Frugal Golfer: Hilton Head

By Graylyn Loomis

Hilton Head, South Carolina, lighthouse at twilight.

With 24 courses and an annual PGA Tour event, it’s safe to say that Hilton Head Island is synonymous with golf. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be synonymous with costly. With a little searching and smart planning, the frugal golfer will find courses, accommodations, and dining options at every price point. Many of the best deals on tee times and rooms are bundled into packages offered seasonally at the properties listed. And once the round is over, you can relax and enjoy HHI’s other leading amenity, its long, gorgeous beach, which costs nothing at all. The weather is good year-round, but February and March offer pleasant temperatures and off-season prices.

Where to Play

• The Robert Trent Jones Course is the flagship of the Palmetto Dunes community, and is both the closest to the ocean and has the most water of the three layouts. The 11-mile lagoon system that meanders through the back nine is very much in play.

Palmetto Dunes (Arthur Hills)

• The Arthur Hills Course, also in Palmetto Dunes, is much more open these days after recent hurricanes did some serious tree pruning. Even so, the corridor fairways favor accuracy. Afternoon rates offer great value.

• Originally designed by George Cobb and Willard Byrd in 1967, Robber’s Row at Port Royal Golf & Racquet Club was treated to a Pete Dye redo in 1994. A Civil War battle was fought on the site, and today historical markers are dotted throughout the round.

• Rees Jones designed Bear Creek Golf Club, which is only $59 from 2-5 p.m. and $39 after 5 p.m. seven days a week. It’s a tough bear, indeed, with a reputation for quick greens and a 74.2/139 rating and slope from the 6,800-yard tips.

• If Harbour Town, where the Tour plays, is outside your budget at $365, don’t miss its sister course, Atlantic Dunes by Davis Love III, also located at Sea Pines Resort. Just a year-and-a-half old, it features fast, sloping greens and a top-notch practice facility shared with the third Sea Pines sibling, Heron Point by Pete Dye.

Dolphin Head, a former private club now open to the public, was the first Gary Player design on Hilton Head. The course is typically in great shape with quick greens, lush fairways, and sub-$100 green fees.

Where to Eat

• For the best sushi on the island, Hinoki is a favorite spot for locals as well as the occasional PGA Tour pro.

• For breakfast, Palmetto Bay Sunrise Café next to Broad Creek marina is the perfect place to start the day with numerous variations on a breakfast benedict.

• The “Sips and Bites” deal at Michael Anthony’s, an otherwise upscale Italian restaurant, pairs three small plates with three premium wines for $20 at the bar between 5–6:30 p.m.

• Sit at the bar at Crane’s Tavern and Steakhouse (which is a good idea anyway) and a great burger and fries is just $12.

The Quarter Deck, located in the heart of the action next to the Harbour Town lighthouse, offers live music, a bar, and a popular menu. Plus, there are few better places to enjoy the sunset.

Charlie’s L’Etoile Verte is justifiably popular for happy-hour drink specials and a tasty bar menu.

Where to Stay

• Rooms at the Omni Hilton Head Oceanfront Resort (in Palmetto Dunes) range from very affordable to very pricey depending on proximity to the ocean and time of year. But there are usually packages that include rounds at the three courses.

Omni Hilton Head Oceanfront Resort

• Located on the island’s north end, Hampton Inn Hilton Head makes a good home base and includes free breakfast and a nice outdoor pool.

• Despite its name, the Hilton Garden Inn Hilton Head is actually in Bluffton, S.C., located just off the island. But it’s just 10 minutes from the beach and no more than 20 minutes from any of the aforementioned courses.