If you're planning to attend the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing this week -- whether for the first time or the 45th -- follow these guidelines for an experience that will feel exactly like a hole in one (OK, not exactly ... but close ... kind of).
For starters, you will need $1.25 in cash if you plan on taking the Cross Island Parkway to Sea Pines (that is, if you don't already have a Palmetto Pass). Eventually you'll reach the Sea Pines traffic circle. Contrary to popular belief, this is not an amusement ride -- so stay focused and try not to have so much fun that you go around it twice.
Follow the traffic signs, and exit onto Greenwood Drive. Be sure to use your turn signal, or you might start your vacation off with a fender bender.
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Follow the signs to Sea Pines, and show your tickets to the guard at the gate for free entry. If you don't already have tickets, take a right at the Sea Pines Welcome Center, and go to the Will Call trailer in the parking lot.
Once in the plantation, security officers will direct you to a parking lot. From there, air-conditioned buses will take you to the tournament in Harbour Town.
Heritage marketing director Angela McSwain recommended spectators dress comfortably, wear sunscreen and bring bug spray. She urges guests to arrive early and get a good parking spot.
McSwain also suggested familiarizing yourself with the comfort stations when you arrive. Instead of port-a-potties, the Heritage has fancier bathroom trailers, which are located at various spots throughout the course.
"If you like to walk, then I recommend you start on 18 and walk the course backwards," she said. "That way you get to see the whole course, and you get to see everyone on the course."
McSwain said if you'd rather sit and watch, she suggests hole No. 9. It's near the clubhouse, so it's convenient if you want something to eat or drink, or if you have to go to the bathroom.
"We also have announcers that come through that are on 9 on Thursday and Friday," she said. "They're fun to listen to, and they give you little information bits about the players as they're walking up the fairway. And they also have contests. They play little games with the fans that are sitting out there."
McSwain said to bring cash if you plan on eating or drinking anything. The concession stands do not take credit cards or checks. But if you forget to bring cash, there are ATMs located at the merchandise tent, The Quarter Deck and the Heritage Lawn.
MORE THAN GOLF
New this year is the Heritage Lawn, which McSwain said sits between holes 17 and 18.
"Now we have this whole great, grassy area that we're turning into a fan zone, where there's going to be expo tents," McSwain said. "RBC and Bridgestone's sand enhancement tents are going to be there. We've got hospitality tents, a video board where you can watch the golf broadcasts on CBS or Golf Channel. We also have some original programming that's going to be played on it. And the Grey Goose Lounge will also be there."
Heritage mascot Sir William Innes will do his Tartan Day contest Saturday. And the Headliners will play a concert Saturday night after play ends. Don't worry about getting stuck in Harbour Town -- buses will run late that day.
In addition to all the activities planned for Heritage, organizers are hoping guests will show their support for autism awareness and Ernie Els' foundation Els for Autism by wearing blue on Friday. April is Autism Awareness Month, and Heritage is celebrating it Friday. McSwain said the pros will all be wearing autism pins and some will even be wearing blue.
For those of you who are not experienced golf spectators, here are a few tips to follow on the course:
- Leave your cameras, radios and MP3 players at home. They are not permitted on the course and might be confiscated if they're brought in. Cameras are only allowed on the grounds for the Pro-Ams and practice rounds Monday through Wednesday.
- Video recording is not allowed at any time.
- Also prohibited are signs, coolers, backpacks and anything larger than a small purse.
- Don't forget to put your phones on silent. Phone calls are only allowed in designated areas.
- Stay still throughout each shot.
- Walk carefully. Do not run.
- Display your ticket or badge at all times.
- Kneel or sit down if you are in the front row of bleachers or next to gallery roping.
- Dispose of trash properly, and recycle cans and bottles in the provided bins.
- Stay behind the gallery ropes, and cooperate with the marshals.
Heritage general chairman of volunteers and trustee Ray Angell was on the marshal committee for 20 years.
Angell said most people are respectful of the golfers and require very little marshaling at Heritage but there are the occasional troublemakers.
"Occasionally, particularly on Sundays when the tournament is winding down, there is an awful lot of drinking," Angell said. "I've seen people walking down the cart paths and just stripping the ropes, just pulling up the posts that are holding up the ropes as they walk along."
Angell said people have to understand that golfers are sensitive to noises. He said every once in a while someone will shout just as a golfer is about to swing. But he added, "Overall the crowd here is a good crowd."
If you're bringing children along to the Heritage, keep in mind that all those age 15 and under must be with you at all times.
And if the kids become a little restless watching the tournament, there are activities to break up the day.
Wander over to the Gregg Russell Harbour Town playground to give the little ones a chance to release some of that energy. Go for a walk around the harbour and look at all the boats. Take part in a putting contest from 3 to 4 p.m. Tuesday on the putting green. Or grab some ice cream at one of the many concession stands.
And be sure to bring the kids back in the evening for some music with an island favorite. Gregg Russell will play guitar and sing starting at 7:30 p.m. Monday to Wednesday.