Since 1969, when swashbuckling Arnold Palmer mesmerized television viewers with one of his patented final-round charges on Harbour Town Golf Links to win the inaugural Heritage Classic (as it was then called), the Sea Pines Resort has topped the charts as a must-play golf destination. Myriad honors from top golf publications have followed year after year, but no one would ever accuse the Lowcountry legend of resting on its laurels.
After this year’s RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing, Harbour Town, often cited as a PGA Tour player favorite, will close for the summer to embark on a major re-grassing project and installation of a state-of-the-art irrigation system featuring the latest in water management and control technology. Last year the maestro himself, Pete Dye, oversaw a series of subtle enhancements to his Heron Point layout — currently ranked by Golfweek as the No. 13 “Best Courses You Can Play” in South Carolina.
In October, the resort’s Ocean Course will get its turn as Love Golf Design, the course architecture firm founded by PGA Tour star Davis Love III and his brother Mark, is coming in for a total renovation of the layout.
Based on St. Simons Island, Georgia, Love Golf Design has led numerous course designs and renovations in the region, including Retreat at Sea Island on Sea Island, Georgia; Laurel Island Golf Club in Kingsland, Georgia; and the Love Course at Barefoot Resort in Myrtle Beach.
“Sea Pines is one of my all-time favorite places to play so we’re excited to redesign the Ocean Course to be in line with the great golf offered by Harbour Town Golf Links and Heron Point,” said Love, a five-time winner of the RBC Heritage. “It’s an honor for us to work with one of the world’s premier golf destinations.”
“We’re thrilled to have a great champion like Davis Love III and his exceptional design team working on the Ocean Course,” said Cary Corbitt, vice president of sports and operations at Sea Pines.
While not typically regarded as demanding as its two brethren, the Ocean Course is steeped in Hilton Head golf history. Prolific architect George Cobb made it the first course to be built on the island in 1962, and PGA Tour veteran Mark McCumber redesigned it in 1995. The course has long offered a true rarity on Hilton Head as its 210-yard, par-3 15th is a true oceanfront hole.
Love Golf Design plans to introduce a more pronounced seaside ambience to the proceedings. “In our design, we want to bring an ocean feel back to the course. You only really see the Atlantic once, but the course needs a style and look that lets you know you are at the beach,” said Love, who is just back from Hawaii where he played in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai to start the 2015 Champions Tour season.
Additional plans call for a complete rebuild of all the Ocean Course holes, as well as a total resurfacing throughout with cutting-edge grasses to match the superior strains at Harbour Town and Heron Point. The overall goal is to create a fair test for players of all abilities and handicaps.
“We want the Ocean Course to be a challenge from the back tees, and a fair and friendly course that the members, property owners and guests will want to play every day,” Love said. “We want them to feel like they are playing a classic design that makes them think their way around the course and are rewarded for good shots and not overly penalized for misses.”
The investment in the course’s 54 holes is by no means the only recent change to Sea Pines’ golf amenities. The new 26,000-square-foot Harbour Town Golf Links Clubhouse debuts in time for this year’s RBC Heritage. The facility honors the tournament’s history with a gallery of highlights and a display of past champions. Last year, the resort opened its new Plantation Golf Club serving Heron Point and Ocean Course as well as the resort’s Golf Learning Center.
A “must-play” golf destination continues to get better and better.
For more information about the resort and its golf amenities, go to www.seapinesgolf.com or call 866-561-8802.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE SEA PINES RESORT – BY ROB TIPTON