Southern Ocean Breezes
Celebrated Coastal Golf Resorts/Part II:
Harbour Town, Amelia Island, Hammock Beach

By Bill Nestor

A recent road trip included stay and play visits at some notable ocean golf resorts.  The adventure began at Kiawah Island and journeyed down the coast of South Carolina and Florida.  It was a delightful time highlighted by spectacular golf courses, delicious regional cuisine and elegant southern hospitality. (See link below *Southern Ocean Breezes Part I/Kiawah)

4-Harbour_Town_Golf_LinksNo_18.jpg 5-Heron_Point_18.jpg
The Pete Dye and Jack Nicklaus designed Harbour Town Golf Links has been home to an illustrious PGA Tour event since 1969. New Heron Point, the 2007 total redo by Pete Dye follows the routing of the Sea Marsh Course it replaced.

At Sea Pines Resort on Hilton Head Island the hits just kept on coming. The Pete Dye and Jack Nicklaus designed Harbour Town Golf Links has been home to an illustrious PGA Tour event since 1969. The RBC Heritage, previously The Heritage Classic, is also a FedEx Cup event.

For more than 40 years the Heritage has been contested on Harbour Town Golf Links, often associated with a striking red and white striped Harbour Town Lighthouse on Calbogue Sound looming behind its signature 18th hole.

Improvements by Dye in 2011 extended the layout by 150 yards, removed some trees to improve sightlines and changed a few bunkers to bring hazards back into play. The Par 71 layout now plays 7,101 yards from the tips with a 147-slope rating. Four sets of tees offer an opportunity for a range of abilities to enjoy playing the esteemed course.

Accolades abound, no doubt influenced by its history, aesthetics, condition and the pleasure of experiencing such a treasure, factors that contribute to Harbour Town being a perennial top choice. In 2012, it was Golf Digest’s #12 best American public course and Golf Magazine’s #12 top public-access course in America.

2-Inn_at_Harbour_Town.jpg
Lodging options at Sea Pines include the 60-room boutique Inn at Harbour Town.

The well maintained grounds and routing through lovely low country terrain create a pleasant golf outing, but what at first appears to be a straight-forward hole can also jump up to bite you. The palmetto palms, Spanish Moss draped live oaks, lagoons, oversized waste bunkers and stately magnolias add to the beauty, and also to the challenge requiring strategic shot making. Being in the fairway off the tee is most advantageous because the Bermuda grass rough, although not particularly long, is quite gnarly.

Sea Pines Resort’s two other courses complement the prestigious Harbour Town Golf Links. New Heron Point, the 2007 total redo by Pete Dye follows the routing of the Sea Marsh Course it replaced. The scenic layout and mature trees were kept to retain its visual appeal and an Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Certification speaks to its presence. Dye’s design has taken it to a new level of challenge over a very attractive landscape. Multiple boxes offer play from the 7,103-yard/143 slope Tournament tees to the 5,262-yard/112 slope Palmetto tees.

In 1995 Mark McCumber redesigned the Ocean Course, a 1962 historic design by George Cobb and the first golf course built on Hilton Head Island. Shown here is the 15th hole.

In 1995 Mark McCumber redesigned the Ocean Course, a 1962 historic design by George Cobb and the first golf course built on Hilton Head Island. It is not long at 6,906 from the tips or terribly threatening, but it is unique with one of the few oceanfront holes on island. The 210-yard par 3 plays uphill to a green that appears from the fairway to be sitting directly on the dunes with a backdrop of beach and ocean. Wind off the water can cause fits with selecting the right club to reach and hold the putting surface.

Lodging options at Sea Pines include a variety of luxury accommodations—300 villas, 100 rental homes and the 60-room boutique Inn at Harbour Town.

Over the border in Florida, the Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island blends pleasantly with the surrounding sand, water and sky. The luxury oceanfront hotel stands prominently surveying the sea with long views up and down the coast.

Private balcony rooms, a full service spa, dining at Café 4750 and the upscale Salt Restaurant are complemented by an exceptional service oriented staff whose attentive, pleasant and relaxed style make for a very comfortable and enjoyable stay.

