Hilton Head is nicknamed "Golf Island" for good reason: the island itself has 24 championship courses (public, semiprivate, and private), and the outlying area has 16 more. Each offers its own packages, some of which are great deals. Almost all charge the highest green fees in the morning and lower fees as the day goes on. Lower rates can also be found in the hot summer months. It's essential to book tee times in advance, especially in the busy spring and fall months; resort guests and club members get first choices. Most courses can be described as casual-classy, so you will have to adhere to certain rules of the greens. The dress code on island golf courses does not permit blue jeans, gym shorts, or jogging shorts. Men's shirts must have collars.
The Heritage PGA Tour Golf Tournament. The most internationally famed golf event in Hilton Head is the annual RBC Heritage PGA Tour Golf Tournament, held mid-April. There are a wide range of ticket packages available. Tickets are also available at the gate. Sea Pines Resort, 2 Lighthouse La., South End, Hilton Head Island, SC, 29928. www.rbcheritage.com.
Golf Learning Center at Sea Pines Resort. The well-regarded golf academy offers hourly private lessons by PGA-trained professionals and one- to three-day clinics to help you perfect your game. Sea Pines, 100 North Sea Pines Dr., South End, Hilton Head Island, SC, 29928. 843/785–4540. www.golfacademy.net.
Palmetto Dunes Golf Academy. There's something for golfers of all ages at this academy: instructional videos, daily clinics, and multiday schools. Lessons are offered for ages three and up, and there are special programs for women. Free demonstrations are held with Doug Weaver, former PGA Tour pro and director of instruction for the academy. Take advantage of the free swing evaluation and club-fitting. Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort, 7 Trent Jones La., Mid-Island, Hilton Head Island, SC, 29928. 843/785–1138. www.palmettodunes.com.
The Island Golf School of Palmetto Hall Plantation. This is a great place to learn golf, perfect your swing, or improve your overall skills. It's administered by qualified and experienced professionals. Palmetto Hall Plantation, 108 Fort Hollow Dr., North End, Hilton Head Island, SC, 29926. 843/342–2582. www.palmettohallgolf.com.
Arthur Hills and Robert Cupp at Palmetto Hall. There are two prestigious courses at Palmetto Hall Plantation: Arthur Hills and Robert Cupp. Arthur Hills is a player favorite, with its trademark undulating fairways punctuated with lagoons and lined with moss-draped oaks and towering pines. Robert Cupp is a very challenging course, but is great for the higher handicappers as well. Palmetto Hall, 108 Fort Howell Dr., North End, Hilton Head Island, SC, 29926. 843/689–9205. www.palmettohallgolf.com. $145. Reservations essential. Arthur Hills: 18 holes, 6257 yds, par 72. Robert Cupp: 18 holes, 6025 yds, par 72.
Country Club of Hilton Head. Although it's part of a country club, the course is open for public play. A well-kept secret, it's rarely too crowded. This 18-hole Rees Jones–designed course is a more casual environment than many of the other golf courses on Hilton Head. Hilton Head Plantation, 70 Skull Creek Dr., North End, Hilton Head Island, SC, 29926. 843/681–4653 or 866/835–0093. www.clubcorp.com/Clubs/Country-Club-of-Hilton-Head. $85–$105. 18 holes, 6543 yds, par 72.
Golden Bear Golf Club at Indigo Run. Located in the upscale Indigo Run community, Golden Bear Golf Club was designed by golf legend Jack Nicklaus. The course's natural woodlands setting offers easygoing rounds. It requires more thought than muscle, yet you will have to earn every par you make. Though fairways are generous, you may end up with a lagoon looming smack ahead of the green on the approach shot. And there are the fine points—the color GPS monitor on every cart and women-friendly tees. After an honest, traditional test of golf, most golfers finish up at the plush clubhouse with some food and drink at Just Jack's Grille. Indigo Run, 100 Indigo Run Dr., North End, Hilton Head Island, SC, 29926. 843/689–2200. www.goldenbear-indigorun.com. $79–$99. 18 holes, 6184 yds, par 72.
