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Hilton Head Island, named in 1663 after Captain William Hilton discovered the land, is a vacation hotspot for tens of thousands of visitors each year. It’s easy to see why, too, with 12 miles of crystalline beaches hugging the Atlantic Ocean, a wealth of lazy day activities to indulge in, and a perfect location that puts it in close proximity to Savannah and Charleston. But two of the biggest activities associated with Hilton Head are golf and tennis, and we’re here to give you the inside scoop.

More Golf than You Have Vacation Days

To say golf is incredibly popular is an understatement: if you go for a two-week vacation, and an average round of golf for you is about four or five hours, there’s a very slim outside chance you could experience every single golf course at Hilton Head. But that’s only if you spend every waking minute of every day on golf, and do nothing else on your vacation.

Hilton Head has a staggering 22 public golf courses, and four private courses. So yes, it is possible that you could taste every one, but it’s not very practical. Let’s take a look at some of the top and most interesting courses you should head to.

Harbour Town Golf Course

Of all 26 golf courses at Hilton Head, none is as widely recognized as Harbour Town, which is an annual host to the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage stop. It’s a tough course that demands strategic shooting, creativity and finesse instead of brute strength, but get through 17 holes successfully and you’ll be rewarded with the world-famous 18th green. There, you’ll tee off with the red-and-white striped lighthouse as a backdrop, more than giving you the sense you’re channeling Ricky Fowler or Rory McIlroy.

May River at Palmetto Bluff

It goes without saying that any course designed by Jack Nicklaus is a course you go out of your way to visit. Luckily, May River is nestled right in your vacation spot, so all you have to do is wake up early and beat the crowds. The only drawback is you have to be a guest of the Inn at Palmetto Bluff, but do it. The contouring is soft and level, there are mandatory caddies, and jaw-droppingly large oak stands on the edge of freshwater wetlands to keep you company throughout your 18 holes.

Heron Point by Pete Dye

What happens when you get renowned golf course designer Pete Dye on board and invest millions of dollars in reconstruction? A year-round golf course like Heron Point, dramatically improved from its former version. Now, each green has its own different personality, from the 519-yard par 5 9th green, an L-shaped fairway that demands utmost concentration, to the deceptively easy-looking 13th green, a 157-yard par 3 that has been known to trip up golfers thinking they could sit back and take it easy.

Tennis Courts Everywhere You Look

Finding a tennis court in Hilton Head is a bit like finding a coffee shop in Seattle: there seems to be one on every street corner, but they’re not the same at all. It can be a little overwhelming to know which court you want to play at, so we’ve taken the guesswork out and presented our three favorite ones.

Palmetto Dunes Tennis Center

Grab a racquet and drive over to the #1 tennis resort in the Carolinas as ranked by Tennis Magazine, and the ninth best in the world according to Tennis Resorts Online. Once there, you’ll have more than your pick of courts to choose from, with 23 clay courts and two Nova ProBounce courts, with six lighted ones for nighttime play. And if your tennis skills are good enough, then gear up for to compete in a number of tournaments available throughout the year.

Hilton Head Island Tennis

Tennis Magazine has also chosen this tennis resort as a highly sought-after one, including it in their National Top 50 Resort rankings as the Carolinas’ Top 5. Why? Well, if you ever get tuckered out from a full day of returning serves and volleys, then you can unwind in either Hilton Head’s largest pool by the beach, walk to the beach itself, or unwind in the luxurious tennis resort facility.

Van Der Meer Shipyard Tennis Resort

Once again, this tennis resort has been included in Tennis Magazine’s Top 50 U.S. Tennis Resorts because of its incredibly well-kept courts — 13 Har-Tru and seven Hard, with eight lighted courts and three of them indoor/lighted. Despite there being 20 courts, though, you’ll always get a feeling of privacy when you work on your game, with tall and stately oak trees acting as a natural barrier between courts.


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