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April 17 2013

3:19 PM

Turf Talk: Harbour Town

Harbour Town's greens are expected to be in great shape for the RBC Heritage. (Martin/Getty Images)

By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM Contributor

When the time came to overseed Harbour Town Golf Links last fall, drought conditions in South Carolina’s Lowcountry made it a challenge for the winter grasses to take hold.

Now, though, they can’t push out the overseed fast enough.

The coldest March in some 70 years has made Harbour Town’s bermudagrass base slow to come out of dormancy, leaving players facing a mixed surface when they tee up at this week’s RBC Heritage.

“It’s not bad. There’s just a little more overseed out there than we’re accustomed to for this tournament,” said Bland Cooper, the PGA TOUR agronomist who oversees preparations at Harbour Town.

Cooper said the turf canopy remains in excellent shape, and maybe as good as ever on the greens. “There’s not one spot on any green that has the slightest blemish.”

Green speeds would provide the biggest concern. Plenty of poa trivialis remains on the putting surfaces, which grows at a rate that could slow the greens significantly as the day goes on.

Recent rains – the same showers that drenched the Masters final round dropped nearly an inch on Hilton Head Island – have a chance to make the speed disparity even greater. Cooper, though, was optimistic that Harbour Town will dry out enough by Thursday’s opening round to mitigate the issue.

“By tomorrow, we should be pretty close to where those surfaces should be,” he said.

After Harbour Town unveiled a series of changes last year to make the course longer, this edition finds only a few minor tweaks. The most noticeable change is the removal of a waste area left of the No. 2 fairway, replaced by a formal bunker that requires a 285-yard carry to clear.

Drainage issues also forced the green to be rebuilt at No. 1, though the design and contours remain the same. And a forward tee at the par-4 sixth was lowered to give pros a better view of the fairway from the new back tee that debuted last year.

Sunny skies are expected for the first two rounds, but a cold front that’s forecast to move through late Friday and early Saturday could change things for the weekend. Temperatures figure to drop from the mid-70s to perhaps the low 60s, and any moisture could bring the green speeds back to the forefront.

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