Last October the southeastern United States was ravaged by Hurricane Matthew. One region hit particularly hard was Hilton Head Island, S.C. The resort town was reportedly assaulted with 90 mph winds and a storm surge of 12 1/2 feet. When residents returned following evacuations, they discovered extensive damage suffered by the community. According to the Island Packet, 14.5 percent, or 2,872, of Hilton Head structures were harmed to some degree. One of the victims included Harbour Town Golf Links.
The course -- home of the RBC Heritage since 1969 and one of the more unique, charming venues on tour -- was devastated by the hurricane, with debris scattered throughout the premises. Many of the docks on the iconic 18th hole were destroyed.
“In Sea Pines [the gated community that houses the course], there are a lot of trees on houses, a lot of water behind the new Plantation Club," said town manager Steve Riley to the Island Packet upon return. "Harbour Town appears to have taken a hard hit."
And yet, just six months later, the course and community welcomes the PGA Tour this week. In an opening ceremony Monday, Hilton Head mayor David Bennett extended his gratitude to all those who labored to get the property in shape for the RBC Heritage. “Today, you see no signs that a hurricane was here,” he said, according to WSAV.
The course itself lost about 300 trees from the storm, but the docks on the 18th were rebuilt, many finished within the past two weeks.
“The whole decking of that pier was washed away. It took away our charter docks, 18th green docks; they were all down the fairway of the 18th green,” said harbourmaster Nancy Cappelmann. “The marina’s been virtually rebuilt; every dock in here has new whales and rods or new floats. Everything is brand new in the harbor and today is day one of our reopening.”
The players have noticed the recovery efforts as well, many remarking on the immaculate shape of Harbour Town.
"We've been hearing about the golf course since the hurricane and decided to see what it looked like, and it really, actually, doesn't look that different," said Davis Love III, who's won the Heritage five times. "It's in excellent condition. Obviously since I've been around here quite a bit, I noticed the trees that are gone, but it doesn't seem to affect the golf course very much. I'm excited to be back playing."
The RBC Heritage, which began in 1969, starts on Thursday. Branden Grace is the defending champ.