HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. -- If you're thinking about taking a golf trip to Hilton Head Island, there are a handful of courses that stand out as must-plays. Among them is the signature course at Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort -- the Robert Trent Jones Oceanfront Course .
One of three terrific golf courses offered at Palmetto Dunes, the Jones Course, as its name implies, bumps up against the Atlantic Ocean. That occurs on the par-5 10th, but it's hardly the only highlight, just as the Jones Course is only one of the many tantalizing options at this wonderful 2,200-acre resort, where you can not only play golf, but also bike, hike, swim, fish and enjoy terrific dining.
Golf leads the way at Palmetto Dunes resort
Still, the Jones Course is certainly one you don't want to miss. While the suspense might build toward that ocean view on 10, this 7,005-yard course that opened in 1967 is intriguing from the first hole and gets more interesting and enjoyable as the round continues. You'll find water on half the holes, but the fairways are generous and if you play the right tees, there aren't many difficult forced carries. Still, if the wind is up, it can be a hardy test, but certainly playable. And it's always in terrific shape, especially in the fall and winter after it's been overseeded.
The other two courses, like the Jones Course, are also named for their designers. The George Fazio Course is the island's only par 70 and is highly regarded by many of the area's golf purists. With many long par 4s, length and accuracy are a must on this course that doglegs its way around mature hardwoods, sand and water. The course also recently received new Diamond Zoysia greens, which are more cold and heat tolerant, easier to maintain and strikingly beautiful.
And finally, Palmetto Dunes' Arthur Hills Course , named after the veteran designer, is just what you might expect from Hills. While the course is certainly playable, you have to be on your game. Course management is a big key to success, navigating the holes built on a series of rolling dunes around trees, sand and lakes. The Arthur Hills Course is also home to the historic Leamington Lighthouse, which was built more than 130 years ago to help guide ships into Port Royal Sound.
Great resort for working on your game
There are a few great instructional programs around the country, and the Palmetto Dunes Golf Academy is among them. Led by former PGA Tour player Doug Weaver, spending a week at Palmetto Dunes working on your game would surely pay dividends. Weaver and his staff never stop learning themselves and have a way of breaking down golf into feels and images to which everyone can relate. The Academy has also been known to offer free clinics for those staying at the resort, and there are group clinics, too, as well as individual lessons for reasonable fees.
It should also be noted that if you're a tennis player as well, Palmetto Dunes also has you covered. Not only does it have one of the top tennis centers in the United States with 23 clay courts and two Nova ProBounce courts, but it also has one of the best instructional programs in the United States. So if you're into golf and tennis, Palmetto Dunes is basically your Nirvana.
Divine dining at Palmetto Dunes
If you like waterfront dining (and who doesn't?), then The Dunes House is the ideal setting for a relaxing cocktail and a great meal. You can take in lunch or dinner, indoors or outdoors on its large wooden deck, live music, and an array of choices from drinks to dinner specials. The Dunes House offers a casual menu featuring local seafood, handmade burgers, grilled chicken and salads. Even more important, The Dunes House offers easy access to the beach.
Good eats hardly end with The Dunes House, though. Golfers and nongolfers alike really enjoy the comfort food of Big Jim's BBQ, Burgers & Pizza, which is located inside the clubhouse of the Jones Course. Open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the menu, of course, includes barbecue, gourmet burgers and grilled pizza plus homemade soups, salads, seafood, steaks and fall-off-the-bone ribs.
The clubhouses at the other two courses have excellent restaurants as well, and you'll find more places to eat at Shelter Cove Harbour on the Intracoastal Waterway. Patterned after a Mediterranean Villa, Shelter Cove offers more than 20 shops, galleries and restaurants.
Lots more to do at Palmetto Dunes
Just in case golf and tennis aren't enough, Palmetto Dunes offers what seems like an endless array of other activities. Back at Shelter Cove, you can arrange for a fishing expedition, rent a boat or take a cruise to watch dolphins.
The island also has miles of trails. There are five miles of bike trails inside Palmetto Dunes, where you can rent a bike or bring your own. You can kayak, canoe or paddle board on Palmetto Dunes' 11-mile saltwater lagoon. And, of course, you can enjoy Palmetto Dunes' three miles of pristine beachfront property, which is uncrowded and peaceful.
Palmetto Dunes is also very family friendly, as you might have guessed, especially at Shelter Cove Harbour, where there's regular entertainment and fireworks.
Where to stay and play at Palmetto Dunes
Speaking of families, there's a wide array of accommodations at Palmetto Dunes, from charming villas on the golf courses to luxurious private homes overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. If you book directly through Palmetto Dunes, you will enjoy preferred rates and premium access to all resort amenities.
The resort also has two four-diamond hotels, the Hilton Oceanfront Resort and the Marriott Spa and Beach Resort, which also offer plenty of meeting space.
For more information on stay-and-play packages at Palmetto Dunes, ranging from three nights to more than a week, check out their Web site here .