Adjacent to the hotel is The Golf Club of Amelia Island, a Mark McCumber/Gene Littler 1987 design, for members and Ritz-Carlton guests. It’s a delightful resort track offering a very playable layout and/or challenging round, depending on your choice of tees. There are five sets available from the 5,039-yard/121 slope forward tees to the 6,696 yard/140-slope tips.

TOP: The Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island offers a varied lineup of activities designed to enhance the guest experience.
BOTTOM: Adjacent to the hotel is The Golf Club of Amelia Island

The greens are large and undulating with generous fairways throughout. A number of holes, especially on the front nine, are lined left and right with large live oaks, while others play around bodies of water. The back nine opens up a bit where gently rolling and wider fairways are balanced by marsh protected greens that present risk reward opportunities. Ocean breezes are often a force with which to reckon.

The lovely beach and coastal setting are conducive to enjoying many resort amenities including swimming pools and the oceanfront Tiki Bar. Beachside fire pits add to the nighttime ambiance accented by freshening ocean breezes. After dark, an extended fireworks display launched from the beach in front of the hotel filled the sky with a vibrant show. The Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island offers a varied lineup of activities designed to enhance the guest experience.

Ritz Carlton-Amelia Island is one of Golf Digest’s Best 75 Golf Resorts and Conde Nast’s #5 Top Golf Resort in Florida.

In Palm Coast a meticulously  landscaped entranceway takes you to Hammock Beach Resort that is set along two miles of coastline. The Jack Nicklaus designed Ocean Course meanders along the shore and amid unspoiled wetlands. The final four holes, descriptively named “The Bear Claw”, present a beautiful and intimidating quartet of ocean front holes, often accompanied by wind off the water.

Florida’s Ocean Course is a deliciously crafted routing with five sets of tees playing 7,201-yards from the tips with a 144 slope or 5,115-yards with a 117 slope from the forward markers. Sand is in play on many of holes where deep bunkers protect the greens and waste bunkers line fairways. The Ocean Course at Hammock Beach is a fabulous resort layout that was in terrific condition tee to green the day I played.

Hammock Beach Resort is set along two miles of coastline. The Jack Nicklaus designed Ocean Course meanders along the shore and amid unspoiled wetlands.

It is #38 on Golf Digest’s 2012 list of America’s 100 Greatest Public Courses and Hammock Beach Resort is one of Digest’s Best 75 Golf Resorts. Golf Magazine also includes the Ocean Course as one of the top 100 public-access courses in America and the #4 course in Florida.

The Tom Watson designed links style Conservatory Course at Hammock Beach is an inland architectural gem with waterfalls, brooks, stonework and other striking features. The 140 bunkers, undulating greens, and coquina rock mounded landscaping add to the challenge. The par-72 Conservatory is one of the longest and hardest golf courses in Florida stretching to 7,776 yards from the back tees with a 78.2 course and150 slope rating. The task is somewhat softened by an especially well maintained tee to green conditioning and six sets of tees.

The signature hole is a 199-yard par-3 island green. There are two behemoth par fives on the back nine: #10 is 636 yards and #18 is 603 yards featuring a tee box at an elevation of 100 feet, offering a stunning course overview. Members and resort guests can now play the private Conservatory Course.

This part of the country is known for its stellar collection of exceptional resorts that deliver the best of southern charm, hospitality and golf courses.

A variety of accommodations are available at the resort- villas, high-rise condos, suites and the Lodge at Hammock Beach featuring 20 luxuriously appointed guestrooms, a boutique hotel ambiance and scenic views over the Atlantic and golf course.

Hammock Beach Resort offers restaurants and bars that fit well with its ocean side setting, from a casual poolside cafe serving island inspired fare to homemade Italian meals at Delfinos.

This part of the country is known for its stellar collection of exceptional golf resorts that deliver the best of southern charm, hospitality and courses in breathtaking and picturesque settings with service, food and amenities to match. I played some impressive layouts routed over dramatic terrain in beautiful natural settings and immensely enjoyed every step of the way.

Bill Nestor writes about travel, golf, food, nature and lifestyle from his home in Vermont.


For More Information:
Sea Pines Resort, Hilton Head, SC - www.seapines.com
Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, FL - www.ritzcarlton.com/ameliaisland
Hammock Beach Resort, Palm Coast, FL - www.hammockbeach.com

Be Sure to Read: Southern Ocean Breezes Part I