Bob Gillespie



Number 2: PGA Tour players rate Harbour Town second only to Augusta National

Posted 1/17/2012 3:37:00 PM

Last year when South Carolina’s annual PGA Tour stop was searching for sponsorship, some of the tournament’s most fervent supporters were the touring professionals who come to Hilton Head Island each April. If we didn’t know why before, we do now.

Harbour Town Golf Links, home to the RBC Heritage since 1969, ranked No. 2 in GolfWorld magazine survey asking 81 PGA Tour players about their favorite courses. That’s just ahead of Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif. (host to the Northern Trust Open), and trailing only Augusta National, home of the Masters.

What makes the survey particularly rewarding is that Harbour Town’s ranking came from an anonymous poll of players, who rated the 52 courses that hosted PGA Tour events over the past three years from best to worst. Thus, players had no reason to pull their punches – and in most cases, they didn’t (just ask No. 52, Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City).

Harbour Town’s lofty ranking comes as no surprise, though. Besides support for the Heritage during the search that led to Royal Bank of Canada’s title sponsorship (with presentation sponsorship by Boeing), players traditionally have viewed their week at Hilton Head as an “adult spring break,” coming after the pressure-cooker of the year’s first major championship in Augusta.

And while players surveyed were asked to consider only the course and not tournament amenities – so much for the impact of beautiful spring days bicycling with the family and relaxing on Sea Pines Resort’s beaches – no question they are overjoyed to be returning in 2012 and beyond.

So: What do the best players in the world like about Harbour Town?

“My favorite Pete Dye course,” “the best course we play” and “great shot values” were among comments made in GolfWorld’s survey. The 6,973-yard layout, short by modern standards, is essentially unchanged since Dye and Jack Nicklaus combined to produce the Calibogue Sound-bordered course more than 40 years ago.

Author Geoff Shackelford and reporter Craig Dolch wrote: “Harbour Town proves architects ‘don’t need length for a great golf course,’ and ‘it’s not 7,600 yards – you have to hit golf shots there’” (quotes are from players’ responses). One respondent told GolfWorld, “It’s a 10 (on a 10-point scale) because of great greens.”

Players were divided on Harbour Town’s tree-lined fairways. “It’s OK, but they need to lose trees,” one player offered, but most fell in line with one opinion that players love Harbour Town “because you have to shape the ball on almost every hole.”

The rest of GolfWorld’s Top 10 includes Pebble Beach (host of the AT&T National Pro-Am) at No. 4, followed by Fort Worth’s Colonial Country Club (Crowne Plaza Invitational); Nicklaus’ Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio (Memorial Tournament); Shaughnessy Golf & Country Club, Vancouver, British Columbia (two-time host of the Canadian Open); Aronimink Golf Club near Philadelphia (two AT&T Nationals); Innisbrook Resort’s Copperhead Course (Transitions Championship); and Congressional Country Club’s Blue Course in Bethesda, Md. (AT&T National and the 2011 U.S. Open).

To see the rest of the rankings and accompanying articles, click here.