HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. -- Spring and fall are heady times on Hilton Head Island.
Tourists and golfers gather to enjoy the gorgeous weather and beautiful scenery along the tidal marshes and on the beaches of the Atlantic Ocean.
Because it's high season, finding affordable golf options isn't easy. With a little creativity, it can be done, especially if you're willing to head off island to Bluffton. A budget of $200 for greens fees can last up to three days, no problem, if you're willing to play in the afternoon.
Bucket list golf isn't happening, so let's be clear on that. Scratch off a visit to Sea Pines Resort. Teeing it up at Harbour Town Golf Links in the shadow of the candy-stripped lighthouse doesn't come cheap. The area's other top 100-caliber course, May River Golf Club at Palmetto Bluff in Bluffton, will have to wait. The three courses at Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort never drop below $95 through May 6, so they probably aren't an option, either.
Your best bet on the island might be the Golden Bear Golf Club at Indigo Run, a fine facility run by ClubCorp. The Jack Nicklaus course provides a typical island experience. Condos and homes intrude upon some of the natural beauty, yet it's still fun and interesting routing. An afternoon tee time after 1:30 p.m. drops to $62, a perfect price in our range.
Video: Ginella on where to stay and play on Hilton Head Island
The next stop is just across the bridge, Old South Golf Links in Bluffton. An $80 afternoon round delivers some serious scenery. Five holes dance into the Intracoastal marshes of McKay's Creek with the Calibogue Sound on the horizon. The dangerous par 4s at no. 7 and no. 16 and the par-3 eighth hole all end at island-like greens. When the tide seeps in, this Clyde Johnston design really shines. It embodies the spirit and beauty of the Lowcountry.
"Golfers get mesmerized [by the setting]," Old South Head Professional Jim Uremovich said. "They get lost out there. Regardless if they are playing bad, they enjoy it."
The final round will put us slightly over budget ($7 to be exact). It's worth it. There are cheaper options farther off the island, but you'll spend extra time and gas money to get there.
A $65 afternoon tee time at Crescent Pointe Golf Club introduces three holes flirting with the beautiful Colleton River. Arnold Palmer designed this 6,773-yard par-71 course in 2000 as a semi-private playground just six miles from Hilton Head Island. Water lurks around every twist of the fairway.
"It's one of the courses down here you don't get bored of playing," said Stephen Neville, head professional at Crescent Pointe. "It's rough. Every tee shot, approach, there's a challenge. It's got great views. It is not a plain golf course. Each hole has something different to look at.