Harbour Town underwent a renovation in 2015, which is covered in this post!
The decision to play Harbour Town Golf Links was last minute. I was driving from Savannah, Georgia to Augusta when I decided to detour to Hilton Head Island. As we got closer to the Hilton Head, I figured a call to see if Harbour Town could work out a single might be worth a shot. A few minutes later, I was booked to join a threesome at 2:10.
Admittedly, my knowledge of Harbour Town didn’t extend far past its world ranking, course designer, and what I had seen on TV. I was planning on comparing the course to Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course, but I found a unique course with a set of challenges not often seen on the PGA Tour. Harbour Town is considerably shorter than most modern PGA venues. Bunkering, narrow fairways, small greens, and a premium on placement create the challenge.
The fourth hole, pictured below, is a 165 yard par 3 with water wrapping around the entire green, except for a bail out area to the right of the green. The pin was tucked into a back right portion of the green. While very visually intimidating, this green is larger than others, helping players with the difficult shot.The fifth hole was a beautiful dog leg left par 5. Having never seen the hole, the tee shot looks fairly unassuming and straightforward (as seen in the below picture). Once at the bend in the dog leg, bunkers and a lake are revealed on the left with trees and green-side bunkers on the right.
The ninth hole is a very short par 4 that requires an accurate tee shot. A group of trees narrow the fairway 50 yards short of the green. The green is drastically horse shoe shaped, and, depending on the pin position, left or right can be completely blocked out. The large clubhouse backs the ninth green. The front nine at Harbour Town were solid, but fairly lackluster. In the words of our forecaddie, Derek, “The course really comes alive after the 12th hole.”
One of my complaints about the course was a lack in variety with the par 3s. The 14th hole was a reverse of the 4th, with the water being on the right instead of the left. The 7th hole was very similar to these aforementioned par 3s, but was merely surrounded by sand instead of water. One of the weaker and most “tricked up” holes on the course came at the 13th. The front of the green is guarded with 5 foot high railroad ties. According to our forecaddie, the hole was designed by Ellis Dye, Pete Dye’s wife. She is also said to have had a hand in the 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass, another goofy hole.The 17th hole, seen below, was one of the more challenging holes on the course. It is a long par 3 with an alarmingly small green. If players aren’t intimidated by the water on the left, bunkers guard the left and right sides of the green. The famous view up the 18th is striking in person. The fairway is extremely wide, but the green is very small (see a theme?).Harbour Town was a very enjoyable golf course. Nearly every hole is lined with condos and houses. Some people find this attractive, but personally, I felt it detracted from the course. I loved to see a design that, while short, can still provide a challenge for the pros. The course is 7,100 yards from the tips. The Ocean Course at Kiawah can be stretched to nearly 8,000 yards. Harbour Town shows its difficulty with tiny greens, narrow fairways, and great bunkering – more modern tour courses should take note.
*After 2:00PM, there is a large price cut in the greens fees at the course. If money is a concern and you don’t mind the afternoon heat, play after 2PM!