Location: Hilton Head Island, SC
Architects: Pete Dye & Jack Nicklaus
May 26, 2012
Back in 2007 when I started my Top 100 quest Harbour Town Golf Links was the sixth course I played. Recently while on a family vacation I managed to get another loop around the course that hosts the RBC Heritage the week after The Masters every year. This is one of the great stops on the Tour and is always a huge party. The tournament has been won by some of the biggest names in the game who are rewarded with a hideous plaid jacket for their efforts. Below is a photo of 2012 winner Carl Pettersson.
During my round five years ago my partner and I were engaged in a heated battle with our friends Rob and Greg so I didnâ€™t take very many photos. This time it was a casual round with my Dad and brother so I broke out my camera a little more often. Below are some photos from the round. The yardages are from the 6,640 yard Dye tees. My original post from 2007 is at the end of this updated one.
Hole 1 – 392 yards – Par 4
The course starts out with a straight away par 4 that provides a feel for just how narrow the course can be. The photo below was taken from the tee box. Itâ€™s best to favor the right side of the fairway for the best angle to the green.
Below is a look at the approach into the green. The trees hanging over the on the left side of the photo are part of the problem for approaching coming in from the left side of the fairway.
The photo below was taken from the bunker on the left side of the green.
Hole 2 – 495 yards – Par 5
The first par 5 on the front side is a hole that turns a bit to the right. A drive up the left side will give the best angle into the green. At 495 yards this is going to be reachable in two for some of the longer hitters.
Below is a view of the pitch shot into the green after a layup of roughly 60 yards short of the green.
The greens at Harbour Town are notoriously small and we got a bit of a taste of that on the 2nd hole. The 2nd green, pictured below, is extremely narrow and fairly long front to back.
Hole 3 – 411 yards – Par 4
The photo below gives another look at how tight Harbour Town is. This hole has a slight dogleg left which makes a draw off the tee a pretty favorable shot shape.
Below is a look at the approach into the green.
Hole 4 – 187 yards – Par 3
Here we have a mid-length par 3 over water. As can be seen in the photo below there is plenty of bail out room to the right, but shots that miss short and left are destined for a watery grave.
Here is a little closer look at the hole.
Hole 5 – 511 yards – Par 5
Finally at the fifth hole we get a little bit of a break from the narrow fairways. The photo below was taken walking off the tee and it feels significantly wider than the previous holes.
Below is the approach into the green. This hole was a little more exposed and seemed to have significantly more wind than the previous holes.
Here is a view of the green.
Hole 6 – 404 yards – Par 4
This hole tightens back up a little bit. The danger is that any shots that stray just a little too far off line are at the mercy of the trees and can richochet just about anywhere. What makes it even more worrisome is that many of the holes here are bordered by white out of bounds stakes which means a bad bounce can result in hitting 3 off the tee.
Below is the approach shot into the green.
And here is a closer look a the green. Note the fall off on the right side.
Hole 7 – 172 yards – Par 3
This is another mid-length par 3 that play over water and then over a bunker as well. The water really isnâ€™t in play except for a terribly mishit shot, but the sand will be a problem for shots that come up just a little short of the green.
Here is another look at the green.
Hole 8 – 435 yards – Par 3
This is a long par 4 that is also rated as the hardest hole on the course. I didnâ€™t get any photos from the tee or fairway as I spent most of this hole thrashing my ball through the woods on the right hand side of the hole. Below is a look at the green. Note the water to left hand side. This water is only up near the green just waiting to rinse the wayward approach shot.
Hole 9 – 322 yards – Par 4
Finally we get to a short par 4 hole! Playing at just 322 yards, all that is needed is a 190-220 yard shot to leave a short iron or wedge into the green.
The green at the 9th is a nasty little â€śUâ€ť shaped affair. Its a teeny tiny green to begin with, but when you factor in that it basically split into two greens it suddenly gets even smaller.
Here is a look from behind the green. Note the nasty little bunkers in the back. I hit into one of those back in 2007 and theyâ€™re not a good time.
Hole 10 – 421 yards – Par 4
We start the second nine hole off with a long dogleg to the left. The water on the left hand side is in play. The closer the drive is played to the water the shorter the approach shot will be.
Hole 11 – 413 yards – Par 4
With this hole we are back to having to worry about narrow fairways. This hole is a dogleg to the left and a draw played from the tee is the ideal shot. Because of the narrowness of the fairways I feel like many of the tee shots really only have one way to play them.
Hole 12 – 404 yards – Par 4
Here we have another fairly narrow fairway but this one doglegs to the left and favors a fade off the tee.
Here is a look at the green from about 80 yards out.
Hole 13 – 354 yards Par 4
In my personal opinion, the 13th hole is where Harbour Town gets interesting. I feel like from this hole in are my favorite holes on the course. We start this stretch off with a short par 4. Driver is not going to be an option here for long hitters. The ideal play is a 3 wood right down the middle. Its important to hit the drive far enough here to leave an unobstructed shot into the green.
Here is a look at the approach shot into the green.
And a little closer look.
