Hilton Head Going Through Renaissance of Golf, Island Upgrades

By:Bob Gillespie


Hilton Head Island's Harbour Town
Hilton Head Island's Harbour Town

In 1969, when the first Heritage Classic (now the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing) was played at a brand-new Harbour Town Golf Links in Sea Pines Resort, Hilton Head Island was still a relative backwater in the world of premier vacation destinations.

Long-time islanders remember the old two-lane drawbridge that — when it wasn’t open for passing watercraft — welcomed visitors to a world of a few golf courses, fewer hotels, rustic condos and eateries and near-total darkness at night.

How things have changed in 45 years — and continue to change in 2015 and beyond.

The most dramatic example of new things to come occurred at 7 a.m. on the day after Matt Kuchar had slipped on the RBC Heritage winner’s Tartan Jacket, as construction crews began a razing of the Harbour Town clubhouse, to be replaced with a 19,000-square-foot “world class” clubhouse set to reopen for the 2015 tournament, but that was just the tip of an iceberg of infrastructure upgrades.

A month earlier, Plantation Golf Club at Sea Pines Resort clubhouse opened, a 23,000-square-foot structure, and an adjoining Learning Center to complement the resort’s Heron Point by Pete Dye and Ocean courses. Also completed was a dredging of the Harbour Town Yacht Basin, allowing larger yachts back into the marina behind Harbour Town’s iconic lighthouse.

More was coming: a new Sea Pines Beach Club set for completion in June 2015; scheduled improvements to Sea Pines’ three golf courses; and, down the road, new pool and tennis facilities and even the prospect of a new hotel within the island’s largest resort. Outside Sea Pines, restaurants and hotels had undergone complementary changes, renovations and updates.

Why now? What town and resort officials are calling “the Renaissance of Hilton Head” over the past several years, with total costs expected to hit $100 million or more, has been driven by the multi-year sponsorship of the Heritage by Royal Bank of Canada and Boeing; by the vision of the Goodwin family of Richmond, Virginia, whose RiverStone Group bought Sea Pines in 2005; and by renewed optimism in the national (and island’s) economy. And everyone, it seems, is falling in line.

“Whether we are leading this or not, our intention has been to improve facilities which were in need of replacing or improvement for years,” said Cary Corbitt, Sea Pines’ vice president for sports and operations. “We’re fortunate to have the ownership now and the backing to allow us to do it. Over the next few years, we’ll replace many, many things.”

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