Harbour Town Golf Links. Considered by many golfers to be one of those must-play-before-you-die courses, Harbour Town Golf Links is extremely well known because it has hosted the RBC Heritage Golf Tournament every spring for the last four decades. Designed by Pete Dye, the layout is reminiscent of Scottish courses of old. The Golf Academy at the Sea Pines Resort is ranked among the top 10 in the country. Sea Pines Resort, 11 Lighthouse La., South End, Hilton Head Island, SC, 29928. 843/842–1020 or 800/732–7463. www.seapines.com/golf. $215–$272. Reservations essential. 18 holes, 7001 yds, par 71.
Robert Trent Jones at Palmetto Dunes. One of the island's most popular layouts, this course's beauty and character are accentuated by the 10th hole, a par 5 that offers a panoramic view of the ocean (one of only two on the entire island). It's among the most beautiful courses in the Southeast, with glittering lagoons punctuating 11 of the 18 holes. Palmetto Dunes, 7 Robert Trent Jones La., North End, Hilton Head Island, SC, 29928. 843/785–1138. www.palmettodunes.com. $55–$155. Reservations essential. 18 holes, 6122 yds, par 72.
Bluffton Golf Courses
There are several beautiful golf courses in Bluffton, which is just on the other side of the bridges to Hilton Head Island. These courses are very popular with locals and can often be cheaper to play than the courses on Hilton Head Island.
Crescent Pointe. An Arnold Palmer Signature Course, Crescent Pointe is fairly tough, with somewhat narrow fairways and rolling terrain. There are numerous sand traps, ponds, and lagoons, making for some demanding yet fun holes. Some of the par 3s are particularly challenging. The scenery is magnificent, with large live oaks, pine-tree stands, and rolling fairways. Additionally, several holes have spectacular marsh views. Crescent Pointe, 1 Crescent Pointe, Bluffton, SC, 29910. 843/706–2600. www.crescentpointegolf.com. $70–$95. 18 holes, 6773 yds, par 71.
Eagle's Pointe. This Davis Love III–designed course—located in the Eagle's Pointe community in Bluffton—is one of the area's most playable. Eagle's Pointe attracts many women golfers because of its women-friendly tees, spacious fairways, and large greens. There are quite a few bunkers and lagoons throughout the course, which winds through a natural woodlands setting that attracts an abundance of wildlife. Eagle's Pointe, 1 Eagle's Pointe Dr., Bluffton, SC, 29909. 843/757–5900. www.eaglespointegolf.com. $52. 18 holes, 6126 yds, par 72.
Island West Golf Club. Fuzzy Zoeller and golf course designer Clyde Johnston designed this stunningly beautiful course set amid the natural surroundings at Island West. There are majestic live oaks, plenty of wildlife, and expansive marsh views on several holes. Golfers of all skill levels can find success on this succession of undulating fairways. There are several holes where the fairways are rather generous, while others can be demanding. This is a fun and challenging course for golfers of all handicaps. Island West, 40 Island West Dr., Bluffton, SC, 29910. 843/689–6660. www.islandwestgolf.net. $35–$45. 18 holes, 6208 yds, par 72.
The May River Golf Club. An 18-hole Jack Nicklaus course, this has several holes along the banks of the scenic May River and will challenge all skill levels. The greens are Champion Bermuda grass and the fairways are covered by Paspalum, the latest eco-friendly turf. Caddy service is always required. No carts are allowed earlier than 9 am to encourage walking. One caveat: The staff can sometimes be unresponsive. Palmetto Bluff, 476 Mount Pelia Rd., Bluffton, SC, 29910. 843/706–6500. www.palmettobluffresort.com/golf. $175–$260. Reservations essential. 18 holes, 7171 yds, par 72.
Old South Golf Links. There are many scenic holes overlooking marshes and the intracoastal waterway at this Clyde Johnson–designed course. It's a public course, but that hasn't stopped it from winning awards. It's reasonably priced, and reservations are recommended. 50 Buckingham Plantation Dr., Bluffton, Hilton Head Island, SC, 29910. 843/785–5353. www.oldsouthgolf.com. $65–$95. 18 holes, 6772 yds, par 72.