As the grounds crew whipped around Harbour Town Golf Links on Monday, the effect from October's storm wasn't apparent.
Hurricane Matthew tore through not long ago and slung debris along the 18th hole in the shadow of the iconic lighthouse. With the 49th RBC Heritage presented by Boeing coming up in April, tournament officials say Harbour Town will be ready.
"I think you'll find today that Harbour Town Golf Links are in as good of shape as they ever have been," Heritage Classic Foundation chairman Simon Fraser said during the tournament's annual media day Monday. "This is after a Category 2 hurricane we had last fall that we're quickly forgetting about.
"We're more than happy to forget about it. Everything is great and we're ready to move forward."
Matthew downed trees and wreaked havoc throughout the famed Hilton Head golf course. But the layout reopened the month after the storm and officials said the oak-lined links has made a full recovery.
More than 200 trees fell during the hurricane, but only about 12 to 15 were integral to the golf course, Harbour Town golf director John Farrell said. Tall oak trees, palms, pine trees and a magnolia were among the new trees planted after the storm.
Tournament director Steve Wilmot noted storm cleanup continues on the island but that Hilton Head should be ready in April.
"We're going to show the world we're open for business and ready to go," Wilmot said.
Mayor David Bennett recounted how the tournament had previously faced uncertainty in a search for a title sponsor. RBC and Boeing stepped in, and both sponsorship were extended this summer.
"As powerful as Matthew was, our island is much moreso," Bennett said.
As if the party wasn't big enough, the RBC Heritage has unveiled a new social spot.
An upscale wine bar called Wine@9 will be open all week to all spectators near No. 9 green and the merchandise tent, a popular gathering spot. The venue will include hardwood floors, vineyard decor and barrel tables and serve premium wine and mimosas, a Heritage news release said.
Fans can watch the golf tournament on a video board or elevated platforms.
"We identified an area on the course that had been lacking excitement and created a destination for the wine enthusiasts who will find it very appealing," tournament director Steve Wilmot said.
Once again, most golf fans won't be allowed to park inside Sea Pines.
And Honey Horn, used in recent years to shuttle in spectators, continues to be occupied by Hurricane Matthew debris cleanup. Free parking will instead be offered at the Hilton Head schools complex at 70 Wilborn Drive.
A motor coach will carry golf fans on the 20-minute ride from the school complex to Harbour Town Marina from 6:30 a.m. until 9:30 p.m. each day, according to the website. There will be no general parking inside Sea Pines during the golf tournament.
A tournament shuttle will again operate from Coligny Plaza closer to Hilton Head's south end. The free shuttles will also operate from 6:30 a.m. until 9:30 p.m., and bicycle parking is also available.
Free bike parking is also available inside Sea Pines at the tennis courts near the Harbour Town clubhouse and near the 13th green. Bicyclists must have a tournament ticket or volunteer credentials to get into Sea Pines.
This article was written by Stephen Fastenau from The Island Packet Online and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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