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Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Courtesy Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort

Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort

Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

By Roger Cox, Editor

On one of my visits to Palmetto Dunes, I opted for a bicycle to get around the resort using its extensive web of dedicated bike paths, an option popular with many of its guests (though there's also a free on-call Dunes Buggy shuttle). My own route to the tennis courts took me through quiet tree-filled neighborhood of houses, villas, golf fairways, and lagoons. Not until I'd ridden beyond a guard gate did I come upon anything resembling commercial enterprises, though even those consisted of little more than an unobtrusive General Store; a bike, canoe, and kayak rental shop; a restaurant; the tennis center; a golf clubhouse; and the entrance road to the Marriott, one of two hotels (the other an Omni) tucked into this 2,000-acre resort. Only by then following the bike path north though a canopy of trees and then under William Hilton Parkway (Rte. 278) would I eventually leave behind the resort's leafy neighborhoods for the collection of shops, indoor and outdoor restaurants, and art galleries (and some marina-view villas) in the Mediterranean-inspired buildings that line Shelter Cove Harbour.

There are really two faces to Palmetto Dunes. The largest section, which extends from the beach to the parkway, contains most of the lodging as well as the tennis, three designer golf courses, and most of the other recreational amenities other than those associated with the marina. And if you don't opt to stay in a beachfront villa—which I did not on this latest trip—a bike is also a useful vehicle not only to reach the beach but to ride along it, since at low tide the extremely broad, hard-packed beach is an ideal natural bike path. You can, if you choose, ride on the beach for virtually the entire length of the island (rental bikes have fat tires suited to the hard sand). Beyond that, once you leave the resort there are some 50 miles of paved public bike paths that lace the island itself.


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Tennis Features

Pro Shop: 888-879-2053 or 888-322-8720
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The Palmetto Dunes Tennis & Pickleball Center caters to a mixture of groups and vacationers. It consists of a main complex of 19 clay courts, four of them lighted for night play, along with 24 pickleball courts. Those are supplemented by an additional eight clay courts a five-minute walk away. A spacious, 3,000-square-foot clapboard clubhouse with a dark-green shingled roof anchors the main tennis complex. Inside is a brightly-lit pro shop as well as showers for men and women and offices for the professional staff. The reception is extremely friendly—these aren't kids behind the desk but adults. All of them play tennis—many in fact are on teams—so they really do understand tennis players and their needs. Extending out from one side of the clubhouse is a long, raised wooden deck with a roof and views of courts to the right and left. The courts have been laid out in pairs, with California (angled) corners and a perimeter of trees and low shrubs. Some have small, shingle-roofed courtside pavilions and chilled water fountains.

Tennis Staff. John Kerr, a former professional player, oversees the entire tennis and pickleball operation. A fixture on the island since 1986 and at Palmetto Dunes since 1990, he has revolutionized the on-court programming, first by restructuring the roster of tennis teaching programs and later by being one of the first resort directors to undertake a full-scale commitment to pickleball. For tennis, the signature program is "S.M.A.R.T. Stroke-Next Gen", a daily clinic that utilizes on-court, super slo-mo videotaping to provide instant feedback that helps maximize practice. His Director of Tennis Instruction, Eric Wammock, is a expert in video analysis and specialist in utilizing on-court video. An All-American at Florida State College and later All-Conference at Virginia Commonwealth University, Wammock went on to play professional tennis before settling on Hilton Head Island. He heads leads the club's top tennis programs along with a a staff of personable pros—all with college or professional experience.
Tennis Programs. Much of the tennis programming—which runs the gamut of S.M.A.R.T. clinics to competitive-edge drills, doubles clinics, Cardio tennis, and clinics focused on serves and returns—runs back-to-back so that as a guest you can carpenter together a program day by day that could be as short as one hour or as long as 4½. Moreover, the junior programs coincide with the adult programs, so families can more easily come and go together.
Pickleball Programs. With 24 lighted pickleball courts, Palmetto Dunes Tennis & Pickleball Center ranks as one of the premier pickleball resorts in the country. There are group clinics for beginners and intermediates, pro-supervised ladder round robins that are at once social and competitive, drill sessions, and group and private lessons. Pickleball Touring Pro Sarah Ansboury heads up the instruction, staging pickleball academies several times a year and three-day adult pickleball camps during spring and fall. And as a further testament to its pickleball credentials, it is the site for one of the eight major tournaments for the World Pickleball Rankings.
Whichever sport interests you, stop by the pro shop, as I did, and you'll find an experienced staff who are at once friendly and very service conscious. All in all, the center offers an excellent series of both tennis and pickleball programs.
Courts & Fees. The Palmetto Dunes Tennis & Pickleball Center has a total of 19 clay tennis courts and 24 pickleball courts altogether in two locations: the Tennis Center proper another bank a short walk away. Those at the Center fan out from a contemporary, 3,000-square-foot clubhouse. Palms, maples, pines and live oaks border the courts as do oleander and other low shrubbery. All of the courts have chilled water fountains though not all have shade. Four tennis courts and all the pickleball courts have lights on a token system so people can play when they want just by showing up. Tennis Court fees: Guests renting through Palmetto Dunes receive two complimentary hours/day (based on availability) and pay $35/hour mornings and $30/hour afternoons for additional court use beyond that. For non-resort guests, the fee is $40/hour. Pickleball Court fees: $25 from opening to noon; $20 from noon to closing; walk-ons, noon-4 p.m., $15; lighted courts, $20.

