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 the week of April 11-17, 2017, with thousands expected to come see the world’s finest golf professionals compete – but also to enjoy a wide array of off-course entertainment options.
The tournament in 2016 secured its status on the PGA Tour, signing sponsorship extensions with Royal Bank of Canada (through 2023) and Charleston-based Boeing (through 2021). Tickets are still on sale and a large turnout is expected. So what can visitors expect in 2017 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 two new partners in the adult-beverage area? How about new and improved parking for spectators? How about a new pre-tournament pro-am, staged on a brand-new course? And that’s just what’s new.
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 anticipates its 50th anniversary in 2018, here’s what to expect for the 49th edition:
WINE@NINE – Located between the first and ninth holes at Harbour Town, within sight of the clubhouse, will be this upscale outdoor venue where wine lovers can watch the Heritage competition and enjoy offerings from premium wineries, including Simi Winery 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.
Also nearby will be a Sea Pines merchandise tent, offering apparel and even a pop-up Forsythe Jewelers shop. Special events, giveaways and promotions are planned, and on-site sommeliers will showcase featured wines.
Proceeds from Wine@Nine support the Hilton Head Island Fire Fighters Foundation, which will also staff a nearby concession stand. Clos Du Bois is the official wine at RBC Heritage concession stands.
TITO’S HANDMADE VODKA – The new Official Vodka Partner of the RBC Heritage will be located on Heritage Lawn, part of a vast entertainment area near the 17th green and 18th tee. Its Tito’s Stillhouse will offer open-air seating featuring signature cocktails as well as other activities.
Tito’s also will have preferred pouring nights during the tournament, including the three pro-ams, pairings party and other events. The vodka will be featured at Poseidon,a new waterfront restaurant located at Shelter Cove Towne Center, which features an outdoor NautiBar, an inside “The World is Your Oyster” Bar, and covered patio dining on the Front Porch and Rooftop Bar.
NEW PARKING – Before getting to Harbour Town, ticketed spectators will discover new complimentary general parking at Hilton Head Public School Complex, located on the island’s north end at 70 Wilborn Drive. Motor coaches will transport fans approximately 20 minutes to the golf course, with shuttles running continuously from 6:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m.
For years, spectators parked inside Sea Pines Resort in temporary sand lots, but heavy rains a few years ago led tournament officials – much like those at other PGA Tour events – to move parking off-site. Debris removal after 2016’s Hurricane Matthew resulted in a move from the Coastal Discovery Museum at Honey Horn, last year’s main parking venue.
For on-island fans, complimentary shuttles also will run from Coligny Plaza to a drop-off near the golf course. Parking is first-come, first-served, and bicycle parking is also available. Hours are the same as the School Complex shuttles. Complimentary bicycle parking is also available inside Sea Pines at the tennis courts near the Harbour Town pool, and near the 13th green. All cyclists must have a tournament ticket (or volunteer badge) to enter the resort.
NEW PRO-AM – Pro-ams enable fans to watch players in a relaxed, practice atmosphere before the tournament, and offer the opportunity for avid golfers to play with their favorite professionals. The RBC Heritage has staged a Tuesday and a Wednesday pro-am before, but their popularity inspired officials to launch a third pro-am in 2017.
The new event is April 12 (Wednesday) and will be played at the brand-new Atlantic Dunes by Davis Love III. Formerly the Ocean Course, Hilton Head’s first golf course, the layout was totally reconstructed by the Love Golf Design firm, headed by Love, the five-time RBC Heritage champion, and his brother Mark. The pro-am has a 10 a.m. shotgun start and will field 20 teams, each with four amateurs and a PGA Tour player participating in the Heritage.
Atlantic Dunes is listed among Golf Digest’s “The Best New Golf Courses of 2016,” says tournament director Steve Wilmot. “Our primary pro-ams are sold out, but we still had a high demand from fans to play. So we created this new opportunity,” he said. Pro-am participants also receive clubhouse badges for the tournament and other pro-am-related gifts and meals.
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.
There’s also shopping galore, too much to even start a list. Which leads to the question: When does anyone have time to actually watch golf?