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Your perfect itinerary for a long, luxurious golf weekend in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

Tim McDonaldBy Tim McDonald,
Harbour Town Golf Links
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Harbour Town Golf Links is Hilton Head Island's marquee golf course. (Courtesy Harbour Town)

In addition to premium resorts and hotels, Hilton Head has some great public golf courses suitable for a three-day weekend, including Harbour Town at Sea Pines Resort, the Hills course at Palmetto Dunes and Melrose Golf Course on Daufuskie Island.

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. - Hilton Head Island is easily reachable from north, south or west - and even east if you're in a boat. The laid-back but upscale island is perfect for a long golf weekend.

And since you're considering Hilton Head for a golf mini-retreat, we know you're not exactly scraping together pennies to pay the light bill - you've got the scratch to really put on the dog. Trouble is, you don't know anybody who's a member at one of the area's many excellent private courses. Oh well, the golfers who frequent the public courses aren't exactly railyard winos.

With that in mind, here is our perfect, long weekend of golf on Hilton Head at courses the public can play.


STAY: Since you're playing Harbour Town Golf Links today, you'll be staying at the Sea Pines Resort, a huge, 5,000-acre property in which you can easily get lost.

Sea Pines has a mess of ritzy, privately owned vacation homes, ranging from the simple (for Hilton Head) to grand oceanfront estates, from one to seven bedrooms.

If you don't want something that ostentatious, you might consider booking a room at the quaint Inn at Harbour Town or renting a villa.

PLAY: Harbour Town is the island's marquee course, one of three at the resort, and one that is frequently mentioned when various magazines put together their "best" lists. This is the course Jack Nicklaus got his designer feet wet on, at the feet of Pete Dye. It launched Nicklaus' career, and he's never looked back.

It hosts the PGA Tour's MCI Heritage Classic, a relatively short course by modern standards at a touch less than 7,000 yards from the back tees, but one that demands precise shots. No. 18 is one of the toughest and most scenic holes in the Southeast, a 452-yard par-4 that finishes on Calibogue Sound.

Green fees are in the $225 range.


STAY: It's an easy drive down the road to Palmetto Dunes, another sprawling resort with three golf courses. You have your choice here as well for accommodations, from luxurious hotel rooms to big vacation homes or villas views of the ocean, marina, golf course or lagoon.

If you choose a hotel room, you'll be staying at either the Marriott Beach and Golf Resort or Hilton Oceanfront Resort.

PLAY: Palmetto Dunes' Arthur Hills course is always mentioned when people talk about their favorite public-access courses on Hilton Head.

Hills likes to design courses that force you to make decisions before you take action, and this layout is no exception. The members like it because a course that requires thought and finesse rarely gets boring.

The Hills course isn't one of Hilton Head's monsters at only 6,652 yards from the back tees, but it has traditionally been a favorite of both island regulars and newcomers.

It's an imaginative layout in excellent condition and, as with all Palmetto Dunes courses, it has excellent service. There are relatively few fairway bunkers, and the green complexes are nicely contoured and sloped.


STAY: A special Sunday treat. You'll be leaving one island for a smaller one, Daufuskie Island. The island, though it's grown in recent years, is still home to less than 500 full-time residents. This is the island Pat Conroy wrote about in his book "The Water is Wide."

The Dafuskie Resort and Breathe Spa has ocean front and ocean "breeze" cottages. The 1,500-square foot cottages have two, three and four bedrooms, and each has its own porch with Adirondack chairs, dining rooms for six, fully equipped kitchens, living rooms with fireplaces and overstuffed chairs. You don't even have to leave the cottage to eat - grocery delivery is available.

And or course it has the Breathe Spa, where you'll have your own "personal spa coordinator," who will probably steer you to the "Chocolate bliss." It's "calorie free" by the way.

PLAY: The Melrose Golf Course, one of two at the resort, is another Nicklaus design. It's 7,081 yards from the back tees. It's well known for its three spectacular closing holes that run along the Atlantic Ocean. "Melrose has all the elements you'd expect from a Hilton Head-area course, and some you don't," TravelGolf.com wrote in a review.

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Arthur Hills Course at Palmetto DunesMelrose Golf Course

Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

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