THE HERITAGE CLASSIC
In 1968, selected sports writers and golf periodicals received telegrams announcing a new tournament to be called “The Heritage Classic.” It was described as the first major professional golf tournament to be held directly on the Atlantic sea coast. As the telegrams went out, builders were working feverishly to prepare the new course in Sea Pines by famed golf course architect Pete Dye in consultation with one of the tour’s hottest young players, Jack Nicklaus.
It was called the Harbour Town Golf Links, celebrating the location directly across from the harbor with a spectacular finishing 18th hole played directly toward the lighthouse. The editors of Golf Digest first described the 18th as “Horribly treacherous, a hole that deserves a graveyard, but easily as spectacular as Pebble Beach.”
Charles Fraser’s canny marketing ability came into play when he engaged Jack Nicklaus to assist rising star Pete Dye in the design. Together they invited Arnold Palmer to play in the first tournament. This trio of high-profile golf celebrities immediately intrigued the tour players and the media. What were they doing down there in an unknown place in South Carolina?
THE GREAT ARNOLD PALMER WINS! PALMER WON THE VERY FIRST HERITAGE AND SET THE TONE OF ONE OF THE PGA TOUR’S GREAT EVENTS UNDER THE SHADOW OF THE LIGHTHOUSE
But Charles Fraser didn’t stop there. A well schooled historian, he performed extensive research on the history of golf in South Carolina and learned that there had been a charter for South Carolina’s first golf club dating back to colonial times. He further found that it was unused in modern times. Immediately he enacted legal proceedings to acquire the charter from the archives in Charleston and have it transferred to his new club at Harbour Town. This, the panache of the words “Heritage of Golf” became attached to the tournament name because the club operated under the charter of the state’s Inaugural Club and, in fact, one of the first in the country.
A singular Scottish plaid was assigned to the Winner’s Jacket by Fraser. This plaid winner’s jacket, the dramatic march of the bagpipers, and the traditional firing of the cannon became part of the backdrop for the tournament from the very start, making it as colorful and ceremonial an event as any on the tour.
THE LATE, GREAT PAYNE STEWART
ON THE WAY TO HIS FIRST CHAMPIONSHIP AT HARBOUR TOWN IN 1989
The tournament became a national event due to the first winner …Arnold Palmer. Coming off a long slump, Arnie was back! And his Army was with him. The rest is legend. The champion’s list reads like a Who’s Who of Golf including Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Hale Irwin, Hubert Green, Tom Watson, Davis Love III, Payne Stewart, and Greg Norman–to name just a few. A complete list of all the winners and their scores is posted in the Harbour Town Clubhouse along with other memorabilia from the first, grand tournament.
As you look up the 18th fairway that hugs the shoreline of Calibogue Sound, you will notice the small peninsula that provides an alternate landing area for the tee shot creating a short cut to the green. This artful bit of design is actually the result of an accident. While the harbor was being dredged, a pipe broke loose and before the repair could be made it pumped enough sediment to create the peninsula. When Pete Dye saw what had happened his face lit up. “Perfect!” He said, “Why didn’t I think of that? Don’t touch it!” So it has remained the golfer’s temptation, and often downfall, since that time.
If you love golf…well, you’ve got to play Harbour Town. And if you love beautiful landscape architecture, take a walk on the 18 holes of one of America’s top twenty courses and see for yourself what a masterpiece it is.
CHARLES AND MARY FRASER – VISIONARIES AND PROGENITORS OF SEA PINES PLANTATION AND MANY OTHER PLANNED COMMUNITIES WORLDWIDE