From Where We Stand

Witness to Thrills and Victories

The thrill of hosting the Heritage Classic really never wears off. Still, we have a moment to reflect, in May, just how fortunate we are to stand here, a few steps beyond 18, where the story of Harbour Town Golf Links began, and where the memories are made new each year. Every day, in fact, golfers gather here, and for many it is a pilgrimage, one of the rounds of a lifetime.

Because the Harbour Town Lighthouse is also a recognized museum that tells the story of Hilton Head Island on every landing of the climb, we’d like to share a bit of what we’ve learned here, from where we stand, about the glorious course that unfolds within our view.

A Story Told with a Smile

The story of Harbour Town Golf Links is usually told with a smile. The pros who come here to play the Heritage Classic – the week right after the Masters – develop a feeling of affection for the course. Harbour Town Golf Links doesn’t “show off” with a monstrously difficult hole. It doesn’t cater just to the golfers who can take it 320 yards from the tee. No, from the first, this course was known for no particular specialty, but one. “You’ll need every club in the bag,” said course architect Pete Dye.

Course consultant Jack Nicklaus predicted that “only players of championship quality” would win at Harbour Town and, in fact, fewer than a handful of the winners of the Heritage won their first championship here. Yes, Harbour Town Golf Links calls for skill with every club – and a bit of cunning they say.

True Heritage

Designed like the links of Scotland, Harbour Town Golf Links can’t be played with power alone, or even power primarily. It’s interesting that even when they reached into history for the design, Dye, Nicklaus, and Sea Pines founder Charles Fraser were ahead of their time. The links design at Harbour Town anticipated by more than four decades the 2010 restoration of Pinehurst No. 2, made to bring that historic course back to its original vision.

Tour the Course with Us

Looking down No. 1 from the tee, we get a taste from that par-4 straightaway of how narrow the links can be. If your approach to the green tends toward the left side, then you’ll have some overhanging trees and a bunker narrowing your shot vertically. The first par 5 comes with No. 2. Because it bends to the right, the left side of the fairway is your best angle to the green this time.

Hole No. 3 presents a 411-yard par 4 (from the Dye tee), and this one dodges a little left. Along about here we notice the greens are smallish, part of the precision that Harbour Town Golf Links calls for. At No. 4 we get our first par 3, but it comes with water. There’s a safer way to take it on the right, but if you take the direct route, your shot better not be short.

With hole No. 5 it’s time to stretch out again for a par 5, and at last there’s a wide panorama off the tee. Though wider and seemingly more forgiving, you may notice some wind to deal with on your approach. The fairway on No. 6 narrows again. A 404-yard par 4, we hope that’s your lucky number, because the trees are willing to bounce you beyond the white stakes if you let them.

No. 7 is a mid-length par 3 with water and a bunker. The water isn’t often a problem, but the sand is waiting for anything short. A long par 4 is next at No. 8, called by many the most likely bogey hole on the course. Even tour players struggle to reach the green in two. Once there, the route is narrowed on the left by a bunker and a water hazard, making No. 8 one of the most difficult greens on the course.

The fairway at No. 9 is a welcome sight, a par 4 calling for a 200-ish-yard shot to then pitch or wedge to the green. But that green; it is small and U-shaped, so it can play like two greens even smaller.

And Around the Turn

The long dogleg-left of the par-4 No. 10 hole is accompanied on the left by a beautiful lagoon. Beautiful it is until you consider that it is in play, and the closer you can play to it, the shorter your approach shot will be. Eleven arrives, then, with a par 4 that reminds you of the narrow fairways you saw on the front nine. Those who can will want to fade off the tee on 12, as it doglegs left for another par 4.

Hole No. 13 is where some say they feel an imaginary gallery following them, because just seeing these holes makes you feel like a champion. The driver is probably not your friend on this tee, because it is a short par 4, although it is important to hit the tee shot far enough to give you an unobstructed view of the green. As you get closer, you see it is cupped in the hand of a sand-trap.

On 14, you’re faced with another carry over water for your par 3. Fifteen is called by some the best par 5 of the Harbour Town Golf Links. It takes three shots for most players to reach the green. Two would call for hitting long down the right side of the fairway before it turns left toward the green. The par 4 at hole 16 allows for plenty of room to the right – as long as you don’t put those two trees in your way to the green. The reason people consider this is the gigantic bunker along the left side of hole. A beautiful par 3 awaits at 17.

And now for one of the most recognized holes on the PGA tour. The 18th at Harbour Town Golf Links is a pleasure for the eyes and a challenge for the skills. Friends feel like congratulating each other just for getting here. The Lighthouse is way down there on your right. Calibogue Sound is your taste of the Atlantic on the left. The wind is often playing your accompaniment as you decide how to proceed.

The narrow right-hand fairway on 18 offers you a bulge of good, wider landing spots toward the left, about halfway to the green. Not too long, not too short, and with the breeze’s blessing, you can make your approach from there.

When you finish on 18 at the Harbour Town Golf Links it’s perfectly normal to hear imaginary bagpipes and applause. This is the setting where, once a year for more than a half-century, somebody dons a plaid jacket – and where everybody is glad they have arrived.

Whether your passion is golf, or beauty, or life itself, we look forward to seeing you here at the Harbour Town Lighthouse. You are always welcome.