Hole 14 – 165 yards – Par 3
Another carry over water for this par 3 with the classic Pete Dye bulkhead separating the green from the water. The photo I took of this back in 2007 (see my old post at the bottom of this one) is one of my all time favorite photos Iâ€™ve taken.
Hole 15 – 541 yards – Par 5
This is a long par 5 that I hacked up and didnâ€™t get any photos of until I got my ball back in the fairway for the approach shot.
Hole 16 – 395 yards – Par 4
This hole runs parallel to the 10th hole. A draw off the tee is the ideal shot but there is plenty of room to the right that will still allow for a shot to the green as long as the two trees are not in the way.
Here is a look a the the enormous bunker that along the left side of this hole. This has got to be a caddies worst nightmare. When a player hits into this bunker and goes for the green there is a good chance that there will be a second or third shot made from the bunker which will probably result in a player traipsing the length of the bunker and a lot of rake work for the caddie.
Shots going over the green are going to have a tricky pitch back onto the putting surface , especially when the hole is cut at the back of the green.
Hole 17 – 174 yards – Par 3
This hole is my favorite of the par 3s and I suspect that many people would agree with me. The green runs from left to right and a miss to the left when the hole location is cut in the back will make for a very difficult up and down.
Here is a closer look at the hole.
Below is a view of the green walking up to it from the right hand side.
Hole 18 – 444 yards – Par 4
We finish the round with a very tough and long par 4. Often hampered by wind players have to decide how much of the marsh area they want to bit off.
Below is a photo of the approach shot into the 18th green with the iconic lighthouse in the background. For most players this approach is going to be 200 or more yards and played into the wind. Any shots that go left are going to end up on the beach and can be very difficult to find.
Here is a little closer look at the approach shot.
And this is the view from the green towards the lighthouse.
My second loop around Harbour Town Golf Links was great fun. The first time I played the course I was with some of my best friends and this time I was with my Dad and brother which made for a great round – even though none of us played very well. The course definitely requires some precision and I can see why some of the Tour pros donâ€™t like to play here. In order to score well players need to be able to hit the right type of shots and when they donâ€™t the punishment can be severe. I really enjoy the closing stretch of holes from 13 – 18 as well as the stern test of shotmaking that the course provides. I still havenâ€™t made a decent score on the course so in another five years I may be updating my post yet again!! By the way, its worth noting that the scorecard from 2012 has an extra 128 yards more on the Heritage tees than the card from 2007. The Dye tees changed by less than 40 yards and the Sea Pines tees (which is probably the tee most players use) increased by 211 yards since 2007.
Original Post from November 2, 2007
Every year around this time I make a trip to Hilton Head Island for a small four man tournament with my friends. This year we added four more guys to the trip and decided to play Harbour Town Golf Links. HTGL was the first golf course on Hilton Head Island and was designed by Pete Dye and Jack Nicklaus. It was Nicklaus’ first foray into course design and in my opinion its a classic.
I must agree with the general consensus about the course and what they say every year on TV when the Heritage Classic comes through town the week after The Masters . . . the fairways are incredibly narrow and the greens are postage stamps. Even though my driver had been right on the money recently, I spent most of the day hitting a utility club off the tee. In my opinion, the only way to play this course is from the fairway. If you want a chance to hit the greens in regulation you had better be both in the fairway AND in the correct spot.
I had great focus on the front 9 (which is why there are no photos) with a birdie on the 4th hole and I managed to avoid a double bogey until the 9th hole . The pot bunker behind the green on #9 got me. Unfortunately I lost my focus after that and the second 9 was a less than stellar performance.
Below is a photo from the tee box of the #14 par 3 hole. This was my favorite of four really nice par 3s. It didn’t hurt that I made par on the hole to win a crucial point for my team in the match we were playing. If you click on the photo below you can see that the pin on the day we played was in the middle of the green on the left side so the water was not really in play. Sunday at the Heritage Classic the pin is front right 5 paces from water. Yikes!
We played late in the day with a tee off time of 1:23. We really cut it close with available daylight. Thankfully daylight savings time didn’t start for another 36 hours so we were able to finish up just as the sun was going down. It really made playing 17 and 18 scenic with the sun setting over the Calibogue Sound. Below is a photo taken from the 18th tee box.
Another thing they are dead right about on TV is the wind on these 2 holes. Talk about a tough finish. The wind had been a factor all day, but the last 2 holes it really beat me down.
Overall I liked this course just fine. Some of the guys in our group didnâ€™t think much of it. Itâ€™s definitely a shot makers course and I really like that kind of golf. They have a new forecaddie program in place which is interesting. Iâ€™m not sure that all the caddies are good enough to give accurate yardages or can read greens, but its nice to have them on the tee box with you to tell you where the pin is and what side of the fairway you want to be on.
For me, Harbour Town was a fun day of golf. Itâ€™s a bit pricey, so Iâ€™m not sure Iâ€™ll be rushing back to play it every year, but if was fun and Iâ€™m looking forward to watching the Heritage Classic next year now that Iâ€™ve played the course.