Locals affectionately refer to it as “The Rock.” Travel + Leisure readers perennially vote it the best island in the continental United States. Hilton Head Island is off South Carolina’s southern tip, and has long been a hotbed for luxury vacation homes and retirement-based relocation.
And that trend continues as Baby Boomers flee high tax, cold weather states for the Sunbelt. With the addition of new flights from Delta, United and American directly to Hilton Head Island Airport, the island is now more accessible than ever.
In fact, more than 2.7 million people visited the Hilton Head-Bluffton-Beaufort area in 2019. Close to 80% were repeat visitors spending between two weeks and two months in the area. Tourists – more than 50% – eventually relocate and rent or purchase a second home in the region.
A luxury, Lowcountry lifestyle beckons them, often consisting of golf, tennis, biking the island’s miles of dedicated multi-use paths and leisurely walks along one of America’s most underrated beaches. The subtropical climate is ideal for year-round outdoor activities and pursuits.
At the center of it all is Sea Pines Country Club.
A private, invitation-only enclave situated just behind the gates of famed Sea Pines Plantation, members are not required to live “inside the gates.” The club sets up perfectly for those relocating to Hilton Head or east Bluffton who want the freedom of residential choice.
The club is well positioned for the next wave of relocations to “The Rock,” invigorated by a visionary plan for the future and ample capital investment.
Sea Pines Country Club’s “re-imagination” began with a $2.7 million renovation of the main clubhouse in 2017. This first phase resulted in an entirely new dining facility, the Blue Heron Pub and Grille, a 24-meter outdoor pool and resort-style deck, as well as an indoor saline and children’s splash pool.
In 2019, the club leveled-up its health and wellness game with the debut of a stunning new $3 million fitness center. Completely renovated and expanded from 2,500 to 7,300 square feet, the new facility features the latest cardio and strength training equipment, as well as a grab-and-go café and infrared sauna.
A new second floor with a balcony overlooking the tennis courts and golf practice range features a multi-purpose room for group classes and gatherings. Locker rooms have doubled in size to accommodate the infrared saunas, a popular post-workout amenity. The group fitness lineup now includes yoga, Pilates, spin, full-body strength training, TRX and water aerobics. Physical and massage therapy round out the offerings.
“We are a lifestyle-focused club, and the fitness center is the hub that connects to golf, tennis, culinary, social and everything we offer,” says General Manager and Chief Operating Officer Robbie Ames, brother of Champions Tour player (and former PGA Tour star) Stephen Ames.
Fitness notwithstanding, golf is still a major draw at Sea Pines Country Club. The Club Course is the only private course inside the Sea Pines gates. Originally designed by Arnold Palmer and Frances Duane in 1973, it opened just four years after neighboring Harbour Town at Sea Pines Resort.
“The Club Course is a quintessential example of Lowcountry golf course design,” says Ames. “It has narrow, tree-lined fairways, a high percentage of doglegs, subtle green complexes and lagoons. There’s a sense of intrigue on every tee box as to what comes next.”
Especially on the 18th, a 413-yard par 4 that is considered to be one of the most memorable closing holes in the region. The layout’s longest par 4 has an expansive tidal marsh that runs along the left side of the fairway and a serene lagoon flanks the right.
New for 2020, Sea Pines Country Club is debuting a new pickleball center and bocce court, capitalizing on the global popularity of these socially-driven activities. The four pickleball courts were created by converting one of the club’s tennis courts. The 60-foot long bocce court overlooks the expansive tidal marsh behind the clubhouse, and is sure to be a hit with the members. Through a master plan created by golf course architect Phil Smith, future plans call for an expansion of the practice facility and game improvement areas, and updates to the Club Course.