Ratings

(234 Reviewers)
Tennis Overall
5-Ball Rating Pickleball
5-Ball Rating Cuisine
3-Ball Rating Romance
4-Ball Rating Kids' Programs
4-Ball Rating
Instruction
4½-Ball Rating Lodging
4-Ball Rating Solo Travelers
4-Ball Rating
Tennis Staff
5-Ball Rating Pickleball
5-Ball Rating
Game Matching
4-Ball Rating Dollar Value
5-Ball Rating Setting
4½-Ball Rating


Palmetto Dunes Tennis & Pickleball Center

Ratings
( 388 Reviewers)
Tennis Overall
5-Ball Rating
Tennis Staff
5-Ball Rating
Instruction
4½-Ball Rating
Junior Tennis
1-Ball Rating
Pickleball
5-Ball Rating

Marriott Ratings
( 1 Reviewers)

Omni Ratings
( 1 Reviewers)

Ratings

(234 Reviewers)
Tennis Overall
5-Ball Rating Game Matching
4-Ball Rating Tennis Staff
5-Ball Rating Lodging
4-Ball Rating Dollar Value
5-Ball Rating Other Recreation
4-Ball Rating Romance
4-Ball Rating Solo Travelers
4-Ball Rating
Instruction
4½-Ball Rating Pickleball
5-Ball Rating Cuisine
3-Ball Rating Setting
4½-Ball Rating Kids' Programs
4-Ball Rating


Palmetto Dunes Tennis & Pickleball Center Ratings
( 388 Reviewers)
Tennis Overall
5-Ball Rating Instruction
4½-Ball Rating
Tennis Staff
5-Ball Rating Junior Tennis
1-Ball Rating Pickleball
5-Ball Rating

Marriott Ratings
( 1 Reviewers)

Omni Ratings
( 1 Reviewers)

Ratings

(234 Reviewers)
Tennis Overall
5-Ball Rating Pickleball
5-Ball Rating Cuisine
3-Ball Rating Romance
4-Ball Rating Kids' Programs
4-Ball Rating
Instruction
4½-Ball Rating Lodging
4-Ball Rating Solo Travelers
4-Ball Rating
Tennis Staff
5-Ball Rating Pickleball
5-Ball Rating
Game Matching
4-Ball Rating Dollar Value
5-Ball Rating Setting
4½-Ball Rating


Palmetto Dunes Tennis & Pickleball Center

Ratings
( 388 Reviewers)
Tennis Overall
5-Ball Rating
Tennis Staff
5-Ball Rating
Instruction
4½-Ball Rating
Junior Tennis
1-Ball Rating
Pickleball
5-Ball Rating

Marriott Ratings
( 1 Reviewers)

Omni Ratings
( 1 Reviewers)

Other Recreation

Beach. Palmetto Dunes fronts three miles of beach. It tends to be most crowded near the center, where the two hotels are located, but you don't have to walk far to the east or west to have large expanses of sand all to yourself. And the farther you get from those hotels, the less obtrusive the architecture

Golf Courses. Palmetto Dunes itself has three designer golf courses, each named for its designer: Arthur Hills, George Fazio, and Robert Trent Jones. All three layouts have been named South Carolina's "Golf Course of the Year." There is also a golf school and new Toptracer Range at the Robert Trent Jones Course.

