Harbor Ready to Host Big Yachts for Heritage Tournament and Beyond

By:Bob Gillespie


For most of the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing’s 46 years, a major must-do was a visit to Harbour Town Golf Links’ 18th hole, with its famous candy-cane-striped lighthouse looming over the annual collection of nearly 100 yachts and watercraft of all sizes and descriptions. Think “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” on water.

Over time, the tides diminished the experience as silt and mud reduced the depth of the yacht basin, eventually keeping out many of the largest and most interesting vessels. Not anymore.

Before the 2015 RBC Heritage, a project to dredge the harbor and entrance channel had been completed, a not-inconsequential portion of Sea Pines’ $60 million resort renovation. By removing some 80,000 cubic yards of harbor bottom, the yacht basin now has a minimum depth of 8 ½ feet at mean low tide — deep enough to allow in everything shy of a battleship, resort officials say.

“During the golf tournament, we had the largest boat ever in the harbor,” said Sea Pines vice president for sports and operations Cary Corbitt. “That one was 167 feet (long), and we had an even larger one coming in May.

“Last year, we couldn’t accommodate a boat half that size, but with (the depth) at 8 ½ feet at low tide every day, there are no issues with boats coming into the marina.”

Besides the dredging, dock repairs and electrical improvements were made to yacht tie-ups. Dredging was also done at South Beach Marina and Braddock Creek.

“It all took a number of years and permits, but we completed that over the winter,” Sea Pines president Steve Birdwell said. “It was great (during the tournament) to see Harbour Town full again. We had the 160-footer from West Palm Beach, Florida.” Birdwell declined to identify the owner.

There was no problem accommodating Charleston attorney Joe Rice’s Rice Quarters, annually one of the special attractions for boat lovers. Rice, who played in the 2014 RBC Heritage pro-am with South Carolina football coach Steve Spurrier, said afterward one of his favorite parts of the golf tournament is being able to dock so close to the 18th green.

Heritage old-timers recalled how one year when 1988 Heritage winner Greg “Great White Shark” Norman brought his yacht to Hilton Head, he was forced to anchor in Calibogue Sound and ferry in by power boat. Norman, in his 50s and no longer a PGA Tour contestant, hasn’t been back in years — but if he ever comes, the yacht basin is ready for him.

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