Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Harbour Town Golf Links: When the Lighthouse Beckons

I played Harbour Town Golf Links on Hilton Head Island (South Carolina) a couple of days ago.

I'm still on a golfer's high with images of luxury boats and a candy stripe lighthouse dancing in my mind.

I first played Harbour Town 13 years ago and had a blast playing with my 10-year old son.

Flash forward to this past weekend and this time around my son is a strapping 23-year old who bombs it off the tee and wonders why "Pops" can't keep up with him.

We struck gold with the weather on our latest trip. It was 68 degree beauty in late October.  Our forecaddie, Lee, said it was one of the best days of the year.

Following the round, my son and I celebrated our good fortune a little differently this time. When he was 10, we went with the ice cream with double sprinkles. On this occasion we retired to the clubhouse bar and celebrated our enviable surroundings with a frosty IPA by the Palmetto Brewing Company of Charleston, South Carolina.

Absolutely, don't miss the cozy bar at the Harbour Town clubhouse. With its framed golf pictures and rich furnishings, it provides the ideal atmosphere to discuss the day's round and toast your good luck.


Risking a scolding and impending arrest from the hyperbole police, I view Harbour Town as a course with the elegance of Augusta national, the pine scented ambiance of Pinehurst and the water panorama excitement of the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island.

If you don't believe the hype from yours truly,  PGA TOUR players (in a survey by Golf World) selected Harbour Town Golf Links as their second favorite course right behind Augusta National. Harbour Town hosts the PGA TOUR's RBC Heritage every April.

It's a perfect test for the pros. With tight fairways and small greens, you must control your accuracy and trajectory and be able to work the ball left or right to score well. If you're a weekend hacker or casual player, you must play the correct tees for your skill level or you'll need a calculator to tabulate your score and several sleeves of balls to finish your round.

While Pete Dye (with consultation by Jack Nicklaus) adroitly designed all 18 holes at Harbour Town, I consider the final stretch of holes (number 13 to the lighthouse) among the best anywhere.

No. 14 at Harbour Town Golf Links
Often overlooked by golfers so enamored with the lighthouse and finishing hole are two of the most picturesque and fun-to-play par threes. Number 14 (192 yards from the back tees, 165 yards from the blues and 148 from the whites) incorporates a beautiful pond, a bulkhead framed green, tall pines and moss draped oaks. As you gaze at the setting off the tee, the reflection of the trees off the pond creates a surreal effect.

Number 17 (185 yards from the back tees, 174 from the blues and 152 from the whites) is a scenic gem with an expansive backdrop of the Calibogue Sound. The tee shot, over a lagoon and high grasses, is an adventurous one. A long, narrow bunker skirts the left side of the green and continues up almost to the forward tees and a small, menacing bunker waits to gobble up errant shots right of the green.  Don't wait to take out your camera or phone camera on 18, this beauty deserves a few shots as well.

If you're an avid PGA TOUR fan and watch tournaments regularly on television, you, no doubt, tune in to watch the RBC Heritage. Like Augusta National, you're so familiar with many of the holes at Harbour Town that you feel like you know the course even if you've never played it.

Pete Dye has some marvelous courses around the world at places like Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic and Whistling Straits in Wisconsin, but no Dye hit list would be complete without this Sea Pines Resort gem on Hilton Head Island.

1 comment:

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