Harbour Town gets bluer and 'greener' with this year's Heritage golf tournament

gmartin@islandpacket.comApril 10, 2012 

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Golf pro Tommy Biershenk gives Allie Brinker, 12, of Jacksonville, Fla., some putting pointers during the Coca-Cola Youth Day at the RBC Heritage Tuesday afternoon at Harbour Town Golf Links in Sea Pines. Children 15 and under got a chance to putt with the pros for an hour during the Heritage pro-practice round.

SARAH WELLIVER — Sarah Welliver

From colors to condiments, bunkers to bikes, there are plenty of changes to this year's RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing, aside from its new name and sponsors.

Among the most noticeable is the infusion of blue. Food tents, spectator areas and even some of the trees near them that were once adorned in red and green now pay homage to the color schemes of the PGA Tour event's corporate partners.

"They asked if they could put more blue out there, like they have at their other events, and we decided we were starting a new page," said assistant tournament director Morgan Hyde. "It is a stark difference." At RBC's request, elements of white were also incorporated in areas, such as on the seats in many of the spectator locations and on large signs promoting the company behind the tee boxes. "The blue and white is definitely going to stick out on television," Hyde said, "but the history of the tournament is still intact."

This year also is more "green" -- as in, environmentally friendly -- than ever before, Hyde said. Vendors will serve meals and drinks in biodegradable containers, instead of the Styrofoam used last year, and condiments will be distributed through pumps instead of individual plastic packets. Ticket-holders also can bike in from outside the Sea Pines gate.

"We were talking with folks in (RBC's) environmental department, and I don't know that they were surprised, but they were pleased ...," Hyde said, referring to the changes made. "And of course, we are going to look at going further with those efforts."

He added that a lack of adequate infrastructure within Sea Pines prevented tournament management from incorporating more of RBC's suggestions, such as food-waste recycling.

This year's tournament will also feature more sponsor tents close to the "fan zone" near the Harbour Town Yacht Basin, Hyde said.

The golf course has also been overhauled since last year, with alterations made to eight holes, adding about 150 yards to the overall length.

Harbour Town architect Pete Dye walked the course last summer and recommended each change, according to Cary Corbitt, director of Sea Pines' sports division.

He said greenside bunkers had been reshaped around the first two holes -- "99 percent of players won't even notice the change," Corbitt said -- and that the tees on four other holes had been moved back.

Corbitt added that "significant" landscaping, which he estimated to cost "a few hundred thousand dollars," was completed in November on the signature hole, No. 18, which borders Calibogue Sound.

Riprap jetties were built into the sound to fend off erosion, which had threatened the adjacent green and its surrounding marsh.

About 20,600 plants were also installed in the marsh to help stabilize it and improve the hole's appearance.

"We didn't want it to look like a mud flat out there, and that's what it was starting to look like," Corbitt said. "The erosion wasn't getting any better, and it certainly wasn't going to improve itself, so we needed to fix it."

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