Since its debut in 1969, the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing has been a highlight - to many, THE highlight - of spring in South Carolina. The state's only annual PGA Tour event returns to Sea Pines Resort's Harbour Town Golf Links for its "Cheers to 50 Years" celebration of the tournament's Golden Anniversary. Thousands of golf fans - and fans of a great party, too - are expected to come April 9-15 to see the world's finest golf professionals, and to enjoy a wide array of off-course entertainment options.
The tournament in 2016 extended its sponsorship with Royal Bank of Canada through 2023 and Charleston-based Boeing through 2021, is set for a spectacular week. Tickets are still on sale and a large turnout is expected. So what can visitors expect in 2018 besides great golf on the Pete Dye-designed Harbour Town layout, voted by Tour players as their second-favorite regular venue behind only Augusta National?
How about familiar and new off-course entertainment and beverage opportunities, including new beer gardens and a new site for South Carolina-produced food products? How about the world's recent No. 1 player, Columbia, S.C. native Dustin Johnson, making his first Harbour Town appearance since 2009, along with defending champion Wesley Bryan, the first S.C. winner in Heritage history? How about a new pre-tournament event starring South Carolina celebrities from sports and entertainment?
There also will be traditional highlights, including the annual flyover of Harbour Town's 18th hole by a Boeing jet - this year, likely one of its new 787-10 extended-body airliners - with day (probably Saturday) and time TBD.As the Heritage celebrates its 50th anniversary, here's what to expect:
CRAFT BEER GARDEN - New for 2018 and running Wednesday through Sunday of Tournament Week, fans can indulge their inner brew-master with a wide selection of IPAs, sours and barrel-aged beers, many of them from South Carolina craft breweries. The Craft Beer Garden is located behind the 15th green.
THE ULTRA CLUB - Located behind the 18th hole and open Wednesday through Sunday, the Ultra Club's "19th Hole" will have a new, modern look for fans of Anhueser-Busch beverages, not to mention views of the picturesque Calibogue Sound.
SC HOME GROWN - Also at the 19th Hole behind the 18th green, the Certified SC Grown Food Truck will be serving fresh, local offerings, including oyster po' boys, barbecue bowls, collard slaw and quail sliders - all 100 percent Southern and 100 percent Certified SC Grown.
WINE@NINE - Located between the first and ninth holes at Harbour Town, within sight of the clubhouse, is this upscale outdoor venue which debuted in 2017. There, wine lovers can watch the Heritage competition and enjoy offerings from premium wineries, including Kim Crawford and Meiomi.
The venue, with hardwood floors, barrel tables and a vineyard decor, will be open Monday-Sunday of tournament week, serving up top vintages, sparkling wines and even mimosas. Spectators can watch golf on a large video board or sit and watch live action at the ninth hole from elevated viewing platforms There's even live music on Saturday starting at 4 p.m., and nearly merchandise shops for souvenir-hungry fans.
TITO'S HANDMADE VODKA - The Official Vodka Partner of the RBC Heritage, which also debuted in 2017, is again located on Heritage Lawn, part of a vast entertainment area near the 17th green and 18th tee. Tito's Stillhouse will offer open-air seating featuring signature cocktails as well as other activities, among them a selfie station.
Tito's also will have preferred pouring nights during the tournament, including the pro-ams, pairings party and other events. The vodka will be featured at Poseidon, a waterfront restaurant located at Shelter Cove Towne Center, which offers an outdoor NautiBar, an inside "The World is Your Oyster" Bar, and covered patio dining on the Front Porch and Rooftop Bar.
THE YOUTH ZONE - The newest destination on the Heritage Lawn features a six-hole putting course and two swing bays, where families and their kids (15 or younger) can check out their own golf games. Sponsored by Mikkelson Law Firm, RLB Squared and Kinghorn Insurance, the Youth Zone will be manned by volunteers from The First Tee of the Lowcountry.
NEW MONUMENT TO PETE DYE -The Harbour Town Clubhouse recently opened The Pete Dye Room, which features a multi-media exhibit exploring the relationship between the legendary golf course architect and one of his earliest creations, Harbour Town.
The room celebrates the life and work of the World Golf Hall of Fame member, showcasing some of his other influential designs (including another South Carolina treasure, Kiawah Island's Ocean Course), and how Dye's career changed the game of golf. Included are a comprehensive golf course architecture museum; three videos about Dye's philosophy and work ethic; and exhibits of the machinery used by him to create his courses.
