Harbour Town Golf Links - Course Guide
Harbour Town made my career. It changed my life.
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Harbour Town Golf Links, on Hilton Head Island in South Carolina, is not only a celebrated as one of the PGA Tour’s finest courses, but it is also one which propelled the design futures of two of the finest architects in the game.
It was in the late 1960s that Jack Nicklaus and Pete Dye were brought together – one an undoubtedly great player then going through a fallow period on Tour, the other an unknown course designer.
Together they created a test that wowed their peers and transformed their own spirits, thrusting both forward to greater success – for Dye that meant bigger projects, for Nicklaus wins on and off the course.
The layout’s narrow fairways twist between oaks and pines, but the threats are not only high, and sometimes over-hanging because there are also lagoons to negotiate and, over the final two holes, the ocean itself.
In addition to those tight landing areas, the course is also famous for small Bermuda-grass greens and has consequently become famed as a ball-striker’s challenge.
The ability to shape the ball in both directions is key, as is a low ball flight in the frequent sea breezes.
The course has hosted The Heritage every year since 1969, eventually becoming settled in the schedule one week after the Masters making it, in one sense, a popular post-Augusta after-party.
In 2020 that pattern was forced to a halt, but the fact that the PGA Tour retained its date with Harbour Town is proof of how highly the course and tournament are rated.
Indeed, in a 2012 Golf Digest survey player ranked the course second on the PGA Tour, with one anonymous quoter saying: “It’s the best course we play.”
It is also a feast for the ordinary golfer and was voted Best Resort Course by Golfweek.
Harbour Town Fast Facts
Yardage: 7,099 yards
Course designer: Pete Dye, Jack Nicklaus, Davis Love III
Course record: 61 – Troy Merritt, David Frost
Past Championships at Harbour Town
2019 Heritage – For the second year running an Asian golfer prevailed, Taiwan’s CT Pan claiming the honors one year after Japan’s Satoshi Kodaira defeated Korea’s Si-Woo Kim in a play-off.
2016 Heritage – South Africa’s Branden Grace confirmed his fondness for playing golf in windy conditions by pushing Englishman Luke Donald into second (one of seven top-three finishes for Donald on the course, but he is yet to win).
2009 Heritage – A tournament-record total for Brian Gay, whose 20-under-par 264 left him an enormous ten strokes clear of the field, which was another record.
2008 Heritage – A successful defence of his title by Boo Weekley, whose superb tee-to-green game was well-suited by the test.
2004 Heritage – A second tournament win for 2009 Open champion Stewart Cink, but a controversial one. He defeated Ted Purdy in a play-off but only after referees took a protracted look at a bunker shot, which many continue to believe should have been penalized.
2003 Heritage – A record fifth win for Davis Love III, the master of Harbour Town, who has also designed a third course at the venue.
1984 Heritage – Nick Faldo became the first European winner of the event. More notably it was his first PGA Tour win and yet he would very soon rebuild his swing, a process that led to a three-year drought before he elevated himself into world-class with the first of five major championship wins.
1982 Heritage – The second of two wins on the course for Tom Watson and it set him up for wins in the U.S. Open and Open Championship later that season.
1975 Heritage – A first and only win on the course he co-designed by Golden Bear Nicklaus and he did it in style, leaving Tom Weiskopf three shots in his wake.
1969 Heritage – Victory in the inaugural tournament by one of the greats, Arnold Palmer, shortly after his 40th birthday.
Hole 9 – Par 4, 322 yards: A short par-4 closes the front nine and it provides plenty of temptation with the drive. Like most holes here, a stray shot will find trees and an unusual horseshoe-shaped green adds further threat.
Hole 13 – Par 4, 354 yards: A classic Harbour Town test, being a short par-4 yet full of problems if the drive doesn’t find the perfect spot. In fact, the ball can find the fairway and still be blocked out by a tree. The green is protected by a large front bunker that has distinctive railroad sleepers riveted into their face.
Hole 14 – Par 3, 165 yards: Dye has always been proud of the par-3s at Harbour Town and this is maybe the best. It is protected short and right by water, and the putting surface also slopes in that direction meaning any miss left leaves a treacherous chip.
Hole 18 – Par 4, 444 yards: The most open hole on the course, outside the cover of the trees and on the edge of Calibogue Sound. The fairway clings to the shore, with the landing area of the drive and the green extending out into the sea.
Harbour Town Famous Quotes
“Harbour Town made my career. It changed my life.”
Dan Jenkins, Sports Illustrated:
“In an era when architects for some reason enjoy giving us 7,000-yard courses with greens the size of a supermarket parking lot, Nicklaus and his partner, Pete Dye, have done the opposite. They have used great imagination and given us nothing short of a work of art.
Brad Klein, Golfweek:
“It’s one of the most innovative and revolutionary designs in the history of golf architecture. Dye built all sorts of great contour, shape, form, and strategy into a dead-level site. Instead of moving massive quantities of dirt, he massaged the earth in a subtle way.”
Graeme McDowell (2013 Heritage winner):
“A test of ball-shaping, positioning, and patience.”
Brandt Snedeker (2011 Heritage winner):
“It has small greens, tight fairways, and wind.”