Hilton Head Island offers a soothing respite for winter-weary northerners and deprived golfers

I’m not a big fan of winter or any of the elements that go with it: snow, cold, coats, hats, boots and mitts. Neither do I enjoy any of the outdoor sports associated with Canada’s deep freeze. Instead, I’m a fan of sun, sand, balmy weather and golf – preferences that have often lured me to South Carolina’s Hilton Head Island where winter months there are generally blessed with spring-like weather, superb golf and an abundance of exceptional places to stay. Last year I changed things up a bit by not booking a traditional hotel. Instead, I opted for a vacation villa offered by the island’s Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort. It’s not the only one on the island specializing in rental villas, condos and vacation homes, but it’s nevertheless one on which I can offer a first-hand accounting.

The Resort

Located in the mid section of the island, rimmed by three miles of dune-fringed beachfront on one side and the protected Intracoastal Waterway marina on the other, this 2,000-acre resort takes full advantage of a lush and unspoiled natural environment. Moreover, islanders plan to keep it that way. No building can be built above the tree line and there are strict regulations involving the removal of a single tree.

Elegant and comfortable living room in a Windsor Court condo at Palmetto Dunes Resort

In and around the resort, a canopy of green provides a beautiful backdrop for an intricate network of streets discretely lined with pastel-coloured rental villas, condos and private homes. Some of them overlook the resort’s three golf courses while others have awesome views of the Atlantic and some are mere steps from the edge of the dunes.

The resort’s various accommodations are where creature comforts begin. I was booked into a three-bedroom villa alongside the ocean close enough to hear the endless sound of surf rolling onto the beach. The villa’s amenities were superb: well appointed kitchen with modern appliances and granite counters, upscale furnishings, a large dining room, a TV room, gorgeous living room, two screened porches with barbeque, plus indoor laundry facilities. While excellent island dining options enticed me out a couple of times, the villa was so entirely inviting and comfortable, I often stayed in.

Overall, Palmetto Dunes has 800 privately owned units with the resort managing the rental of 150 of them. Rental options range from those accommodating everything from couples to groups and large families. Some of the units even feature private hot tubs, pools and fireplaces. For people preferring a hotel environment, Palmetto Dunes also has two, world-class oceanfront properties.

The Golf

The links on Hilton Head have enjoyed a long-standing reputation for top quality golf and the three championship courses at Palmetto Dunes are no exception. Designed by a trio of the finest architects in the business (Robert Trent Jones, George Fazio and Arthur Hills) each of the three courses offers a different golf experience.

The Jones course is an oceanfront track that has been ranked among the best in the southeast United States. In typical Jones fashion, it features sweeping fairways, large greens and plenty of bunkers. The Fazio course is considered by many golfers to be among the most challenging layouts on the island with its series of long par fours, broad bunkers and devilishly situated water hazards. Neither is the Hills course a walk in the park. Its layout spreads over rolling dunes where significant challenge is provided by tree-lined fairways, ocean breezes, water and side-hill lies. While the resort welcomes day players on its courses, there is a variety of stay and play value packages. In addition, for people wanting to improve their game, the resort also features a golf academy. Beyond Palmetto Dunes, there are more than 20 other world-class courses in close proximity.

Hilton Head

Activities Galore

A revealing indication that the resort offers considerably more than outstanding accommodations, stellar golf and a fine beach; Travel + Leisure magazine has ranked Palmetto Dunes the No. 1 Family Resort in the United States and Canada. Indeed, there are things to do for the entire family including top-notch tennis. With 23 clay courts (eight of them lighted for night play) and an instructional centre for all ages, it is widely known and highly regarded among tennis enthusiasts. The island is also ready-made for bicycling. The resort and surrounding area offers more than 25 miles of generally flat, paved bike paths and bikers often elect to ride along miles of sandy beach at low tide. No need to bring bicycles. There are rentals for adults and children alike at the resort’s Hilton Head Outfitters. With the Atlantic on the doorstep and an 11-mile salt-water lagoon winding through the property, obvious activities include canoeing, kayaking, fishing, water skiing and crabbing.


Getting there: Hilton Head Island is largely a drive destination from Canada. The 55-square-mile, shoe-shaped barrier-island with bridge access from the mainland lies 90 miles south of Charleston, South Carolina and just north of Savannah, Georgia. It’s about a 30-minute drive from I-95 to island access.
Palmetto Dunes information:
Get details online at www.PalmettoDunes.com or call 866-380-1778.

Hilton Head Island information:
See www.hiltonheadisland.org or call 800-523-3373