I have been looking forward to playing Harbour Town Golf Links for quite awhile. I’ve watched the PGA tournament there (currently Verizon Heritage) for years, and was always impressed with what looked like the tightest fairways on tour. Not sure if they are the tightest on tour but they are extremely tight, which made for some interesting tee shots.
We were paired with a couple of guys from the Northeast (Connecticut, I think.) They were average golfers (like I consider myself), so they made for great partners.
We played the Blues (known as the Dye tees), which measure 6,603 but according to the mandatory caddy, play more like 6,800. A little longer than usual, but not out of my comfort zone so let’s go!
The first hole is relatively straight but very tight, with overhanging trees on both sides. It’s a par 4 that measures 392 yards. The room we were staying in at the Sea Pines Resort had a balcony that overlooked the first tee, so I’d seen plenty of people tee off, and it seemed like a large percentage would hit it in the trees on the left. That wasn’t going to be me (or so I thought). Sure enough, I put a tentative swing on the opening tee shot and yanked it left. I did chip out, hit it on and 2-putted for an opening bogey, so no disaster… Moving on.
The second is a 495 yard par 5, with a relatively open tee shot. I let it fly, but was still tentative and pulled it a little left, just over the large bunker on the left side.
Again, I had to pitch out but I hit a confidence-boosting 205 yard 4-iron that just rolled on the green. I missed the birdie putt but did make the come-backer for par; awfully proud of that!
The third hole is a 411 yard par 4 that doglegs slightly to the left. The tee shot of choice is a draw. I play a fade, which brings the overhanging trees on the left side into play. Not a perfect tee shot, but good enough to get on the green in regulation. I then had my first (and hopefully, last) three putt of the day.
The 4th played 187 yards the day we played it. I hit a 5-iron which pulled just enough to drop in the water (sigh). I did hit a decent drop, but 2-putted for a double. Here’s a view of the tee shot and yes, it is as intimidating as it looks.
The fifth is a 511 yard par 5, with a slight dogleg left. The tee shot is pretty open, but if you hit it too far left you may be in the water. Luckily our caddy warned us to bail right and for a change, my swing heeded his warning. Here’s a shot from about 200 yards from the tee; note the water on the left side.
From there it’s a relatively straight shot to the green, which is well-bunkered. I couldn’t go for it in two, but did get on in regulation and then three-jacked again for a bogey. I’ll figure out these greens eventually!
The sixth is a 401 yard dogleg right par 4. I hit what was easily my best drive of the day, and was left with only about 130 to the green. Be careful of cutting the corner too much here; on the right side of the fairway is water that is reachable. Center or left-center of the fairway is good all day long. In the picture below you can see the caddy looking for another player’s ball in the water; don’t go there.
The seventh is a 172 yard par 3 to a green that’s surrounded by sand. A little intimidating off the tee, but I hit a very solid 6-iron to about 10 feet. I missed the birdie, but honestly getting a par on this course sometimes felt like a birdie so no complaints here.
The eighth is the #1 handicap hole at Harbour Town Golf Links and I’m not going to lie; I made a mess of this hole. Knowing this is a 435 yard par 4, I knew that length definitely mattered, so I tried to give my tee shot a little extra and pulled it left. I made it past the tree line on the left, but it was all trouble from there. If/when I play it again, I’ll be aiming more for the big oak in this picture from the tee:
Also, your approach will probably be longer than usual. Although there is water to the left of the green, there is a bunker between the green and water to save you from OB so keep that in mind when you hit.
The ninth is the shortest par 4 on the course (at 332 yards), so you don’t need to be a hero off the tee. Placement is much more important than distance here. To have a shot at the green you must be on the right side of the fairway, due to the overhanging trees on the left. In the picture below, you’ll want to be at or right of where the caddy is standing.
Also, behind the green is a collection of deep, small bunkers so be as precise as you can with your approach.
As expected, there’s a halfway house between 9 and 10. We stopped and found clean restrooms and an average selection of food choices. I grabbed a dog, bag of chips and a soda and was on my way.
The tenth is wide open from the tee. It’s a dogleg left, with water on the left so it gives the opportunity of biting off as much as you can chew.
I hit an almost-perfect tee shot, leaving a short approach to a green that sloped back to front. I hit an aggressive approach that spun back more than expected, but I did two-putt for a par. Good start on the back.
The only thing I’d like to say about the eleventh is don’t go left off the tee, or you will be looking at an approach like so:
By the way, I pitched out rather than trying to thread the needle, and ended up with a bogey; I’ll take it.
Thirteen is only 354 yards, but you have to be on the right side of the fairway (like the ninth hole) to have any shot at the green. If you hit it correctly, you’re rewarded with an approach that looks like this:
I ended up on the left side of the fairway with no shot, so I tried a trick shot and ended up on the right side of the green in the sand. I did hit the sand shot of a lifetime, and got up and down for a par, to the amazement of my foursome and caddy; Yay new sand wedge!
The fourteenth is the par 3 that they always show on TV. It is one of the prettiest holes on the course. I hit the green in regulation but again, three putted for a bogey. This is the easiest hole on the course (#18 handicap), but it is much tougher visually. Good luck on this one.
Fifteen is a 541 yard par 5 that gently turns left the entire length of the hole. It’s also the longest hole on the course. I hit driver, hybrid and still had a full 8 iron to the green. The caddy said that the only person he’d ever seen hit it in two was Ernie Els, and I believe him. Looking from the green to the tee makes you realize just how perfect those two shots must’ve been. How did he get it over the tree on the left in front of the green seen here?
Sixteen is not a difficult hole, measuring 361 with a large green. I, unfortunately, hit a poor tee shot to the left (story of the round) and took a double bogey here.
Seventeen is the par three that is also shown regularly on TV. It measures 174, and almost always plays into the wind. My goal was to finish strong (even though I had a double on the last hole). I’d prefer not to post the specifics of this hole, but I played it almost as badly as the 17th at Medinah, and took a quadruple-bogey. Disgusted, I walked to the 18th tee.
The Blue tees on the 18th at Harbour Town were at 420 but as a group, we decided to play it like the pros, and hit from about 470.
I hit a decent driver that had a bit of a tail on it, and it ended up in the fairway (barely) on the right side. I hit a full hybrid pretty pure, and ended about 30 yards short of the green. I pitched to the right edge of the green and just missed the par putt for an easy bogey. After the dejection of the seventeenth, I was pretty proud of my finish.
I’ve played a few of the golf courses the pros play (Riviera, Medinah, Whistling Straits), and I can say that Harbour Town Golf Links was the least-expensive by a pretty good margin. This in no way means the course was a slouch, or that it wasn’t a challenge. It had everything I expected except a painful price, which was a welcome change. If you’re looking to play where the pros play and not break the bank, this is a rock-solid choice.
Even with a double-quad-bogey finish, I ended up with a 91. Not the most respectable score, but it gives me something to shoot at when I return and honestly, I can’t wait.