Ask Travelin' Joe: Hilton Head, Scottsdale and The Greenbrier
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We subscribe to GOLF Magazine and we have a book called "Golf's Best New Destinations" by Brian McCallen. After looking through that book, I was surprised not to see a course in South Carolina! We are planning a trip in June (hubby, wife, 11-year-old, 3-year-old, 1-year-old and a grandparent). We assumed South Carolina would be the best place in the U.S. to go for an awesome family resort, great beach, amenities, and of course amazing golf! We recently moved from SoCal and are in Ohio now. We figured somewhere on the East Coast would be best to avoid long flights and time changes withy the kids. Can you recommend a destination for us? Thank you!
Wow — a lot to cover! First, I have Brian McCallen's excellent book in my own collection. In Brian's defense, he devoted the text to new and emerging destinations, rather than established venues. I would lump South Carolina's prime three golf destinations, Myrtle Beach, Charleston and Hilton Head as "established," rather than new.
A fistful of quality golf and family retreats await as you work your way down the coast. Charleston is one of my favorite cities, and its golf resort offerings, from Kiawah to Wild Dunes, are marvelous — and very family-friendly. That said, I might wait until the kids are a wee bit older so that you can all appreciate the historical, cultural and culinary charms for which Charleston is famous.
As destinations go for families and serious golfers, it's impossible to beat Myrtle Beach for quality and value. There's something for every taste and price range along the Grand Strand — and it's closest to Ohio, so you'll save on travel time as well.
That said, many prefer the more low-key atmosphere of Hilton Head Island. I'm really fond of two plantation resorts, Palmetto Dunes (866-380-1778, palmettodunes.com) and Sea Pines (866-561-8802, seapines.com). As a kid, I vacationed at Sea Pines with my parents, little brother and two little sisters, and we were all smitten. As an adult, I've enjoyed both properties immensely. Both Palmetto Dunes and Sea Pines feature villas which are perfect for your brood, but traditional hotels are available, too. You can understand why the PGA Tour pros are so fond of Sea Pines, where they play the Heritage event. Sea Pines is safe, clean and quiet (except for the rockin' Quarterdeck next to the iconic lighthouse), with terrific beaches, restaurants and family activities from bicycling to horseback riding. Toss in one of the most beautiful, well-respected courses on Tour, Harbour Town, and Sea Pines soars. Palmetto Dunes boasts an all-star lineup as well, including its Robert Trent Jones course, which features one of Hilton Head's only oceanfront holes, as well as a set of kids' tees measuring a sensible 2,625 yards.
Eight of us are headed out to Scottsdale this year for our annual Memorial Day Weekend Golf Trip (we usually head to Myrtle). Four days, six rounds. We were thinking the following lineup: Troon North Pinnacle, Grayhawk Talon & Raptor, Southern Dunes and We-Ko-Pa Cholla & Saguaro. Thoughts?
Sensational slate! Bring plenty of sunscreen.
I want to say I love your column in GOLF Magazine. My question to you is regarding the Greenbrier Resort. If I have two rounds to play, which of the three courses would you recommend to play? Thanks!
Take the service and amenities of Manhattan's finest hotels, blend them with equal parts of historic West Virginia and rural mountain charm, then toss in a remarkable golf complex and you have The Greenbrier (800-453-4858, greenbrier.com). Kudos to native son Jim Justice for bringing back The Greenbrier to the Platinum status it deserves among American resorts.
Without question, start with the Old White course. Newly re-branded as The Old White TPC, this C.B. Macdonald/Seth Raynor classic was restored to its 1914 roots by Lester George in 2006, and proved a retro hit for the PGA Tour in 2010, when Stuart Appleby captured the Greenbrier Classic. From the elevated tee at the 1st, to the tranquil, wooded terrain that greets you thereafter, it's a round of pure pleasure, with many holes patterned after legendary British designs. The Old White TPC may lack modern drama, but it's good fun no matter what your skill level.
Your second choice depends on your playing ability. If you can comfortably handle forced carries on approaches to the greens, definitely do the Greenbrier course. This 1977 Jack Nicklaus redesign played host to the 1979 Ryder Cup and the 1994 Solheim Cup. Narrow, tree-lined fairways and greens perched above the fairway, often protected by bunkers or water, characterize this short layout that seems to play much longer.
If the hard, but handsome Greenbrier course sounds like too much golf to take on, sample the underrated third track at the resort, called the Meadows. Crafted by Dick Wilson in the early 1960s, then redesigned by Bob Cupp in 1999, the Meadows measures a sturdy 6,795 yards from the tips, but is only sloped at 129, with more width and fewer hazards than the other two layouts. Still, it's a legitimate entry in the Greenbrier golf family and starts and finishes at the same clubhouse that serves the other two courses. Meadows lacks the excitement and tournament pedigree of the Old White TPC and Greenbrier spreads, but if your goal is for a relaxing round with lost balls at a minimum, the Meadows is as soothing as it sounds.
(Photo: The Sea Pines Resort)