My visit reminded me of the immense, positive impact that golf properties and tournaments have on the surrounding community—it’s hardly just about golf.
I love Hilton Head.
About 12 hours from home, it’s an easy drive and the springtime weather is a welcome relief from Cleveland winters. Golf, tennis, fishing, beach walking, bike riding and the Lowcountry casual atmosphere have made the island a preferred family vacation destination for more than 30 years.
More often than not, we are on the island during the annual PGA Tour stop, the RBC Heritage, at Harbour Town Golf Links. The tournament got its start on Thanksgiving weekend back in 1969 and it didn’t hurt that both Arnold Palmer (who won it) and Jack Nicklaus (who had some input on the Pete Dye design for the course) committed to play in the inaugural event. It has been a winner ever since. Today’s Heritage takes place the weekend following the Masters and I think the timing contributes mightily to the relaxed atmosphere so evident on the grounds at Harbour Town.
The club recently completed an impressive agenda of renovation activity including a new 26,000-sq. ft. clubhouse, complete turf replacement from tee to green (see “Cultivating Effective Turf Strategies” in the March issue of C&RB), and a brand new irrigation system. There’s plenty to see at Harbour Town separate from the golf.
The Wednesday before the tournament was Pro Am day, and it presented the perfect opportunity to not only catch a little golf, but to explore and absorb all of the surrounding activity inherent with the production of a PGA Tour golf event.
The new clubhouse is spectacular and the service was outstanding. As expected, the course was in superb condition. The renovation work is money well spent and enhances the prestige of Harbour Town for the pros who come once each year and for the guests who make it one of their “bucket list” courses.
More significantly, my visit reminded me of the immense, positive impact that golf properties and tournaments have on the surrounding community—it’s hardly just about golf. The following statistics are impressive:
• Since its inception, the RBC Heritage has provided $32 million in charitable contributions made throughout South Carolina and Georgia, with $2.6 million donated in 2015 to the arts, medical institutions, and college scholarships.
• About 100,000 fans attend the tournament and the event generates almost $100 million for the South Carolina economy.
• There are 1,200 volunteers working the Heritage. This community involvement takes rightful pride in helping the club assure a memorable, comfortable experience for the golf pros and the attendees. I was a first-hand beneficiary of their hospitality, and it was appreciated.
Of course, none of this happens in a vacuum. Some of you have hosted professional tournaments of one size or another at your club, and all of you who have courses host your annual golf invitational. Large or small, you know the work that goes into the planning and execution of a successful event. It is an exhausting experience for you and your team, but well worth the effort once you take a step back to assess the results.
Southern, northern, eastern, western—it’s all about the hospitality.