Changing course: Dye's changes at Harbour Town subtle, but players will notice

sfastenau@islandpacket.comApril 11, 2012 

Spectators might not notice subtle changes at Harbour Town Golf Links, save one significant new tee.

The players should recognize some extra length and new bunkers.

Pete Dye's tight design, leveled at testing players shot-making ability and headiness rather than length, was extended more than 100 yards since the 2011 Heritage. The difference is minimal, but pushes the total yardage beyond 7,000.

"Harbour Town doesn't need a lot of length," said Dye, who developed the layout with Jack Nicklaus. "It's so tight, with all the trees and the way it is. But the pros are all hitting it another 10 or 15 or 20 yards farther, so you try to offset that the best you can."

A tee on No. 16 was created beyond the road separating No. 15 and 16. The hole jumped from 395 yards to 434 yards.

The tee on No. 3 was moved back 28 yards and the new 18th tee adds more than 20 yards. The eighth tee also jumped back 12 yards. The entrance to No. 1 green was widened as a favor to the high-handicapper, Dye said.

The tee on the par-4 sixth was repositioned, making it play more like a dogleg.

Dye added length on holes where he wanted pros to pull driver more often. He left alone holes designed to work shorter.

"Which, I think we were very pleased that was his decision, because that's one of the beauties of this golf course is you've got to make decisions," said John Farrell, director of golf at The Sea Pines Resort and head professional at Harbour Town. "You can't just get up there and rip away at it. You have to look at the hole location sheet before you pick your club on the tee box."

Other than the bunker on No. 1, Dye said the bunkers received few dramatic changes other than to spruce them up. New bunkers on the fifth hole threaten tee shots in what was a popular landing area. And a trap behind the green on the par-5 second was reconfigured.

Dye's other Beaufort County designs include Sea Pines' Heron Point, Hilton Head Island's Long Cove Club, the Colleton River Dye course in Bluffton and Hampton Hall.

He periodically pays visits to oversee work at each.

The 86-year-old World Golf Hall of Fame inductee said he planned to visit Harbour Town again during Masters week and that more changes could happen this summer, with the possibility of No. 5 green moving away from the property line, closer to the water and offering players a better angle to try and reach the par 5 in two.

The work is in addition to the restoration off of No. 18 meant to prevent erosion and restore the marsh.

"Really, Harbour Town now is in better shape than I've ever seen it," Dye said.

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