Many things make the RBC Heritage one of the more special events on the PGA Tour. As the 23rd of 45 PGA Tour events scheduled for 2013–14, the tournament represents the midpoint of the season. And while South Carolina has over 360 championship-caliber golf courses, only one of the Palmetto State’s courses is host to a PGA Tour event. That course, Harbour Town Golf Links, also has the distinction of being Jack Nicklaus’ first-ever golf course design—opening 45 years ago.
The 46th RBC Heritage gets under way today at Harbour Town Golf Links on Hilton Head Island. It airs Thursday, April 17, and Friday, April 18, from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. ET on the Golf Channel, then Saturday, April 19, and Sunday, April 20, from 1:00 to 2:30 p.m. ET on the Golf Channel and from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. on CBS Sports.
A collaboration between long-time friends Nicklaus and Pete Dye, the course first opened for play in time for the 1969 inaugural Heritage Golf Classic, which today is known as the RBC Heritage. Located on the grounds of the luxury 5,000-acre Sea Pines Resort, it wasn’t long before the course topped lists of America’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses, 100 Greatest Tests of Golf, Best Resort Courses, and Greatest Public Courses, as well as various Best Courses lists for the State of South Carolina.
This year, the course was ranked No. 5 in State by the South Carolina Golf Course Ratings Panel. The course has had such an influence on modern golf that in 2010, Harbour Town Golf Links was named to Golf Digest’s list of America’s Most Important Golf Courses by Decade.
Today, this venerable staple on the PGA Tour schedule features an environment unlike others. When asked why Sea Pines is a favorite PGA Tour stop, 2013 Memorial Tournament winner Matt Kuchar said, “Everyone seems to stay within the confines of Sea Pines. I don’t know of any other place on Tour where people don’t leave the general resort area.”
“This is one of the Tour’s top events because of Sea Pines Resort,” added Brandt Snedeker. “It’s such a relaxing atmosphere. We all rent homes here for our families, go bike riding and to the beach. It’s a great place to unwind.”
Luke Donald, a member at Jack Nicklaus’ home club of The Bear’s Club, said “This tournament at Sea Pines has such a great feel, as it’s a family-oriented event.”
“It’s a chilled-out environment and great social atmosphere,” said 2013 RBC Heritage winner Graeme McDowell.
The Northern Irishman took to the relaxed atmosphere on Hilton Head Island during the 45th annual RBC Heritage, kicking back with friends and family at a rental house in Sea Pines. He went for morning jogs on the beach and said he didn’t spend much time “grinding” at the range.
“I took a really relaxed approach this week and tried to enjoy myself—have a glass of wine or two in the evening and some great food and some great friends and family,” McDowell said.
When the final round of South Carolina’s only PGA Tour event came around Sunday, McDowell kept his cool better than anyone in difficult conditions at Harbour Town Golf Links. He made up a four-shot deficit on a cold and windy afternoon, finishing at 9 under par for the tournament and beating Webb Simpson in a one-hole playoff.
This year, McDowell is joined in the field by second-place finisher and 2012 U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson, along with a strong field highlighted by such names as Donald, Snedeker, Stewart Cink, Ernie Els, Nick Faldo, Jim Furyk, Bill Haas, Matt Kuchar, Davis Love III, Hunter Mahan, Vijay Singh, Tom Watson and Boo Weekley.
McDowell’s 2013 RBC Heritage victory was his first on tour since the 2010 U.S. Open. Other past winners of the storied event include World Golf Hall of Famers Jack Nicklaus (1975), Arnold Palmer, Nick Faldo, Hale Irwin, Bernhard Langer, Johnny Miller, Greg Norman, Nick Price, Tom Watson and the late Payne Stewart.
Watson and Faldo, neither of whom play many stops on the PGA Tour, were surprise commitments this week. “Once I realized it was 30 years [since he won in 1984], it was my first event I won in America,” said Faldo, a six-time major champion, “so I thought that would be pretty cool.”
More than 100,000 people attend the RBC Heritage each year, allowing the tournament to annually pump more than $80 million into the State of South Carolina’s economy. For information, visit www.rbcheritage.com.