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A big comeback for Hilton Head’s first golf course

Hilton Head’s original course comes back to life in the hands of local brothers.

The Ocean Course at the Sea Pines Resort opened in 1962 as the first golf course on South Carolina’s Hilton Head Island. Today, the 109-square-kilometre barrier island is home to more than 30 courses, several of which now overshadow the original design by George Cobb.

Among the more prominent layouts are the Ocean Course’s younger siblings at Sea Pines—Heron Point, a Pete Dye design built in 2007, and Harbour Town Golf Links, a Dye course from 1967 that hosts the PGA Tour’s annual RBC Heritage tournament. Both of the Dye designs have benefited from significant investment in recent years, part of a multimillion-dollar transformation of Sea Pines that will soon conclude by going back to where it all started.

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Set on the southernmost tip of Hilton Head, the 2100-hectare Sea Pines Resort comprises four neighbourhoods with distinct dining, shopping, and entertainment options. Competition from other nearby golf resorts — namely Kiawah Island, just south of Charleston, South Carolina, and Sea Island in southeastern Georgia — prompted Sea Pines to embark on a renovation that, to date, has included the additions of a beach club; a 2137-square-metre clubhouse for the freshly redesigned Heron Point; and, last year, a 4088-square-metre clubhouse for Harbour Town.

Later this year, the resort will cap off its upgrades by unveiling an all-new Ocean Course created by Love Golf Design, a local firm run by Mark Love and his brother, Davis Love III, who won the RBC Heritage tournament five times during his PGA Tour career.

According to Mark, the new Ocean Course will be a more forgiving resort-style course, with expanded landing areas and elevated edges of play on either side of the fairway. “It’s not nearly as intimidating for the average player,” he says.

“In our design, we want to bring an ocean feel back to the course,” adds Davis, who currently plays on the PGA Champions Tour. “You only see the Atlantic once, but the course needs a style and look that lets you know you are at the beach.”

The Love brothers have good reason for wanting to emphasise the course’s coastal connection: The 15th hole—a 192-metre par three that plays right to the edge of the beach—is one of only two holes on all of Hilton Head with an Atlantic-front green. Being first, it seems, has its advantages.

The Sea Pines Resort, seapines.com

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