Thursday, December 12, 2013

81 (World) / 42 (U.S.). / 9 (Public) Harbour Town Golf Links

October 22, 2013

Harbour Town Golf Links was designed by Pete Dye in 1969 with the help of professional golfer Jack Nicklaus. It has received many accolades and details of various parts of the course can be found in both Fifty Places to Play Golf Before You Die and The World's 500 Greatest Golf Holes and has three holes that appear in the 500 greatest golf holes in the world (#15, #17, and #18).

Harbour Town was my first experience with a top 100 course in the world. It is what piqued my interest in trying to play the other top 100 courses in the world. So, as you can imagine, I took a ton of photos.

My son, Wes, was at Marine Corp basic training in Parris Island, SC, from June through October. I knew when he decided to go to Parris Island in July, that I was going to get some golf in. Days after he went to basic and learned his graduation dates, I put in my vacation request for work. At the time, I didn't know what a great time playing a top course could be.

I decided to fly in a week early, taking the red eye on Sunday night from Seattle to Savannah (via Atlanta), and then rented a car to get to Hilton Head. I wanted to arrive early enough in the day that I could get one round in before it was dark. With little sleep, I drove directly from Savannah to Old South Golf Links, where I had 20 minutes on the range.  The course was nice, though there were alligators spread about, but it still served as a good warm up round for the week. I also played Eagle's Point, Heron Point, and Hilton Head National while in Hilton Head. Each course, except Eagle's Point, had it's memorable holes.

Let's move on to Harbour Town. I arrived at Sea Pines Resort at 1 pm on a Tuesday for my tee time.

The sign at the entrance into Sea Pines Resort.

And the sign greeting you at the club house.

I was scheduled to play with three other golfers and was looking forward to chatting it up with others who might be playing their first top 100 course. It was an overcast day, and upon a noon arrival, was back and forth between drizzle and sprinkling. I hit a bucket of balls on the range with a group of high school aged kids from England. They hit the ball further than I did by a good 20 yards. Sometimes, youth does win over age.

As I finish up my bucket and move to my cart (they wouldn't let me walk), the starter comes over and advises the other three had canceled their tee time, and I was going to get to go out by myself. He advised I would be starting on #10, and the nearest group was on hole 15 in front of me and hole 6 behind me. It was going to feel as if I had the course to myself!  What this also meant is I would have time to take more photos than I normally would be able to take on a golf course.

The carts at Harbour Town with the iconic lighthouse logo.

It was also the first time I had paid more than $150 for a round of golf. I was going to get my money's worth out of it so played two balls, a yellow and a white. I kept two score cards and enjoyed what amounted to two rounds for the price of one! You also know it is a special course when their is a painting of the course that covers the three panels of the back of the scorecard.

I had been warned when I made my tee time that the course was being overseeded.  I expected to find tall grass in the fairways and overgrown rough. Instead, what I experienced was immaculate fairways and greens, with sand present on the tee boxes.  Let me share a ton of photos I took while on the course.

#11 tee box looking down the fairway.  I found that most of the tee boxes were sanded over but the fairways and greens were terrific.

#11 Green - I love the trees and Spanish moss that are found in the southeast U.S. This tree sitting next to the 11th green just made my second hole of the day a great intro to Harbour Town.

Another example of the sandy tee boxes at #12.

#12 green being watched over by another gorgeous tree.

#13 green surrounded by sand. I love the use of railroad ties and boards to support the framework around the sand traps here at Harbour Town.

At Harbour Town, it seems like if there isn't sand, there is water to give the average golfer a tough time. This is #14 green.

This is one of my favorite shots of the day.  I found most of the fairways fairly narrow, requiring a decent, straight shot. On #16, I was behind some trees, had to put the shot out to the right of the green, and this is where it landed. You can see the flag just to the right of the left front tree.  By the way, there was no water on this hole. Yep, you guessed it -Sand.  That front left tree is in a sand trap.  Talk about a tough shot. Not only did I have to put it over the tree because a punch shot under was out of the question, but it was to the narrowest part of the green as well (and I learned quickly that the greens and farrows are much narrower than I am used to on a lot of courses I have played).  I did flop it over the tree, landed it on the green, but it was just to tight and rolled off.

#17 is listed in The World's 500 Greatest Golf Holes.
When I got back to my hotel, I saw this photo was angled. I promise I wasn't drunk. I think I was so excited knowing I was coming up to the famous #18 that I wasn't paying great attention to this photo. This is #17 and you can perhaps make out the Calibogue Sound behind the green.

#18 from the tee box

The 18th hole is rated among the best 100 golf holes anywhere on the planet by The 500 World's Greatest Golf Holes. The 18th is also listed under several other chapters of the book. It received the following accolades:
  1. Rated as one of the 18 most scenic holes in the world. 
  2. Rated as one of the longest par 4s at 478 yards.
  3. Rated as one of the best holes you can play.
As advised by the book, "At 478 yards, the eighteenth is long enough to tempt a strong player to play straightaway and ignore the longer, safer route offered to the right. The tee, landing area, and the green are all built on promontories that, when used, demand that the marsh be carried by both the drive and the approach to the green."  I respected the hole and choose the safer route to the right.

#18 from the sand trap next to the green.

#3 Green, again surrounded by those beautiful trees.

#4 Green protected by water.

#8 protected by sand and water. It sprinkled at #7 and #8 but that was the only "bad" weather we had. Thanks for canceling "other three golfer guys."

From just off the side of #9 tee box.

Approach shot from #9 fairway.

After I finished my "two" rounds of golf, I headed inside the pro shop and restaurant. I, of course, purchased a logo ball. I also saw a neat headcover.

The lobby in the entrance of the clubhouse let's one feel the history of the course as well. The course is host to the PGA Heritage Classic each April. In the lobby are several iconic pieces from that tournament.

The jacket and trophy for the winner of the Heritage Classic on display.

But what I found myself studying for almost an hour was all the early clubs they have on display in the restaurant. Each club has a number under it that corresponds to a name on the plaque so you know whose club it was and what year it is from.

Overall, the experience was well worth the money and I would highly recommend it to anyone who finds themselves with an extra day in Hilton Head.

Harbour Town is ranked #81 in the world 2013, down from it's #78 ranking in 2011.
It is ranked #42 in the U.S., up from its #45 ranking in 2011.

Oh, and so a dad can brag on his son, here is the real reason I was even in Hilton Head, SC:



  1. Looks like you had a great time and thank you to your son for his service!

    1. Thank you. Definitely had a great time and I am a super proud dad!