Home » Feature Story

Kiawah resort, Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head, Daufuskie and more: The best island golf courses in South Carolina

By Tim McDonald, Contributor

The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort, Harbour Town Golf Links on Hilton Head and Myrtle Beach's Caledonia Golf and Fish Club are just a few of the excellent island golf courses in South Carolina.

Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort - No. 12
In designing the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort, Pete Dye took a Carolina seascape already blessed by nature and used some of his subtlest strokes.
Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort - No. 12Caledonia Golf & Fish ClubHarbour Town Golf Links

HILTON HEAD, S.C. - Much of coastal South Carolina is referred to as the "lowcountry," and you don't get much lower than the state's islands.

South Carolina islands positively reek with history and ambiance; you can stand under a canopy of moss-draped oaks and imagine any number of Civil War battles.

You don't have to imagine world-class golf courses, though. They're there, and we've played most of them. Here are some of our favorites:

Ocean Course, Kiawah Island Golf Resort

The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort is golf architecture as art. Behold the pretense: Pete Dye took a Carolina seascape already blessed by nature and used some of his subtlest strokes, which must have been difficult for an eccentric, over-the-top designer often loved and often equally hated for changing the way we look at golf courses.

No golf course in the world has ever improved on nature, but the Ocean Course comes closer than most, and the way Dye did that was to let the location's natural beauty remain in its simplest state. What is a seascape anyway, but dunes, water, wind and hardy growth lashed by salt spray? That's what this part of the Carolina coast was and what it still is; it's the way Dye guides you through it as you play a centuries-old game that qualifies as artistry.

For tee times or golf package information, call (866) 260-4409 or (770) 291-4202 or click here.

Harbour Town Golf Links, Hilton Head

The lighthouse at Harbour Town is one of the most recognizable landmarks on the PGA Tour. Harbour Town Golf Links is the course that launched Dye's career and established Jack Nicklaus as a course designer to be reckoned with, a course that many of the top pros always name on their list of favorites.

For tee times or golf package information, call 800-767-3574 or click here.

Long Cove Club, Hilton Head

This private club could have easily been the top choice. Those lucky enough to play it have raved, tossing around words like "spectacular," and even comparing it to the most revered golf courses in the world.

It's another Dye design, opened in 1980, that features rolling, tree-lined fairways, most of which are bordered by a series of creeks. The greens are difficult, and the course is almost always in immaculate condition. It plays from the back tees to 6,900 yards with a tough slope rating of 140.

For more information, call (843) 686-1070.

Old Tabby Golf Links, Spring Island

You know you're in for something special when you take the lonesome drive just to get to the entrance of the islands that take you to Old Tabby. When you eventually pull in, you're met with a subtle wood and brick clubhouse overlooking marsh and, beyond that, Port Royal Sound, where the biggest Naval engagement of the Civil War took place.

Arnold Palmer and associate Ed Seay designed an excellent, challenging course, but perhaps the smartest thing they did was let that setting take center stage. At Old Tabby, you never lose that feeling of being on a relatively isolated, coastal island, with nesting egrets, alligators and other island wildlife. It's so quiet, the birdsong seems louder and you can hear the rustlings of critters in the woods.

For tee times or golf package information, call 800-767-3574 or click here.

Caledonia Golf and Fish Club, Pawleys Island

Of all the "plantation golf" in the Carolinas, Caledonia Golf and Fish Club may be the finest, at least among those clubs the non-aristocrats can get into. A canopy of ancient live oaks envelops you as you make the drive up to the antebellum clubhouse, and from there it just gets better. The course is routed through some of the best terrain in the lowcountry, wild and beautiful, as befits a site where hunting and fishing has been going on virtually undisturbed for centuries.

When you play this course, unfettered by house or condo, you can easily imagine you're back in the 1700s, with the stillness of the woods and marsh, fish jumping in the creeks and birds rattling in the trees. Caledonia, like its sister course, True Blue, are both standalone courses without ties to real estate, and so must rely on its customers for both word of mouth and repeat play.

For tee times or golf package information, call (866) 409-2177 or click here.

Secession Golf Club, Beaufort

Named after the Articles of Secession that were taken to Charleston before the start of the Civil War, the private Secession Golf Club keeps the experience decidedly Old South. There is no real estate around the course and no aggressive membership drives. It's low-key golf, where walking and caddies are mandatory.

Designed by Australian Bruce Devlin, the course is just over 7,000 yards, a links-style design that wanders confidently through lowcountry terrain.

For information, call (843) 522-4600.

Haig Point Club (Calibogue), Daufuskie Island

A private course just across the Calibogue Sound from Hilton Head, the Calibogue course at Haig Point Club is a Rees Jones layout - scenic, seaside golf. It rolls through sea island forests and along wide stretches of pristine salt marsh. "I knew when I first saw it we could build a word-class golf course," Jones said. The greens are fast and sloped, and the back tees stretch to 7,113 yards.

For information, call (843) 341-8143.

Cassique, Kiawah Island

Kiawah Island is home to another famous course, Cassique, designed by Tom Watson and part of the private Kiawah Island Club, where members get access to three clubhouses. Watson had Scotland's links courses in mind when he designed the course. Since the winds off the Atlantic are such a factor, Watson designed the course to play a number of ways, depending how hard and from which direction the wind is blowing.

For information, call (843) 768-5717.

Melrose Golf Course, Daufuskie Island

Another Nicklaus piece of work, Melrose has three of the most dramatic finishing holes in the Hilton Head area. They run along the Atlantic coastline, where you can see the lighthouse at Harbour Town and deep out to sea.

The rest of the course isn't too shabby, either, traversing through sleepy residential areas, palmetto trees and scenic wetlands.

For more information, call (800) 648-6778.

Country Club of Hilton Head, Hilton Head

The Country Club of Hilton Head has that relaxed, lazy, country club feel to it on the front nine: a pleasant layout, birds chattering in the trees, leisurely people doing leisurely things. There are some challenging holes, but still you almost find yourself nodding off.

Then, on the back nine, it opens up and the scenery hits you in the face. It's still relaxed and leisurely, but now you have something close to spectacular to look at as you work your way around this fine, parkland course.

For tee times or golf package information, call 800-767-3574 or click here.

Hills course at Palmetto Dunes, Hilton Head

The Arthur Hills course at Palmetto Dunes is a very playable, Arthur Hills course that favors aerial approach shots on a number of holes, as lagoons come into play.

For tee times or golf package information, call 800-767-3574 or click here.

Tim McDonaldTim McDonald, Contributor

Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
Dates: December 11, 2017 - March 31, 2018
3 nights’ accommodation in spectacular Villas conveniently located on property...
Price range: $105