunes has 54 holes, all designed by the game's top architects. It's the perfect launching pad for a golf trip. Both resorts have villas and condos for rent, which is ideal for buddy trips since many have two or more bedrooms and separate baths.

From most locations in the country, you should be able to get a connecting (or even direct) flight into Savannah, Ga. A quick trip up Interstate 95 should leave plenty of time for 18 holes on the first day -- maybe even 27, so why not start out with classic Cobb? For that, you might want to try Shipyard Golf Club.

There are three nines at Shipyard G.C. -- the Clipper, the Galleon and the Brigantine. This is some of the oldest golf on the island, with the first two nines opening in 1970 and the Brigantine debuting in 1982.

Cobb, who was originally from Savannah, designed quite a few courses in South Carolina, including the Ocean Course at Sea Pines Resort. But Cobb is probably best known for a par-3 course he created -- the "little course" at Augusta National. The Shipyard, as you might guess, has lots of water on it -- all but two holes, in fact. There are also plenty of tall pines, magnolias, Spanish-moss draped oaks and gators, giving players a good feel for Lowcountry golf and making Shipyard a great choice for a warm-up round to the rest of the trip.

Day 2: 36 holes at Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort

Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort is sort of a course-design aficionado's dream with three courses penned by well known names, and all three are fairly different. So for this day, choose two of them and knock yourself out.

The first is Palmetto Dunes' Robert Trent Jones Course, which was renovated in 2002 and has been rated among the best courses in the Southeast by readers of Golfweek magazine. The signature hole is the par-5 10th, which offers sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean. It's one of only two oceanfront holes on Hilton Head Island.

Your second choice is the George Fazio Course, which some regard as the island's most challenging championship course. Opened in 1974 and renovated 20 years later, it's ranked among America's top 100 courses. And with only two par 5s, it's the only par-70 course on the island. Conditioning is always superb on this 6,873-yard course, which is easily one of Fazio's best.

The Arthur Hills Course at Palmetto Dunes is built on a series of rolling dunes, which translates into plenty of uneven lies. Palm trees and palmettos line fairways, and there is water on 10 of the holes, which are always influenced by ocean breezes. Like Harbour Town, the Arthur Hills Course also features a lighthouse, the historic Leamington Lighthouse, which was originally known as the Hilton Head Range Light Station and dates back to 1880.

Day 3: Play twice at Palmetto Hall Plantation

Palmetto Hall Plantation has two 18-hole layouts by name designers. The first is another Hills layout, the Arthur Hills Course, which opened in 1991 to rave reviews. Here you'll find fairways cut through tall pines and large oaks past plenty of clear lakes.

The second course is the Robert Cupp Course, designed by Bob Cupp. Opened in 1993, this is as tough a golf course as you'll play. From the tips, this 7,079-yard layout, which features plenty of bunkers and water, has a slope rating of 144.

Another option for golfers looking for diversity would be to skip over to Bluffton to play Hilton Head National Golf Club. This former 27-hole layout is down to 18 holes these days because of an addition to Bluffton Parkway, but what's left are two nines -- one designed by Gary Player, the other by Bobby Weed, who was a Dye protege. The signature feature of this enjoyable layout is that both finishing holes share a green.

Day 4: Take on Pete Dye at Sea Pines Resort

Get up early and catch a late flight if you're up to it, for today we play two Dye gems. If you do decide to play just 18, though, no trip to Hilton Head Island is complete without playing Harbour Town Golf Links, home of the PGA Tour's Heritage Classic.

This early Dye classic is known for its famous par-4 18th, which plays over the marshes onto a peninsula green out toward the Calibogue Sound with the famous red-and-white lighthouse and marina in the background. But the course, where Dye enlisted Jack Nicklaus' help as a design consultant, is so much more than the finishing hole. The 16th and 17th holes are terrific as well, but the interior holes, especially the rest of the par 3s, aren't too shabby either. Overall, Harbour Town has the smallest greens on the PGA Tour, and many players have lauded it as a modern day masterpiece.

One fact that many may not know is that Dye's wife, Alice Dye, had a hand in this design as well, coming up with the concept for the par-4 13th. Like the 17th at the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, it too has an island green, but it's surrounded by a large expanse of sand, not water.

The other Dye course at Sea Pines Resort is Heron Point. It was originally named Sea Marsh and designed by Cobb, but Dye did the redo, which reopened in 2007. Simply put, Heron Point is spectacular with its contrast of colors, impeccable conditions and natural beauty. Located less than a mile from Harbour Town, the two make for an incredible 1-2 punch on the final day.

Mike BaileyMike Bailey, Senior Staff Writer

Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in Houston. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America with an occasional trip to Europe and beyond, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 25 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeBaileyGA and Instagram at @MikeStefanBailey.

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