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Monday, January 6, 2014

The Great Escape: Hilton Head Island

For pro golf fans, Hilton Head Island means the Heritage Classic.  For Snow Birds, Hilton Head Island means trading the misery of snow and slush for the gentle world of sand, surf, and bike trails and unbelievably juicy oysters.  Well, for everyone who's ever ventured onto the island, Hilton Head means unbelievably juicy oysters.

For history buffs, Hilton Head Island calls up a vast sweep of historical memory that pre-dates the Pilgrim's landing on Plymouth Rock, extends through the era of great indigo, rice, and cotton plantations that created unbelievable wealth for a privileged few through the labor of a vast, dark-skinned forced labor force, continues through a military-managed rehearsal for the failed economic transformation of the South during the late 19th Century, to an early 20th Century era of sand roads and clapboard housing and sport fishing in Port Royal Sound.

And for those of us who just love to play golf, Hilton Head Island means a choice more than 20 world-class golf courses, a dizzying set of options that are all good.  That's what drew Shirley and me away from our post-holiday domestic mop-up chores to a quick, 2-day escape.

While the bulk of the country was locked in a series of fierce snow storms that were snarling air travel, and the college football bowls were winding up, Shirley and I went to the beach with our golf clubs!

It's been Sunday now for about three weeks, Shirley observed on the drive down to the coast.  Maybe two days of golf will get us back on schedule.

The weather really wasn't ideal for golf.  The temperature was in the 40s and the wind was brisk, but the sun was shining and we both wanted a quick break from our routines, so we packed our under-armor and winter gloves, shrugged off our domestic responsibilities and prepared for a golf adventure.
George Fazio Course, 16th Fairway

We made tee times at 2 courses neither of us had ever played, the George Fazio -- ranked among America's top 100 courses by Golf Digest -- and Robert Trent Jones -- rated among the top courses in the Southeast.   And we got the adventure we were seeking!

We did not stop at the grocery store on the way.  I took some oatmeal, raisins and coffee and Shirley took some peanut butter crackers and a couple of bottles of soda.

We came to play golf and eat, not to cook, Shirley announced to Sherry, our hostess, as we lugged our bags through the door of the condo (having a family friend with a condo is always a good thing for golfers in search of a new challenge).  And that's exactly what we did.

I'd missed my traditional New Year's Day round (too rainy and cold for this old girl), so I kicked off my personal 2014 golf year with Shirley. We played each other shot-for-shot through most of our 36-hole Great Escape, laughed as hard as I've ever laughed during any round of golf, congratulated each other on our good shots, commiserated on the bad ones, and agreed that the company was as splendid as the golf courses that provided glimpses of the the subtropical world surrounding us from perfectly manicured fairways.

When we got turned around on the Fazio course after a pause for the loo, we agreed that while we missed her it was probably better that Barb wasn't with us.  And when we got lost again looking for Hudson's, we thought about Barb again, who would have taken us there directly with her trusty GPS.  We used old fashioned navigational aids: we asked for directions, several times.

I had some favorite holes on both courses, and we both had a couple of small triumphs and, of course, there was a winner and a loser because, after all's said and done, whether we're 16 or 70, whether we're scratch golfers or carry a 35 handicap, we do play golf with the intention of winning the round!  Let there be no doubt about this: Shirley and I both love golf and we both love to win, so there are still some golf stories to tell about our 2-day escape!