Robert Trent Jones Oceanfront Course: Designed by Robert Trent Jones and renovated by his protege Roger Rulewich, this par-72 course begins near the tennis center and flows east meandering around the system of lagoons before jogging down to the ocean at the par-5 10th hole and then working its way back westward. 6,122-7,005 yards.
George Fazio Golf Course: The most challenging of the three layouts, if not the most challenging course on Hilton Head Island, this Fazio course demands both accuracy and length. Bunkers and water hazards riddle several of its long par 4s. Par 70, 6,239-6,873 yards.
Arthur Hills: This par-72 course can be played as short as 4,999 yards or as long as 6,651, but whichever tees are chosen, the Lowcountry course stands out for its topographic beauty, ocean breezes, and off-balance lies.


Spa & Fitness Center. The resort itself does not have a spa or fitness center; however, both of the hotels do.

And ... Palmetto Dunes 11 miles of lagoons afford opportunities for canoeing, kayaking, and fishing, while the Shelter Cove Marina adds additional kayaking options as well as sailing cruises, fishing and boating charters, and dolphin tours.

Children's Programs

There is much to appeal to kids at Palmetto Dunes—not only the beach, tennis, pickleball, golf, and lagoons but also Harbour Fest, held every Tuesday June into August at Shelter Cove Harbour & Marina and consisting of live entertainment in the form of popular troubadour Shannon Tanner, street vendors, and fireworks (especially impressive over the harbour).

Lodging

Lodging choices within the resort consist of two beachfront hotels and a large number of condominiums and homes in various locations, from beachfront to golf course to marsh.

Restaurants

Dining can be as simple as sandwiches, salads, and drinks at the casual beachfront Dunes House to Continental cuisine at the lagoonside Alexander's Restaurant or any of more than half a dozen places to eat at Shelter Cove Harbour, ranging from Frosty's Italian ices to Mexican fare at San Miguel's, seafood at Scott's Fish Market, French bistro menu at Bistro 17, among others.

See Also

For similar tennis resorts, also check out:

For other top pickleball resorts, take a look at:

Rates and Reservations

Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort

Palmetto Dunes has 1-to-4-bedroom villas, all with kitchens, and homes as large as eight bedrooms. These occupy various locations throughout the resort, including oceanfront, golf course, and the harbour. As a guest of Palmetto Dunes, you receive two hours of free tennis or pickleball court time daily per unit (based on availability). There is a three-night minimum at selected times of the year. Additional exclusive resort discounts available when renting through Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort.

Visit the website for current rates

Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort
4 Queens Folly Road
P.O Box 5628
Hilton Head Island, SC 29938
Toll-free: 888-909-9566
Web Link: Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort

Hilton Head Marriott Beach & Golf Resort

Rates on request.

Visit the website for current rates

Hilton Head Marriott Beach & Golf Resort
One Hotel Circle
Hilton Head Island, SC 29928
843-686-8400
Toll-free: 800-228-9290
Web Link: Hilton Head Marriott Beach & Golf Resort

Omni Hilton Head Oceanfront Resort

Rates on request.

Visit the website for current rates

Omni Hilton Head Oceanfront Resort
23 Ocean Lane
Hilton Head Island, SC 29928
843-842-8000
Toll-free: 888-444-6664
Web Link: Omni Hilton Head Oceanfront Resort

Travel Essentials

Seasons. Year-round.

Travel Instructions. By Air: Palmetto Dunes is 45 miles from Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport (SAV) in Georgia and 95 miles from Charleston International Airport (CHS). Major airlines serve both of those gateways. It is also possible to fly directly to Hilton Head Island Airport (HHH), on commuter service from US Airways Express, via Charlotte, NC. Rental cars and shuttles are available at all three airports.

General Tourist Information. Visit the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce and Convention & Visitors Bureau website.