By David Wood
In 1969, Arnold Palmer, the game’s reigning superstar, visited Hilton Head Island to play brand-new Harbour Town Golf Links. The swashbuckling Palmer staged one of his dramatic final-round charges to win the inaugural Heritage Golf Classic as millions watched on television. The influential legacy of the novel Pete Dye and Jack Nicklaus co-design had been launched.
If the adage “great courses identify great players” is true, then Harbour Town Golf Links at The Sea Pines Resort qualifies in spades. Following Mr. Palmer’s lead is an off-the-charts roster of past champions: Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Johnny Miller, Hale Irwin, Nick Faldo, Bernard Langer, Payne Stewart, Greg Norman and Davis Love III. These major champions have all donned the plaid tartan jacket awarded to the winner.
Before the 2017 edition of the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing, players heaped effusive praise on the course when asked about it during Wednesday’s pro-am.
“It’s a classic course for us on tour,” said victorious 2016 Ryder Cup captain and five-time winner of the event Davis Love III. “It’s a top 5 course on every tour player’s list. It’s a true masterpiece.”
Last year’s winner, South African Branden Grace, said, “The course is phenomenal and is a little piece of heaven. It’s a great layout that really tests your abilities.”
Graeme McDowell continued the theme when asked for his thoughts: “The guys love coming here. The golf course is special and unique. It’s a real shot-maker’s course.”
Bill Hass said, “It is certainly one of the best courses we play.”
“It’s one of my favorite courses for sure,” added Webb Simpson.
Harbour Town went through several enhancements in the summer of 2015. They included having the tee boxes, fairways and rough replaced with Celebration Bermuda grass, the most scientifically advanced surface used on warm season courses.
The greens were re-grassed with Tif-Eagle Bermuda, the same turf used on the putting surfaces since 2001. A new irrigation system was also installed with the most advanced technology in water management and control.
Almost two years on from these improvements, the results seem to have paid off handsomely.
Under picture-perfect blue skies common to the South Carolina Lowcountry in spring, Luke Donald said, “The course has always been in good condition, but this year it’s especially good and is in superb shape.”
McDowell also raved about the conditions: “It’s amazing to see how good the golf course is right now.”
Harbour Town Golf Course has stood the test of time in grand style since Arnie’s dramatic win almost 50 years ago. It’s going to be fun to watch the players match wits against the Dye / Nicklaus masterpiece this weekend.
David Wood is the author of Around the World in 80 Rounds. He has written on golf travel for numerous publications / websites. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @authordavidwood