Here among The Shops at Sea Pines Center, we’re in the embrace of a resort that became almost synonymous with golf. Nearby you’ll find more than 30 courses to choose from, but there’s no question which one is most famous. Our neighboring Harbour Town Golf Links is the course considered unforgettable.
The story of Harbour Town Golf Links is usually told with a smile. The pros who come here to play the Heritage Classic – the week right after the Masters, most years – develop a feeling of affection for the course. Harbour Town Golf Links doesn’t “show off” with a monstrously difficult hole. It doesn’t cater just to the golfers who can take it 320 yards from the tee. No, from the first, this course was known for no particular specialty, but one. “You’ll need every club in the bag,” said course architect Pete Dye.
Course consultant Jack Nicklaus predicted that “only players of championship quality” would win at Harbour Town and, in fact, less than a handful of the 51 winners of the Heritage won their first championship here. Yes, Harbour Town Golf Links calls for skill with every club – and a bit of cunning they say.
Designed like the links of Scotland, it can’t be won with power alone, or even power primarily. It’s interesting that even when they reached into history for the design, Dye, Nicklaus, and Fraser were ahead of their time. The links design at Harbour Town anticipated by more than four decades the 2010 restoration of Pinehurst No. 2, made to bring that historic course back to its original vision.
A TV Tour in June
Always, the vast, worldwide TV audience for the Heritage Classic makes up most of our spectators. This year decisively so, because the tournament was arranged without a gallery and postponed to take place June 18-21, rather than its usual mid-April schedule, in response to global, unprecedented health concerns. Each year, the beauty of this six-hour spectacle of spring in coastal Carolina rivets millions to their TVs.
How many of our neighbors here in Sea Pines started their love affair with Hilton Head Island while watching the PGA tournament pros pace the Harbour Town Golf Links? One professional said that coming here the week after the Masters each year is like looking forward to going to Disney World after the Super Bowl. We residents enjoy it every year for the reminder it gives us of how lucky we are to live here in Sea Pines.
One of those things we enjoy near Sea Pines Center is the chance to get to know the world-famous golf course that’s right in our neighborhood. Let’s take that tour of Harbour Town Golf Links together.
What They Say on the Course
Looking down No. 1 from the tee, we get a taste from that par-4 straightaway of how narrow the links can be. If your approach to the green tends toward the left side, then you’ll have some overhanging trees and a bunker narrowing your shot vertically. The first par 5 comes with No. 2. Because it bends to the right, the left side of the fairway is your best angle to the green this time.
Hole No. 3 presents a 411-yard par 4 (from the Dye tee), and this one dodges a little left. Along about here we notice the greens are smallish, part of the precision that Harbour Town Golf Links calls for. At No. 4 we get our first par 3, but it comes with water. There’s a safer way to take it on the right, but if you take the direct route, your shot better not be short.
With hole No. 5 it’s time to stretch out again for a par 5, and at last there’s a wide panorama off the tee. Though wider and seemingly more forgiving, you may notice some wind to deal with on your approach. The fairway on No. 6 narrows again. A 404-yard par 4, we hope that’s your lucky number, because the trees are willing to bounce you beyond the white stakes if you let them.
No. 7 is a mid-length par 3 with water and a bunker. The water isn’t often a problem, but the sand is waiting for anything short. A long par 4 is next at No. 8, called by many the most likely bogey hole on the course. Even tour players struggle to reach the green in two. Once there, the route is narrowed on the left by a bunker and a water hazard, making No. 8 one of the most difficult greens on the course.
The fairway at No. 9 is a welcome sight, a par 4 calling for a 200-ish-yard shot to then pitch or wedge to the green. But that green; it is small and U-shaped, so it can play like two greens even smaller.
And Around the Turn
The long dogleg-left of the par-4 No. 10 hole is accompanied on the left by a beautiful lagoon. Beautiful it is until you consider that it is in play, and the closer you can play to it, the shorter your approach shot will be. Eleven arrives, then, with a par 4 that reminds you of the narrow fairways you saw on the front nine. Those who can will want to fade off the tee on 12, as it doglegs left for another par 4.
Hole No. 13 is where some say they feel an imaginary gallery following them, because just seeing these holes makes you feel like a champion. The driver is probably not your friend on this tee, because it is a short par 4, although it is important to hit the tee shot far enough to give you an unobstructed view of the green. As you get closer, you see it is cupped in the hand of a sand-trap.
On 14, you’re faced with another carry over water for your par 3. Fifteen is called by some the best par 5 of the Harbour Town Golf Links. It takes three shots for most players to reach the green. Two would call for hitting long down the right side of the fairway before it turns left toward the green. The par 4 at hole 16 allows for plenty of room to the right – as long as you don’t put those two trees in your way to the green. The reason people consider this is the gigantic bunker along the left side of hole. A beautiful par 3 awaits at 17.
And now for one of the most recognized holes on the PGA tour. The 18th at Harbour Town Golf Links is a pleasure for the eye and a challenge for the skills. Friends feel like congratulating each other just for getting here. The Lighthouse is way down there on your right. Calibogue Sound is your taste of the Atlantic on the left. The wind is often playing your accompaniment as you decide how to proceed.
The narrow right-hand fairway on 18 offers you a bulge of good, wider landing spots toward the left, about halfway to the green. Not too long, not too short, and with the breeze’s blessing, you can make your approach from there.
When you finish on 18 at the Harbour Town Golf Links it’s perfectly normal to hear imaginary bagpipes and applause. This is the setting where, once a year for the past half-century, somebody dons a plaid jacket – and where everybody is glad they arrived.
The people who are drawn to the Harbour Town Golf Links, whether on TV or just down the road, are what we value most here. Such friendships we’ve made – some seasonal and some permanent. We’re glad to be a place where friends like this gather, and where relationships are part of what makes The Shops at Sea Pines Center who we are.