Numerous Celebrities Have Celebrated Palmetto Dunes's First Half-Century
In 1972, a young PGA golfer named Johnny Miller (picture here) was hired to represent Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort as its touring professional. Miller captured his first Heritage Classic at Harbour Town Golf Links that year and went on to win 25 times on the PGA Tour including two major championships. Now, nearly five decades later, Miller is hanging up his hat as NBC’s longtime golf commentator.
Miller is one of many celebrities who have enjoyed Palmetto Dunes through the resort’s storied 50 years of existence.
When Bill Clinton was president during the late the 1990s, he and his family began annually visiting Palmetto Dunes to celebrate New Year's Eve and attend the Annual Renaissance Weekend. President Clinton enjoyed jogging through Palmetto Dunes and his favorite of the resort’s three outstanding golf courses was the Arthur Hills Course.
Of course, the Arthur Hills Course was also the longtime host of a popular collegiate tournament, whose participants included through the years future stars and major champions such as Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and David Duval.
Billie Jean King played in the 1977 Family Circle Cup, a Women’s Tennis Association-affiliated professional tennis tournament that was played on Hilton Head from 1973 until it moved to Charleston in 2001. Billie Jean was runner-up that year, losing to Chris Evert in the finals. But like many professional athletes, Billie Jean’s enjoyment of Hilton Head’s amenities was not limited to tennis. While she was on the island, Billie Jean came to Palmetto Dunes to enjoy the Robert Trent Jones Oceanfront Course.
NBA star Michael Jordan (pictured here: Michael Jordan photo taken at the Arthur Hills Course….. from left: Brian Whitehead, Bobby Downs, Michael Jordan and Doug Vinesett) lived on Hilton Head Island from 1988 to 1998 in a three- bedroom, three-and-a-half-bath home in Wexford Plantation. A well-known golf junkie, MJ would occasionally come to Palmetto Dunes to enjoy a round with friends.
For more than three decades, celebrities and their fans gathered on Hilton Head Island during Labor Day weekend for the annual Hilton Head Island Celebrity Golf Tournament. From its inception in 1979 until 2014, the tournament donated more than $4 million to local children's charities.
The Robert Trent Jones Oceanfront Course at Palmetto Dunes Resort was one of three regular host sites for the event, which drew celebrities of all sorts through the years from actors and actresses, musicians, former athletes and other sports personalities — everyone from Johnny Bench to Johnny Unitas, Pat Boone to Paul Williams.
Other regular tournament attendants included actors Lee Majors, Ed Marinaro, Bob Newhart, Alan Thicke, Cheech Marin, Kevin Sorbo and Dennis Haysbert, musician Branford Marsalis, FOX News anchor Bret Baier and ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser, boxer James “Bonecrusher” Smith, the late comedian Chris Farley of Saturday Night Live fame, comedian Gary Mule Deer, baseball greats Ozzie Smith and Tim Wakefield, the late former Miami Dolphin, Garo Yepremian, other former NFL stars Ken Anderson, Mark Malone and Sterling Sharpe, former San Franciso 49ers Coach Steve Mariucci, former NBA star Spud Webb, Harlem Globetrotter Curly Neal, and Hall of Fame basketball coach Bobby Cremins.
Longtime Pittsburgh Steelers Coach Chuck Knoll and NBA star Isiah Thomas both owned houses in Palmetto Dunes, while actors Sylvester Stallone and Robert Ulrich have both played at Palmetto Dunes through the years. A short-lived Mike Schmidt Golf Tournament at Palmetto Dunes drew numerous, well-known baseball players to the resort, while the Lee Elder Invitational drew some big names in golf such as Calvin Peete and Tommy Bolt.
For 50 years now, Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort has been a popular place for everyone — including some of the world’s most well known celebrities.