Harbour Town Golf Links
|Location||Hilton Head Island,
South Carolina, U.S.
|Established||1967, 50 years ago|
|Tournaments hosted||RBC Heritage|
|Designed by||Pete Dye and
|Length||7,101 yards (6,493 m)|
Harbour Town Golf Links is a public golf course located in Sea Pines Plantation on Hilton Head Island in Beaufort County, South Carolina. Harbour Town Golf Links hosts the RBC Heritage, a PGA Tour event held in mid-April, usually the week after The Masters. Harbour Town Golf Links is ranked high among golf courses in America by Golf Digest and Golf Magazine. The course consists of narrow fairways, overhanging oaks, pines, palmettos, and dark lagoons. Harbour Town Golf Links along with the Ocean Course and Heron Point, make up the Sea Pines Resort.
Harbour Town Golf Links was designed by Pete Dye in 1969 with the help of professional golfer Jack Nicklaus. Dye also designed another course in the Sea Pines Resort, Heron Point, which he redesigned in 2007. Harbour Town Golf Links is open all year, even during overseeding in October and the aerating of the greens in June, July, and August.
Green fees for public play range from $145–$250, depending on the season. Tee times are accepted online through the course's website or with a call to the pro shop. The earliest tee time accepted is for 7:00 AM during the long summer days and 7:30 AM for the remainder of the year. The dress code states that denim is not allowed and that a collared shirt must be worn. Shoes with soft spikes must be worn; metal spiked shoes are not allowed. An estimated 38,000 rounds of golf are played at Harbour Town every year.
The holes at Harbour Town Golf Links consist of seven different types of grass. Five of the grass types, four of which are Bermudas, are able to withstand the heat during the warm summer months of Hilton Head Island. The other two grass types are annually overseeded in October in order to keep the course green during the cold months. The rye grass that is planted in October is only temporary and will eventually die out when the weather warms up, and the Bermuda grass is no longer dormant. The fairways and rough consist of 419 Bermuda grass.
The tee boxes are made up of Celebration Bermuda as well as TifSports Bermuda. The fairways, rough, and tee boxes are overseeded with rye grass in October. Several tee boxes are composed of Empire Zoysia which does not become dormant (brown) in the winter. These Zoysia tee boxes do not need do be overseeded. Harbour Town Golf Link's greens consist of TifEagle Bermuda which is overseeded with Poa Trivialis in October. The course superintendent, Jonathan Wright, is in charge of maintaining the different types of grass.
PGA Tour professionals rated Harbour Town Golf Links the #2 ranked golf course played on tour in a survey performed by Golf Digest.
Harbour Town Golf Links is a par 71 course that is 7,101 yards (6,493 m) from the back tees, relatively short for a PGA Tour event. Most tour events are hosted on courses that average around 7,300 yards (6,680 m) Harbour Town Golf Links has slick and firm Bermuda grass greens that are small in size. The average green at Harbour Town is 3,700 square feet (340 m2) while the average square footage of greens played on tour is 6,600 square feet (610 m2).
Several holes have a very small margin of error between greens and water hazards (4, 8, 14, 17, 18). Tee shots and lay-ups must be placed in the strategic part of fairway in order to have a direct shot into the green. Sometimes golfers get blocked out by overhanging trees, even if they are in the fairway. Holes in which players may be blocked out from the fairway include numbers 1, 2, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 15, and 16. Compared to other courses Harbour Town has high percentage of holes with this challenge.
The ninth hole is a tight par 4 that can be reached from the tee with a long drive. It normally plays around 325 yards (297 m), tempting golfers to go for a small green guarded by bunkers. The two finishing holes are along Calibogue Sound, so the water line can vary due to changing tides. The hazard line that marks the water hazard is permanent but shots could potentially be played off the sand at low tide. The seventeenth hole, a par three, plays into a severe wind nearly every time because of the hole’s location on Calibogue Sound. On the seventeenth and eighteenth holes golfers must deal with the wind coming off of the sound. The eighteenth is the signature hole at Harbour Town Golf Links. The entire left side of this signature hole is guarded by Calibogue Sound and the right side lined with out of bounds stakes. The red and white striped Harbour Town lighthouse can be seen in the background and is often a good target for golfers to aim their shots into the green.
The Heritage Classic
Harbour Town Golf Links hosts the RBC Heritage which is a PGA Tour event held in April the weekend following the Masters Tournament. Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) now sponsors the golf tournament after Verizon discontinued their sponsorship of the event following the 2010 tournament. The RBC Heritage is the only PGA Tour event that is annually held in the state of South Carolina. The 2012 PGA Championship, a Major Championship, was played at the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, South Carolina. However, the PGA Championship is hosted by a different course every year.
Harbour Town Golf Links first hosted the tournament, which was originally referred to as The Heritage Golf Classic, in 1969. The founder of Sea Pines, Charles E. Fraser, started the tradition of the Heritage Classic. The tournament is always started with a ceremonial tee shot into Calibogue Sound by the champion of the previous year's tournament. A cannon is fired simultaneously as the golfer strikes the ball into the sound. Arnold Palmer claimed the first victory at The Heritage Golf Classic in 1969 with a score of one under par (283). The Heritage Classic, undergoing several different official names, has been held at Harbour Town Golf Links every year since 1969.
PGA Tour professionals rated the course #2 in a Golf Digest survey named "Top 10 PGA Tour Courses" in 2012. Augusta National, ranked the world's greatest golf course by Golf Digest, was ranked #1 by tour professionals, one spot ahead of Harbour Town Golf Links.
Harbour Town Golf Links offers a different sort of challenge than most of the courses played on tour. The course plays different due to the short yardage and tight fairways. Most courses played on tour are much longer in yardage but have a wider margin of error off the tee and through the green. Strategically placed oaks, pines, and palmettos line and overhang the slim fairways. Professionals will sometimes find themselves having no direct shot to the green even from their own fairway. Tee shots have to be placed on the ideal side of the fairway in order to win the tournament. Another challenging aspect of the course is from the small and slick Bermuda greens. Breaks are subtle and tricky to read as a result of the grain present in the Bermuda grass. Lagoons and inner coastal waterways edge up to the greens forcing players to take more conservative shots.
Winning scores vary considerably from year to year because of the different challenges. Tour players may take advantage of the short yardages and having wedge (golf) shots into the greens, but at the same time they run the risk of finding themselves in the thick trees with no shot or in a water hazard. The record low posted at The Heritage is a score of twenty under par shot by Brian Gay in 2009. Gay secured the victory by a margin of ten shots. Champions of the tournament win a prize of over a million dollars (as of 2009) as well as the traditional tartan plaid jacket.
- "Official Website of Harbour Town Golf Links". Retrieved 2012-10-23.
- Hamilton, Scott. "Harbour Town Golf Links made up of seven different types of grass." (PDF). Retrieved 2012-10-23.
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- Shackelford, Geoff. "The Top 100 Courses on Tour".
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- Campbell, George (2007). Harbour Town Golf Links Yardage Guide. The Hole View. pp. 1–26.
- McCabe, Jim (April 22, 2012). "Harbour Town, a Unique Challenge". Golf Week: 32–34.