HARBOUR TOWN GOLF LINKS – Hilton Head Island, SC
A – Playability & Challenge
B – Quality of Course
A – Memorability
A – Service Levels
A – Pro Shop
B – 19th Hole Experience
B+ – OVERALL EXPERIENCE
(Written by Brian Birdwell) … As I prepared to take on the adventure known as Golfest for the first time, I recall an excitement deep within about playing the famed Harbour Town Golf Links after watching the pros play the course on TV the week before our departure (The MCI Heritage). I wanted to soak in the moment because this was going to be the nicest course I had ever played. And on this morning, I was going to be focused like never before, ready to concentrate on every shot by actually using a yardage book and a new putting routine. That was before I had about 15 drinks the night before (with a few shots to boot) and woke up feeling like a divot filled with pelican crap. After a little hair of the dog in the form of an early morning Bloody Mary (not entirely sure but I believe we teed off around 7:30 AM) I was ready for the course …, sort of?
Harbour Town was designed by Pete Dye with some design advice from the great Jack Nicklaus in 1969. In 2000, Dye revisited the course and did a complete restoration that brought the course into a new light among the top courses in the US. At one time, it was considered a top 30 golf course in the world by Golf Magazine.
I was juiced, eyeing the 392-yard par-4 first, thinking to myself, “This hole doesn’t look that bad.” Seven strokes and double that number of loud obscenities later, I had started my much anticipated round of golf on one of America’s pristine courses. Hole number two would have to be a make up hole. Standing on the tee of the 495-yard par 5 number two, looking at the fairway with barely enough room to drive a Yugo down, I was already thinking Tequila. I did chip in from the fringe on this hole…to make a double bogey 7.
And that pretty much set the tone for the day. I quickly came to the realization that this is a freaking tough course … and to the realization that I needed the cart girl to come our way … fast! And then, like a vision in the night, she appeared. After downing a Bud Light, I birdied number three only to drive up to the number four tee-box to see the most challenging hole of the day. A classic Pete Dye risk/reward designed par-3 over water to a small green with bail out room on the right. As it turned out, every par-3 on this course was a “classic” Dye design – over water with little bail out room. Just to give one last point of light on how difficult this course played, these “hard” par 3’s were listed with handicaps of 18, 17, 16, and 11 for the course.
My only solace came in the gratification that my three counterparts were also finding the course as tough as I. Although Rickey Berger was enjoying a nice round, the course was making a little tougher go of it than he was accustomed to. A man whose frustrations rarely show on a course showed obvious signs of agitation. None more than obvious than on number 18 where he had to brave the reeds and sea snakes to hit a “sand shot” off of the real sand – the beach.
Although the Harbour Town Golf Links at the Sea Pines Resort proved to be one of the more challenging courses that ever made me question the reasons why I actually play the sport, it was equally as beautiful. Some holes making you feel tucked deep in a piney forest while others allow views as far as the eye can see with ocean breezes blowing through your hair — and blowing your ball 100 yards off course. This course, without a doubt, earned the recognition it has received from golf magazines and golfers alike. Top 100 without question!