Harbour Town Golf Links is only a relatively short drive away from Augusta National but in terms of the way the course plays it feels a million miles away. The par 71 layout is one of the shortest courses on the PGA Tour with a total distance of 7,099 yards which allows many more players to have a realistic chance of winning than most tournaments.
Accuracy off the tee is important for a couple of reasons. Players will find that shots which stray off the short grass are penalised by the rough and the number of trees that frame the fairways. Moreover, certain parts of the fairway are no go areas as overhanging branches will block out some approach shots.
Shots into and around the greens are where this tournament will be won and lost though. The small greens at Harbour Town are notoriously difficult to hit in regulation so those with the best shot making abilities and/or reliable short game to get out of trouble will find their way towards the top of the leaderboard.
|Harbour Town Golf Links||Hilton Head Island, South Carolina||7,099 Yards||$7,100,000|
Although Harbour Town is a test of links golf as the name suggests, it is also a typical Carolina golf course in many regards. Trees line the fairways, the greens are very small compared to the PGA Tour average and there are sections of many fairways which are essentially no-go zones as the route to the green is blocked. As with any Pete Dye design, players need to be able to work their ball high, low, left and right so it will take a very good performance from someone with real craft to win this week.
The nature of the course at Harbour Town is very much reflected in the list of recent winners. It’s littered with players who favour accuracy, shot making and short game wizardry above power. Matt Kuchar and Jim Furyk have shown that older players can make the most of their experience to thrive around Harbour Town whilst Branden Grace and Wesley Bryan both scrambled brilliantly whilst nobody hit the ball closer to the hole than Satoshi Kodaira during his shock win in 2018.
RBC Heritage Recent Winners
|Year||Winner||To Par||Winning Margin||Course|
|2021||Stewart Cink||-19||4 Strokes||Harbour Town Golf Links|
|2020||Webb Simpson||-22||1 Stroke||Harbour Town Golf Links|
|2019||Cheng Tsung Pan||-12||1 Stroke||Harbour Town Golf Links|
|2018||Satoshi Kodaira||-12||Playoff||Harbour Town Golf Links|
|2017||Wesley Bryan||-13||1 Stroke||Harbour Town Golf Links|
|2016||Branden Grace||-9||2 Strokes||Harbour Town Golf Links|
|2015||Jim Furyk||-18||Playoff||Harbour Town Golf Links|
|2014||Matt Kuchar||-11||1 Stroke||Harbour Town Golf Links|
|2013||Graeme McDowell||-9||Playoff||Harbour Town Golf Links|
|2012||Carl Pettersson||-14||5 Strokes||Harbour Town Golf Links|
|2011||Brandt Snedeker||-12||Playoff||Harbour Town Golf Links|
|2010||Jim Furyk||-13||Playoff||Harbour Town Golf Links|
|2009||Brian Gay||-20||10 Strokes||Harbour Town Golf Links|
|2008||Boo Weekley||-15||3 Strokes||Harbour Town Golf Links|
|2007||Boo Weekley||-14||1 Stroke||Harbour Town Golf Links|
|2006||Aaron Baddeley||-15||1 Stroke||Harbour Town Golf Links|
|2005||Peter Lonard||-7||2 Strokes||Harbour Town Golf Links|
|2004||Stewart Cink||-10||Playoff||Harbour Town Golf Links|
|2003||Davis Love III||-13||Playoff||Harbour Town Golf Links|
|2002||Justin Leonard||-14||1 Stroke||Harbour Town Golf Links|
About the RBC Heritage
The RBC Heritage, also known as just the Heritage or (historically) the Heritage Classic (RBC, the Royal Bank of Canada, are the current sponsors), is a well-regarded golf tournament on the PGA Tour that was established back in 1969 and has been played ever since at the Harbour Town Golf Links course. The course is one of three courses situated within the Sea Pines Resort on the southern tip of Hilton Head Island in South Carolina.
Created by legendary golf course designer Pete Dye in consultation with the great Jack Nicklaus, the course is considered one of the most picturesque on the PGA Tour. The course is short by modern standards and measures just 7,099 yard at its most brutal and plays to a par of 71. It boasts a nice mix of holes including a very tricky 472-yard, par four 18th hole that never fails to challenge even the best players on the PGA Tour.
The RBC Heritage is one of five invitational tournaments on the PGA Tour, the other four being:
- Arnold Palmer Invitational
- Memorial Tournament
- Fort Worth Invitational (also known as the Charles Schwab Challenge)
- Genesis Invitational (as of 2020)
As such the RBC Heritage has a reduced field (compared to standard PGA Tour events) of 132 players and slightly different criteria about which players are invited to compete at the tournament.
