For many people, the RBC Heritage is the official name for That Tournament After the Masters, the one with fewer big names, 100% less Tiger and … more expensive drink prices. (To be fair, after you’ve spent 95 minutes traveling there, $12 Bud Lights don’t look so bad). For those of us who lived on Hilton Head Island, this is dumb and wrong and also dumb! Now in its 50thyear, the RBC (it’s a Canadian bank, we guess) Heritage beautifully fills the post-Masters space with a laid-back weekend in lush Hilton Head, a near-perfect destination for people trying to flee a DEATHLESS WINTER THAT WON’T STOP. If this sounds like you, read on.
What’s the vibe that weekend?
The Heritage is easily Hilton Head’s biggest deal of the year, unless an imposing 12-foot alligator emerges from the ocean and heads toward a crowded beach, which happens sometimes. But the Heritage scene is less Furious Golf Combat and more Grown Person Spring Break, everyone hanging around Harbour Town in the sweet April sun sipping Arnold Palmers and mint juleps and flinging their parasols about while blessing various people’s hearts. It’s held in Sea Pines Plantation, which is defined by masterful natural development and accessible by precisely two (2) languid security gates. If you are going to the Heritage this year, you are already late.
Being so close to the Masters, the Heritage still falls more in the optional category, but Dustin Johnson is signed on, as are Paul Casey, Matt Kuchar and Webb Simpson. As for the competition, the sports-bet droids who inexplicably called Patrick Reed report that Kevin Kisner has a pretty good shot at winning this year’s tartan jacket. (It’s just plaid — Harbour Town likes to sound Scottish.)
What is Harbour Town like?
Imagine a quiet, laid-back harbor from your Margaritaville dreams, a place of natives drinking from coconuts and strumming guitars made out of palm fronds, then push half that out of your mind and add $12 billion and boats large enough for their gravitational fields slow the actual passage of time. Harbour Town is an actual harbor but if its contents are “boats” then I’m Dionne Warwick; these are behemoth warships that are worth more than your children, could probably land private planes and would have been real handy at Dunkirk. Elsewhere in Harbour Town, cover bands play trop-rock hits under a majestic, back-lit Liberty Oak, drinks flow easy and the guys came out in their best Easter-egg-colored getups. One year, I saw a stunning combination of cigar + popped collar + aviator shades + pink sweater, which was like 200 points.
How do I get there?
Fly into Savannah/Hilton Head airport, take I-95 north, get off on 278 and take the scenic 15-mile-per-hour drive to Hilton Head. Once there, you’ll run into a lot of traffic circles. Follow long-established tourist custom by driving into one, orbiting it helplessly for four minutes, then, without warning, slamming on the gas and attempting to exit through a packed minivan.
You were kidding about the alligators, right?
HAHAHAHAHA no, alligators are real. Here is my half of every conversation I had with a tourist about alligators in 10 years of living on Hilton Head:
Yes, I see it.
No, he’ll just stay there and sun himself.
No, you don’t feed them.
No, we’re not feeding them, they’re not koalas.
For f**k’s sake, we’re leaving, put the chicken fingers down.
No, running in zig-zag fashion doesn’t work, and will only make you look like a goon in the last moments before you’re eaten by an alligator.
But they won’t bother me, right?
Sure. Whatever you say.
Why is it so dark everywhere?
Hilton Head has no streetlights! Planners long ago decided to outlaw them, to preserve the island’s natural beauty and maximize the number of Ohio residents driving around at 14 mph in search of signage. (Planners long ago were hilarious.) More importantly, it keeps it pretty, and lets all the snakes slither around in peace.
What are these tiny bugs biting me all the time, and why don’t they die?
Those are called no-see-ums, and no one can kill them! Their bite is monstrous, they’re resistant to bug spray/flamethrowers and they spend most of their time figuring out ways to fly into your mouth in groups of 50 when you’re out running.No-see-ums are the worst animals in town, and let me remind you, this town contains alligators. (Given the choice between one lousy gator bite and being attacked by no-see-ums, I mean, I can learn to type with my left hand.)
But those are the only bugs, right?
YES! Well, except for Palmetto Bugs. Islanders call them Palmetto Bugs because it sounds cute, and because Four-Inch-Long Mutant Armor-Plated Cockroaches That Can Fly takes too long to type. They’re everywhere, but unlike no-see-ums, they can be killed. That said, when you squish them, they create a three-foot blast radius. Wear plastic.
What else do you do there?
You mean besides cocktails by the ocean? I’d start there. Now, plenty of signs will tell you what you can't do on the beaches (including shoot fireworks, drink alcohol or mud wrestle), but the beaches themselves are all public, so you can walk, bike or jog to your heart's content. Sea Pines itself is covered in gorgeous walking/biking trails that are frequently being utilized by Bill Murray, but if you’re seeking some quiet, check out the Sea Pines Forest Preserve, which contains 605 isolated-feeling acres of pristine Lowcountry sightseeing. But mostly, you’re there to feel the tangibly slowed pace, breathe in the sea air, and take in a scene that many have called the best in golf. Just stay the hell off the boats.