PARKING -Complimentary parking will return to the Coastal Discovery Museum at Honey Horn (70 Honey Horn Drive, Hilton Head Island 29926) after moving in 2017 due to earlier hurricane damage and rains. Motor coach service will transport ticket-holders to and from Harbour Town (roughly 20 minutes ride) from 6:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m. daily. As in recent years, no general spectator parking will be allowed inside Sea Pines Resort.
Spectators parking at Coligny Beach Parking Lot will be shuttled to a drop-off near Harbour Town, also 6:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m. daily. Bicycle parking is also available in Coligny Plaza, all on a first-come, first-serve basis. Handicapped parking passes for inside Sea Pines are issued by resort security at 175 Greenwood Drive, in the CSA/Security Administration Building. Call (843) 671-1343.
For cyclists riding inside Sea Pines, complimentary parking is located at the Harbour Town tennis courts adjacent to the clubhouse parking lot, as well as near the 13th green (owners are responsible for locking their bikes). Bicycle owners must have a Tournament ticket or volunteer badge to get through the Sea Pines gates, and may enter at the Ocean Gate on South Forest Drive or at the Main Gate on Greenwood Drive. Bike parking can also be founf at 16 Baynard Park Road.
The taxi and Uber pickup and drop-off location is The Shops at Sea Pines Center. Cabs and Ubers can pick up at Harbour Town Golf Links only after tournament play ends each day.
NEW EVENT - Pro-am tournaments allow fans to watch players in a relaxed, practice atmosphere before the PGA Tour event, while also offering the opportunity for avid golfers to play with their favorite professionals and/or celebrities. In addition to this year's two pro-ams - Tuesday and Wednesday (April 10 and 11) at Harbour Town - this year the RBC Heritage will unveil a new event, the Tartan Invitational, staged at Atlantic Dunes by Davis Love III, on April 11 (Wednesday).
The Tartan Invitational at Atlantic Dunes is an exclusive 80-player event pairing each group with a special South Carolina personality. Those will include athletes, musicians, actors, politicians or PGA Tour players from the state. Confirmed participants include pro tennis Hall of Famer Stan Smith (a Hilton Head resident), 1980 Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers, former Clemson and NFL quarterback Steve Fuller, former Green Bay Packers All-Pro Sterling Sharpe, retired college basketball coach Bobby Cremins and Bravo reality star (and Hilton Head resident) Shep Rose.
Atlantic Dunes, which debuted in late 2016 and hosted a third Heritage pro-am in 2017, was named 2017 Golf Course of the Year by National Golf Course Owners Association. Proceeds from the Tartan Invitational will benefit the South Carolina Junior Golf Association and the Heritage Classic Foundation.
DINING AND DRINKING - Dining and drinking venues available during the RBC Heritage include the Sea Pines Beach Club, with indoor and outdoor dining, an outdoor bar and second-floor lounge; the Plantation Golf Club, site of the Atlantic Dunes and Heron Point by Pete Dye courses and featuring its Live Oak restaurant; and the Harbour Town Clubhouse, with dining in its Links, An American Grill.
FAMILY FUN - Sea Pines and Hilton Head also have a variety of family-oriented activities, from bicycles for rent at Sea Pines Resort Bicycle Shop, South Beach Bike Rentals and Peddling Pelican; and tennis at Sea Pines Racquet Club and South Beach Racquet Club.
WATER SPORTS - Also available are fishing charters from several outfitters including Integrity, Blue Water, Hilton Head Boat Tours and Live Oac. Water sports such as kayaking, parasailing and others are offered from H2O Sports and Island Water Sports. And you can take a happy hour cruise on the Salty Dog or choose from several boating adventures at Vagabond Cruise.
FOR NATURE LOVERS - If you'd rather commune with Hilton Head's nature, check out the Legacy Oaks Walking/Biking Tour. You can download a self-guided map here. Other fun excursions include H2O Sports' alligator boat tours, the Sea Pines Forest Preserve or the Stoney-Baynard Ruins, from a 1793 home. Tired of walking? There's also the Lawton Stables for horseback riding.
OTHER NEARBY RESTAURANTS - Hilton Head has too many restaurants to list, but here are some favorites inside Sea Pines: Harbourside Burgers & Brews, overlooking the Yacht Basin; The Quarterdeck, CQ's, Crazy Crab, Harbour Town Bakery & Cafe, Guiseppi's, Truffles Cafe and the famed Salty Dog Cafe.
For information on any of Sea Pines' projects, as well as golf-package information, visit www.seapinesgolf.com, or call (866) 561-8802.