The Heritage has been played at various times of the year since it was established, first in November (1969-72), then in September for a year (1973), before moving to March, two weeks prior to the Masters (1974-82) and finally settling on April, generally the week after the Masters (1983-present).
That move to follow the opening major of the season hasn’t helped it attract players but it is testament to the draw of the course that the Heritage is still able to attract a high calibre field. Sadly not even a picturesque and fair design could help in in 2020, when both the Masters and the RBC Heritage were postponed (at the time of writing but that could change to cancelled) due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Multiple Winners of the RBC Heritage
Ahead of the 2020 tournament there have been 10 players who have won this tournament at least twice. Eight of them have managed two wins, one has won three (Hale Irwin in 1971, 1973 and 1994), but there is one man who stands alone as the most successful in the tournament’s history: Davis Love III.
The man from North Carolina has won this tournament on five occasions: 1987, 1991, 1992, 1998 and 2003. His most emphatic victory came in 1987 when he shot a fantastic score of 18 under par to clinch victory by an impressive seven strokes from Glen Day. That score has only been bettered twice: in 1996 when Loren Roberts mustered a score of 19 under par to win by three strokes from Mark O’Meara, and then in 2009 when Brian Gay managed an astounding score of 20 under par to win by a truly staggering 10 strokes from Briny Baird and Luke Donald.
Davis Love III has actually designed one of the other courses at the resort: the (catchily titled!) Atlantic Dunes By Davis Love III course, which is an overhaul of the old Ocean Course.
RBC Heritage Multiple Winners
|Player||Years of Wins|
|Davis Love III||1987, 1991, 1992, 1998, 2003|
|Hale Irwin||1971, 1973, 1994|
|Johnny Miller||1972, 1974|
|Hubert Green||1976, 1978|
|Tom Watson||1979, 1982|
|Fuzzy Zoeller||1983, 1986|
|Payne Stewart||1989, 1990|
|Stewart Cink||2000, 2004|
|Boo Weekley||2007, 2008|
|Jim Furyk||2010, 2015|
Dominance of US Players
Notably, all the players to date who have won this tournament twice or more are from the United States. Indeed, in the long history of this event, all but 13 of the tournament winners have been home-grown, with winners from foreign shores coming from a whole range of countries including Taiwan, Japan, Zimbabwe, Australia and Germany.
Things have been more even in recent years with five of the eight winners from 2012 to 2019 coming from outside of the United States. Only one Englishman has ever won the tournament: Nick Faldo in 1985, while Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland is the other Brit to have triumphed when he beat Webb Simpson in a playoff in 2013.
Here are the non-US winner of the RBC Heritage (prior to the 2020 tournament):
- Pan Cheung-tsung – Taiwan, 2019
- Satoshi Kodaira – Japan, 2018
- Brandon Grace – South Africa, 2016
- Graeme McDowell – Northern Ireland, 2013
- Carl Pettersson – Sweden, 2012
- Aaron Baddeley – Australia, 2006
- Peter Lonard – Australia, 2005
- José Cóceres – Argentina, 2001
- Nick Price – Zimbabwe, 1997
- Greg Norman – Australia, 1988
- Bernhard Langer – Germany, 1985
- Nick Faldo – England, 1984
- Graham Marsh – Australia, 1977
Near Misses for Luke Donald
As a former world number one Luke Donald is quite a player, but there has often been the feeling that he falls just a little way short of greatness far too frequently. One of a clutch of very talented British players to have never won a major (at the time of writing), the closest he’s been was when he tied for third place in both the 2005 Masters and the 2006 PGA Championship.
The RBC Heritage has been particularly cruel to Donald though: the man from Hemel Hempstead has finished second (or tied for second) on no fewer than five occasions! He clearly couldn’t do too much about the 2009 edition of the tournament when – as mentioned earlier – Brian Gay stormed it by 10 strokes. But Donald lost in a playoff to Brandt Snedeker in 2011, by a single stroke to Matt Kuchar in 2014, by two strokes to Brandon Grace in 2016 and again by a single stroke in 2017, this time to Wesley Bryan. Better luck next time, Luke, this is not a course where huge distance from the tee is needed, so we expect the English ace to keep on trying!
Nicklaus Scores On Course He Designed
Given that the great Jack Nicklaus helped design the course on which the RBC Heritage is played, coupled with his immense talent of course, it came as a surprise to no one when the Golden Bear won this one in 1975. He won by three strokes ahead of runner-up Tom Weiskopf, earning the princely sum of $40,000 in the process… a far cry from the $1,242,000 pocketed by the 2019 winner, Pan Cheung-tsung.