Harbour Town’s 18th is everything golf should be
Anticipation took hold.
It didn’t matter that the initial views of what was to come were shielded by the earliest set-up crews preparing for the RBC Heritage, those charged with getting stands in place for full-sized crowds to return in April.
No. 18 at Harbour Town Golf Links awaited.
Admittedly, my heart rate monitor was up a few ticks.
Nearly three years after playing this course for the first time, I was able to return in late February. And for everything else I love about this Pete Dye course - the bunker advancing the No. 9 green just shy of the clubhouse, the wall-to-wall perfect turf, the history and, yes, the forecaddie treatment - the anticipation of the finisher can’t be topped.
Pictures are fine, but they don’t do it justice.
The final 414 or so yards of Harbour Town are an ode to what golf is supposed to be. It’s a tough-yet-relatively straightforward layout packaged with scenery galore.
About the only people who don’t get that sensation are the PGA Tour members who will begin teeing it up at Harbour Town for Heritage practice rounds and pro-and three weeks from today.
Stewart Cink has walked up to 18 knowing his chances of a win were either locked in or had already blown away like the winds off the sound. That, actually, encapsulates his last two showings here.
In 2020, he finished tied for 62nd. Last year, he donned the plaid jacket.
“You’re more focused on the job. We’re professionals,” Cink said. “If I let myself get too much into the other part of that - ‘Oh, what a special place this is’ - then, it’s easy to get run over. I don’t want to get run over.”
Sure, most pros are playing the top courses around the world on a week-to-week basis and probably lost much of the wow factor a long time ago. They’re also teeing off from 472 yards, meaning some of the luster is lost in the challenge.
Thankfully for us casual golfers, that’s not the case.
Of course we all want to crush the tee shot up the right side and then cut a fairway wood into the approach, roll it perfectly up to the green and give ourselves a birdie putt in the shadows of the lighthouse. But we don’t need to do that to enjoy it.
Knocking in a par or bogey doesn’t diminish what we just experienced or how it made us feel.
At 18, we’re able to walk through Dye’s masterpiece, one that has been emblazoned on artwork for decades. We walk off the green and have no choice but to soak it all up in reverse.
Anticipation already building for the next walk to the tee box on No. 18.