Work began Friday to combat erosion that has threatened to send Harbour Town Golf Links' most famous green into Calibogue Sound.
A barge with a crane carrying rock arrived Thursday by the 18th green, and crews began work at low tide Friday to install riprap in the sound outside the breakwater, stretching about 150 yards along the shoreline.
The wall of rocks will help divert wave energy from the edge of the course, allowing engineers to rebuild a marsh buffer between the green and open water, said Cary Corbitt, director of sports and operations at Sea Pines Resort, which owns the golf course.
The goal is to restore the aesthetic quality of the marsh beside the green that for years has served as the backdrop for golfers at the annual Heritage tournament, Corbitt said.
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"In 2001, you could walk off the green onto land and now there's a 6-foot drop," he said.
Officials first noticed erosion about eight years ago. It has worsened in the past four to five years.
Sea walls installed in the 1980s to help keep silt out of Harbour Town Yacht Basin contributed to the problem, Corbitt said. Those walls increased the speed of the water heading toward the green, scouring sand and other material from the course.
Dredging of Calibogue Sound that began in 2002 also contributed when sand was dumped too close to the green, creating a ramp that forced water against the land, according to some reports.
The project, estimated to cost $500,000, was supposed to get under way in 2007, with repairs completed before the 2008 Heritage. But permitting delays, cost and other concerns delayed the project, Sea Pines officials said.
The area was reinforced in January 2007 when Sea Pines added a rock lining along the edge of the hole until the full project could begin.
With good weather, the work should last two months, said Steve Birdwell, president of Sea Pines Resort.
Officials said they plan to restore the marsh over time and hope to begin after the wall of rocks has been installed.
Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/EyeOnHiltonHead.
Work to save Harbour Town's 18th green still months away: Feb. 14, 2008