In fewer than 50 years, Hilton Head Island and its renowned Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort have forged a reputation for offering some of the world’s finest golf and tennis
(HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C.) — Long before paved roads and the first links layout reached Hilton Head Island, golf’s birth in the South Carolina Lowcountry took place in Charleston at the South Carolina Golf Club, which was established in 1786 and lasted until 1800.
Hilton Head Island’s first course would not arrive until more than a century-and-a-half later; its earliest designs paving the way for future area layouts by the most acclaimed golf course architects of the day, including Robert Trent Jones’s uniquely spectacular design at Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort, which was named the South Carolina Golf Course of the Year in 2003 — an honor bestowed on the resort’s Arthur Hills Course in 2009. The George Fazio Course is regarded by many golfers as the island’s most challenging championship course and stands apart as the only par-70 course on this island.
Through the years, many of the PGA Tour’s top names such as Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Hale Irwin, Payne Stewart and Davis Love III recorded memorable moments at the Hilton Head’s Heritage tournament. The first Heritage champion was the legendary Palmer, who had not been victorious on tour for 14 months prior to the event, and his popular victory was a giant step in putting Hilton Head Island on the map.
Nicklaus, arguably the game’s greatest player — along with being co-designer of the course — won the tournament in 1975. Love III, hailing from nearby Sea Island, Ga., enjoyed his first PGA Tour win in 1987 at The Heritage, and earned his record fifth tartan jacket in 2003. Love, the late Payne Stewart and Boo Weekley have been the only three players to win consecutive Heritage tournaments.
The end result has been that Hilton Head Island is now considered one of the country’s most renowned golf destinations — and Palmetto Dunes is among its most preferred addresses. Last year Palmetto Dunes was named one of the “World’s Best” Top 25 Family Getaways by Travel & Leisure magazine, while a former PGA Tour performer Doug Weaver is the resort’s longtime director of golf instruction. Golf Digest highlighted Hilton Head Island among its Top 10 Best Buddies Getaways with the Hills course recognized in the designation.
New in 2014, the golf carts at the Robert Trent Jones Course are now equipped with a state-of-the-art Visage GPS system, making Palmetto Dunes the first golf course on Hilton Head Island to offer such technology. The touch screen system offers 3D graphics, yardages, real-time tournament tracking, ability to email scores, and food and beverage call buttons. The systems have shown to improve pace of play due to increased knowledge of the course — and the resort also offers a free new golf app with features for booking packages, making tee times, tracking round info and more.
Palmetto Dunes offers free golf clinics on Mondays, as well as a number of appealing Spring Golf Packages and “Golf-Buddy Getaways” that include accommodations at either of the resort’s two hotels, or in its golf villas and homes.
Tennis also became a staple on Hilton Head in large part due to the Family Circle tennis tournament’s arrival in 1973, as the event added to the island’s exposure through its national TV coverage. Hilton Head would soon become a hub for tennis — and tennis legend Stan Smith is a longtime island resident. Among Hilton Head’s quartet of facilities that have made the biannual list of Tennis Magazine’s “50 Greatest U.S. Tennis Resorts,” the Palmetto Dunes Tennis Center has been a mainstay on the prestigious rankings since 1975.
The Family Circle, like the Heritage, has a storied history filled with the greats of the game. Chris Evert owned the longest reign as champion, winning the Family Circle eight times. Other tournament champions on Hilton Head Island include names like Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graf, both of whom won the tournament four times, along with two-time champs Tracy Austin, Martina Hingis, Conchita Martinez and Gabriela Sabatini. Sadly for Hilton Head’s tennis fans, in 2001 tournament organizers elected to move the Family Circle Cup two hours up the road to Charleston, S.C.
Despite the loss of the Family Circle Cup, however, tennis hasn’t lost its flare on Hilton Head, as a visit to the facilities at Palmetto Dunes would readily attest. The Hilton Head newspaper, The Island Packet, named the Palmetto Dunes Tennis Center serving 30,000 players annually as the area’s “Best Racquet Club” and Hilton Head Monthly named it the area’s “Favorite Tennis Center” in 2012 — the same year it was tabbed as the “No. 1 Tennis Resort in the Carolinas” by Tennis Magazine.
If you are looking to mix it up a little this spring and want to enjoy some world-class golf or tennis at the most family-friendly resort around, try Hilton Head Island, S.C., and its venerable Palmetto Dunes Resort. You’ll be glad you did. For more information, call 877-567-6513 or visit www.PalmettoDunes.com.