It’s almost too pretty to start taking divots. But golfers journeying to the Lowcountry will dig out plenty of them with the famed Harbour Town Golf Links back open as of September 28th. Completely re-grassed since it was closed in early May, the TOUR players’ 2nd favorite place to play has a new layer of Celebration Bermuda on the tees, fairways and roughs that won’t need as much water as the old turf. Director of Golf John Farrell is predicting firmer and faster conditions on the new turf, making it play more like the way it does during the RBC Heritage every spring.
Harbour Town’s already-tiny greens designed by Pete Dye and Jack Nicklaus will also play firmer, though the new layer of carpet on the putting surfaces is the same strain of grass, Tif-Eagle Bermuda, that has covered the greens for the last 15 years. Also while the course was closed, a new state-of-the-art watering system was installed, some extra tree-trimming was done to the tight layout, and two minor set-up changes were made. The green at the par-5 fifth hole was shifted about 20 yards to the left (think of taking the old green and just folding it over), away from one of Harbour Town’s signature over-hanging oaks. But the big oak will still come into play, and now instead of just a few yards of deep rough for errant approaches to the right of the green, a new run-off area has been created that will force a short chip from a tight, undulating lie to an elevated green.
And the popular bunker on the inside of the par-4 16th now has four “church pew” grass mounds in it, maybe offering a prayer for errant drivers to still have an approach to the green to make par, or birdie.
With Harbour Town back to life, The Sea Pines Resorts going to close the Ocean Course, one of the first ever built on the Island, for a complete restoration beginning October 5th. Five-time Heritage champion Davis Love III and his design firm have been given an entire year to work within the existing footprint to create a completely new experience, one that Love is promising will make it a worthy complement to Harbour Town and Heron Point—which it just so happens was recently named the “South Carolina Course of the Year”, placing it in nomination for National Course of the Year. Heron Point underwent an extensive renovation in 2013-14 that softened some of the green surrounds and made the course much more enjoyable—though still a stiff test if you get off-line. The renovation obviously impressed judges statewide!
Elsewhere around the Island, courses are reporting they’re in the best shape ever in the fall after a steamy, rainy summer—the kind that sends us headed for air conditioning, but that the fairways and greens just love. And if the improvements at Sea Pines and in conditioning area-wide aren’t enough, don’t be surprised if there aren’t more surprises—like the addition of previously-private Dolphin Head in Hilton Head Plantation- to the roster of courses we can all play. It should be a fall to remember for golfers in the Lowcountry.