When you think Harbour Town, I'm thinking you think lighthouse. Probably the RBC Heritage and the iconic 18th hole. Possibly the yachts anchored on Calibogue Sound. How much thought do you give the other 17 holes and entire Sea Pines resort? My guess is -- not enough.
Twice I had visited Hilton Head Island without having teed it up at the famous Harbour Town layout. I promised myself that a third visit would enable me to check playing the course off my golf bucket list.
In 2012, I got that chance. After the PGA Championship at The Ocean Course on Kiawah Island outside of Charleston, I skipped the traditional "'PGA.com Play like the Pros golf day after the PGA Championship"' to drive down to Hilton Head.
Skip one of the top courses in the world, and the opportunity to play it the day after a major, to go play Harbour Town??? This had better be good.
From the moment I dropped off my clubs off, I realized that this was no ordinary round of golf. The level of service and attention to detail was noticeably exceptional -- and I hadn't even put my golf shoes on yet. They knew my name, gave me a quick overview and layout of the area and offered to help in any way they could to make sure this was a tremendous experience for me. And I even hung around long enough to hear them offer the same great welcome to the golfers who pulled up right after me.
After checking in, saying hello, and heading over to the range, I made my way to the first tee. I was a single, very conscientious about joining a threesome that would treasure this round for a long time and not wanting to interfere, but was immediately welcomed warmly by my group. It was certainly going to be a good round. Turns out it was a great round.
John Farrell has been the PGA Head Professional at Harbour Town since 1989. Over the years, he and I have talked about the course, the resort and the region. I don't think I ever totally, fully understood his pride in the area . But when you hit that first drive and start your walk (or ride) down the fairway -- surrounded by the majestic oaks and smelling the salt air, you get it. You really get it. Golf is meant to be challenging, scenic, relaxing and most of all, enjoyable. You have that here at Harbour Town.
I don't really think you want a shot-by-shot account of my round, but let's say I played "OK" and was lower than 90. One of the things you'll hear about Harbour Town during the RBC Heritage is that it is a "shot-maker's course." And it absolutely is -- if you're a Tour pro. For the guys that routinely bomb their drives over 300 yards, you will certainly be asked to turn the ball in both directions or risk running into trouble.
But for 95 percent of amateur players, even the really good ones, this is not a course that should intimidate you into thinking you don't have the 'game' for this place. The fairways are probably more narrow than your home course and the greens aren't big at all. It's a test. But it's a fair test. One you'll enjoy and remember forever.
Moreover, everything about Sea Pines Resort is about enjoyment. From crabbing on the shore to bicycling around the island to dolphin tours leaving from the lighthouse, Harbour Town is not only a place to find great golf -- it's a place to find a great "everything."
In 1996, Greg Norman suffered through one of the most epic Masters losses in history, giving up a six-shot lead heading into the final round and ultimately losing by five shots to Nick Faldo. Many golf fans were devastated for the world No. 1 player at the time. The natural, and very understandable reaction, would have been for him to retreat from view for a while, gather his thoughts, decompress from the pressure and the microscope.
And in a way, he did. He went to Hilton Head Island and the Sea Pines Resort to compete the very next week.
For more information on Harbour Town and the Sea Pines Resort, click here.