Golf at Sea Pines Resort: Maintaining environmental certification through hurricanes, restoration, and renovation

Sea Pines Resort built the first golf course on Hilton Head Island in 1962. Atlantic Dunes (formally the Ocean Course) was soon joined by Pete Dye/Jack Nicklaus designed Heron Point (formally Sea Marsh) and Harbour Town Golf Links, now the annual host of the RBC Heritage PGA TOUR event presented by Boeing. All three courses continue to uphold the environmental standards of Audubon International regardless of the numerous trials and tribulations they’ve endured since Hurricane Matthew, a category five hurricane, made landfall in South Carolina on October 8, 2016.

Achieving and maintaining Audubon International’s Cooperative Sanctuary Certification at three courses is no small feat. The certification focuses on six environmental areas: environmental planning, water conservation, water quality, wildlife and habitat management, chemical use and safety, and outreach and education – and this year marks the 23rd anniversary of Atlantic Dunes’ certification.

Since certification the courses have seen their fair share of renovations and restorations and in 2016 Atlantic Dunes, a course that honors its namesake with Atlantic Ocean views, saw its largest threat yet…Hurricane Matthew.

Hurricane Matthew struck Sea Pines Resort in the midst of Love Golf Design’s renovation of Atlantic Dunes. The storm hit with such intensity it washed out a barrier dune on hole 15 and the storm surge led to massive amounts of water erosion and tree damage. The dune was an integral part of the environment at the course – providing wildlife habitat and protecting inland properties from damaging wind, erosion, and water inundation, all of which are familiar fates during a hurricane.

Post Hurricane Matthew, the Sea Pines Resort team quickly went to work recovering from the damage, including rebuilding and restoring the dune behind hole 15. The team successfully restored the barrier between the course and the Atlantic coastline by strengthening the dune formation, adding height and fencing, and perhaps most importantly, replanting native vegetation.

To uphold their commitment to environmental sustainability, native species such as sea oaks and dune daisies were selected for planting. These choices not only provide wildlife habitat, but also ensure the dune maintains its structural integrity through their strong root systems. According to Sea Pines website, Atlantic Dunes is home to tens of thousands indigenous plants.

Since 2016, the dune restoration on hole 15 hasn’t been the only element thriving. Sea Pines Resort also has a number of other eco-friendly initiatives that support their certification such as utilizing reclaimed water for golf course irrigation, maintaining a 605-acre forest preserve and providing habitat to more than 170 different species of wildlife – all of which is done while maintaining world class golf courses!

In addition to maintaining Audubon International’s Cooperative Sanctuary Certification, Sea Pines Resort has won a number of other prestigious accolades. In fact, just this year all three golf courses made Golfweek’s Best 2022 list of top resort golf courses and in 2018 Atlantic Dunes won the National Golf Course Owners Association’s Course of the Year. Sea Pines Resort continues to be an outstanding and sustainable place to visit, play golf and enjoy nature.

To learn more about how your local golf course can gain recognition for your environmental efforts and learn how to expand your initiatives through Audubon International’s numerous environmental certifications, visit

Audubon International, an environmentally focused non-profit organization, offers members numerous certifications and conservation initiatives to protect the areas where we live, work, and play. Their certifications are designed to increase environmental awareness, encourage sustainable environmental efforts, and educate both their members and their communities.

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