The sun began to set as I left the cart on the path and walked up the 18th fairway.
To be honest, I wanted to soak in the moment.
My golf ball was about 150 yards away from the green, and it would have surprised no one if I had been so distracted by the scenery that I marched right past it.
The weather was perfect. The course was fantastic. As a gentle breeze from the Calibogue Sound brushed at my back, the iconic lighthouse looked over me from behind the green. It was the perfect backdrop as I addressed the ball for one final iron shot.
But no matter how hard I tried, as I stood there hunched over my ball trying to intimidate the green, I could only think of one thing.
Why the heck are they replacing these fairways?!
Harbour Town Golf Club, designed by Pete Dye, is one of the true treasures in South Carolina, and the fact that it’s been the home of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage for more than 40 years adds to its aura. I got a chance to play the course this spring — along with a stellar Heron Point track, which is also located at Sea Pines Resort — and came away knowing that it was without question the greatest course I have ever played. (The numbers back me up: Harbour Town is ranked No. 9 on GOLF Magazine’s 2014 list of the Top 100 Courses You Can Play.)
But it still drove me nuts thinking about it — these fairways aren’t good enough anymore?!?
I understand a little course maintenance is needed from time to time, and the new grass will be better in the long haul, but a course like Harbour Town upgrading is like New York City’s most iconic pizza shop changing its ingredients. Crazy.
A newer strain of Bermuda grass was installed in the fairways in early May, not long after I played the course. A running joke has been that golfers want to take the old grass and move it to the lawns of their homes. Someone should use it, right?
Harbour Town was tough — don’t let Jim Furyk’s playoff birdies at this year’s RGC Heritage fool you — but fair and a ridiculous amount of fun.
Every shot requires thought. Every shot needs to be executed properly. That’s what makes it unique. It has pesky branches that hang over your approach shots, small greens and tricky obstacles.
My two favorite holes were the ninth and 13th, the latter designed by Dye’s wife. The short par-4 ninth hole challenges you from the tee. The fairway is open, but everything has to be planned for your approach. The heart-shaped green is narrow and has bunkers in front and behind, so you must proceed with caution and debate whether you want a full swing into the green.
The par-4 13th is another green almost completely guarded by sand. A massive banked bunker sits in front and spreads to both sides of the green, and your approach shot must dodge a pesky cypress tree as well. You can miss long, but if you fall short and land in the massive bunker, you’ll have a difficult up and down.
Tour players often say that the RBC Heritage is one of their favorite Tour stops, and that has a lot to do with Sea Pines Resort as well.
The resort that stands firm on the south end of Hilton Head Island has recently endured a multi-million-dollar renovation. A new 55,000-square-foot clubhouse that cost $25 million opened at Harbour Town this year. Its halls are lined with oil paintings of past champions, a spectacular scene that illustrates the tournament’s rich history.
The massive clubhouse was just a small part of the recent renovation. One of my favorite additions was the Sea Pines Beach Club. The two-story, 25,000-square-foot structure was the perfect place for drinks and food after a day on the course, and you can’t beat that view of the Atlantic Ocean.
Sea Pines in an unforgettable place, and the next time I visit I’ll know I’m there when I start to get that antsy feeling miles before I arrive at the inn or clubhouse. As you enter the island and approach the resort, the roads start to curve and loop around the scenery. But that’s on purpose. It was designed to force visitors to look at all that surrounds them and what the island has to offer. Take a minute and look.
It’s all a spectacular view, and it only gets better.