By David Wood, special to PGATOUR.COM
With this year’s RBC Heritage at The Sea Pines Resort featuring 14 of the top 29 players in the Official World Golf Ranking and nine previous winners of the prestigious event, the field doesn’t lack for marquee value. However, the big star for the week is Harbour Town Golf Links.
In the late 1960s, Harbour Town opened to much fanfare for its revolutionary design and hosted a nascent PGA TOUR tournament -- the Heritage Classic. Swashbuckling Arnold Palmer staged one of his patented final-round charges for the inaugural victory, launching both the Lowcountry “must visit” destination and the course-design reputation of Pete Dye.
For decades, high praise has been the norm – from famed golf writer Dan Jenkins calling the 18 “nothing short of a work of art” to pretournament favorite Luke Donald calling it “one of the true gems we play on tour.”
And it is indeed a gem. Few courses offer the tapestry of history, design ingenuity, beauty and acclaim of this masterpiece. Throughout the 18, large waste bunkers, railroad ties, expansive lagoons, live oaks festooned with Spanish moss, palmetto palms and august magnolias influence the line of play and demand the golfer give undivided attention to each swing.
Not long by today’s standards – it’s just over 7,100 yards against a par of 71 – there is almost a hushed museum quality to Harbour Town’s atmosphere as you know you’re somewhere special.
And this isn’t grip-it-and-rip-it golf; it’s all about strategy as you plot your way around with your brain cells hopefully working in concert. Players must not only find the fairway, but often must land on the proper quadrants in order to safely reach the greens – which often seem smaller than a typical New York City studio apartment.
Jason Day, after carding an opening round 4-under 67, said, “You can’t overpower this course. You have to position yourself off the tee to attack the flags, and your short game has to be sharp. It’s one of the few ‘old school’ courses we play throughout the year.”
When asked about what makes Harbour Town so special, Donald additionally said, “Modern architects should take a long look at Harbour Town and realize they don’t need to build long, hard courses to make them tough.”
Harbour Town is joyous and can be experienced by all as it’s open for public play. Watch the tournament on television, then visit Sea Pines and match wits with Pete Dye’s golf version of the Sistine Chapel. Though often humbling, it’s a blast to try to hit the same shots as the best in the game did during the heat of competition.
Yes a winner will don the traditional red tartan jacket on Sunday, but he’ll share the acclaim with Harbour Town Golf Links.
For Sea Pines golf information, visit: www.seapinesgolf.com.