An introduction to Hilton Head

Within South Carolina’s Lowcountry region, is the hugely popular Hilton Head Island. This is a golfing mecca on the doorstep of the historic town of Savannah over the state border in Georgia. And in this post, we’re going to take a look at some of the best private golf courses in Hilton Head. 

For an island of just 180 kilometers squared, Hilton Head packs a punch when it comes to golf. There are 23 championship golf courses on the island with a range of both public and private courses. At the time of writing there are 15 courses open to the public.

Aside from the golf, which we’ll come onto later, the island is also popular for its Atlantic Ocean beaches. The whole Atlantic side of the island is essentially one long gorgeous beach.

There are miles upon miles of bike trails, upmarket hotels, wonderful restaurants and plenty of shops. You can absolutely understand why this is such a huge tourist destination.

See also: What are the best golf courses in South Carolina?

The best private golf courses on Hilton Head Island

Long Cove Golf Club

Long Cove Club, Hilton Head, South Carolina

Long Cove Golf Club opened for play in 1981 and is part of an exclusive private residential community.

This is a gorgeous stretch of Hilton Head and it is here the Long Cove golf course weaves elegantly through the native marshlands. 

Designed by the design duo of Pete and Alice Dye, it really is a treat for anyone who gets to play here. It is also one of the more challenging you will play on the island.

This is a beautiful part of the lowcountry, and despite water being present on most holes, it actually plays like three very different courses. You have a number of tree-lined holes, a collection of sandy-desert style holes and then holes which play through the marshes. 

Pete and Alice worked seamlessly with the existing land, creating a number of risk-reward holes. Speak to a member and they will confirm there is no signature hole, every hole is superb. 

Even the presence of housing, albeit hidden away discreetly, doesn’t take away from what is an outstanding golf course. Without doubt one of the finest private courses on Hilton Head Island.

The Signature Course at Haig Point

Haig Point, The Signature Course, Hilton Head, South Carolina, Permission Given - Photo credit Evan Schiller
Photo credit Evan Schiller

I can already hear some people shouting me down. ‘Haig Point is not even on Hilton Head Island!’. Yep I hear you, but I’m not listening. It’s close enough 😉

But for those people who are less informed, let’s take a step back for a moment.

Haig Point is located on Daufuskie Island, an isolated and secluded island just off Hilton Head’s southernmost tip. Little fact for you – it is actually the southernmost inhabited island in South Carolina. 

Access is by the club’s private ferry that departs from Haig Point’s Embarkation Center. The remote nature of the island in a way adds to the overall appeal and exclusivity.

And it is here, on this typical lowcountry parcel of land, the world-famous architect Rees Jones was commissioned to create a high end members golf course.

What he created is known as ‘The Signature Course’, and has been recognised by all the major golf publications. Golf Digest, Golf Week and Golf Magazine have all lavished praise on this outstanding layout. 

Golf Magazine even went as far as to bestow it a place in its ‘Top 100 in the World’ list. 

Whether you agree or not is neither here nor there. The fact is, this is a wonderfully challenging golf course positioned on one of the most scenic plots in the state. 

Tight tree-lined fairways necessitate accurate iron play. Whilst a number of forced carries over creeks and marshes again put an emphasis on proper ball striking. 

Another fun fact is that the initial routing for the Signature Course featured 20 holes, essentially including two extra greens. These can still be played today, teeing off from the 8th and 17th holes. 

Quite simply, a unique golfing experience with more photo opportunities than you can keep up with. Make a day of it and enjoy every moment.

It’s worth knowing that the club does allow a small number of unaccompanied players. I’m reliably informed you should contact the Golf Shop to inquire about potential tee times at 843-341-8155.

The Golf Club at Indigo Run

Right in the heart of the island alongside the Cross Island Parkway, is this hugely popular members-only club.

One of the reasons for its ongoing popularity, is the range of other amenities onsite to enjoy. Alongside the golf course, there are numerous tennis courts and a fitness center. 

As for the fantastic golf course, it was named as one of the nation’s ‘Top Ten New Private Courses’. This accolade was bestowed when it opened in 1996 by Golf Digest.

The Golf Club at Indigo Run was actually one of the last courses to be built on the barrier island and has the unique claim to have been designed by the father and son duo of Jack Nicklaus and Jack Nicklaus II. It is also the only signature course co-designed by the two of them.

The Nicklaus duo have masterfully created a routing which twists and turns through the native pines and large oaks putting a premium on strategy play. This isn’t a course where you need to pull out the big dog and pummel it as hard as you can. 

Despite being a member-only club, it is possible to get tee times here. Speak to the right people and you’ll find it is actually quite decent value.

Wexford Golf Club at Wexford Plantation

Wexford is a neighborhood in the southern half of Hilton Head, overlooking the tributary and the Cross Island Parkway.

This is another upmarket gated residential community where owning a property ultimately gives you access to all the amenities onsite.

This includes the divine Wexford Golf Club, which was first opened back in 1983 and designed by Willard C. Byrd. In 2011 the great Arnold Palmer oversaw a major renovation and Wexford is now considered one of his signature courses.

Throughout the redesign, Palmer was very honest about the fact that many of the holes took inspiration from a number of classic ‘template’ holes, including the likes of the Redan, Alps or Biarritz. Yet each one has its own modern twist.

This might explain why a good handful of its holes get selected when experts choose their ‘18 favorite holes in Hilton Head’.

The setting is delightful; there are tall majestic oaks and a myriad of pines through which the course meanders. It has also seen its share of tournament play in hosting the 2017 USGA Senior Open Qualifier.

The Country Club of Hilton Head

Country Club of Hilton Head, South Carolina, Permission Given - resized

This is one of the northernmost private golf courses on Hilton Head Island, positioned alongside the historic Skull Creek and next to Fort Michel.

Coincidentally, it is yet another Rees Jones masterplan which opened for play in 1986, aided in the project by Keith Evans.

Currently for members-only, there have been years when the Country Club of Hilton Head was open to the public, accepting daily fee requests alongside its thriving membership. Yet for whatever reasons, knowing a member is your only access as I write.

In many ways, the layout resembles many of the other higher echelon golf courses on Hilton Head. Plenty of marshlands, creeks, tree-lined fairways, stunning views and water coming into play.

But where it really does differentiate itself is the course being routed across the highest elevation point on the island. For example, when on the signature 12th hole, you simply must stop and admire the views. 

Likewise, there are a mind-boggling 14 doglegs on the course! This makes Country Club of Hilton Head a distinctly challenging course and one not to be under-estimated.

Sea Pines Country Club

The last but by no means least of our private courses on Hilton Head Island, is the superb Sea Pines Country Club.

Not to be confused with Sea Pines Resort, which to be fair is right next door, Sea Pines Country Club is located on the western side of Hilton Head, close to Calibogue Sound and Buck Island.

This luxury country club features a whole range of world-class amenities with the fine championship golf course one of many attractions to be enjoyed.

A large outdoor swimming pool, hot tub, heated indoor pool, tennis and pickleball courts, state-of-the-art fitness center….you name it, they’ll probably have it.

But it is the golf we’re here for and neither does that let you down. 

A first class Arnold Palmer layout which was designed in collaboration with Francis Duane, it opened for play way back in 1973. 

The routing meanders in and around the coastal area, getting lost in dense woodland and occasionally emerging alongside the breathtaking saltwater marshes. 

Despite being just 6,383 yards from the back tees, it plays long. Narrow tree-lined fairways with plenty of water mean scoring well is very difficult. And like the more recognised Harbour Town Golf Links next door, the course features plenty of doglegs and small ‘target’ greens.

Alongside a number of other recent improvements to the club, the course was most recently renovated by the talented architect Phil Smith in 2019. 

The masterplan identified improvements to nearly every aspect of the course, whilst at the same time respecting the Lowcountry character it is known for.

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