Harbour Town Golf Links is back at No. 2 on the newest state rankings unveiled Sunday by the South Carolina Golf Course Ratings Panel, topping a Beaufort County representation that placed nine courses among the top 20 in the state.
Harbour Town had slipped to No. 5 in the panel’s last biannual rankings in 2014, but likely saw benefits from last summer’s project that replaced every inch of turf. The refurbished look has been open a little more than five months.
“We had a very specific intention,” Sea Pines director of golf John Farrell said at the reopening, “to try and deliver tournament-type conditions — the conditions you see on television every year for the RBC Heritage — on a more year-round basis.”
The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island topped the panel’s list for the third consecutive balloting, having replaced Harbour Town in 2012. Both are Pete Dye designs, with Kiawah having the distinction of hosting two major championships and the Ryder Cup.
The difference, though, simply may be more of a personal preference.
If people want the most playable Pete Dye design, it might be Harbour Town.”
Matt Ginella, Golf Channel’s travel and architecture expert
Bluffton’s May River Golf Club at Palmetto Bluff, second in the last rankings, slipped to No. 4 in the new list behind Graniteville’s Sage Valley GC. Beaufort’s Secession Golf Club is eighth, one spot ahead of Hilton Head Island’s Long Cove Club.
The second 10 features both Colleton River Plantation courses, with Jack Nicklaus’ design at No. 13 and the Dye layout — site of last summer’s U.S. Junior Amateur — coming in 20th. Between them were No. 14 Chechessee Creek Club in Okatie and No. 16 Old Tabby Links on Spring Island.
Another seven Beaufort County courses are included in the Top 50.
The Top 50 ratings are compiled in even-numbered years and include both public and private courses. Judging criteria includes routing, strategy, variety of holes, aesthetics and overall experience.
The panel consists of 128 members, with 25 percent coming from each of the four regions — Upstate, Midlands, Lowcountry and Grand Strand. Panel members also are split among four categories: Golf industry, media, players/coaches and business.
Beaufort County courses among state’s Top 50
2. Harbour Town Golf Links (Sea Pines)
4. May River GC at Palmetto Bluff (Bluffton)
8. Secession Golf Club (Beaufort)
9. Long Cove Club (Hilton Head Island)
13. Colleton River Plantation - Nicklaus (Bluffton)
14. Chechessee Creek Club (Okatie)
16. Old Tabby Links (Spring Island)
19. Haig Point Club (Daufuskie Island)
20. Colleton River Plantation - Dye (Bluffton)
31. Berkeley Hall GC - North (Bluffton)
32. Belfair Golf Club - East (Bluffton)
33. Belfair Golf Club - West (Bluffton)
36. Berkeley Hall GC - South (Bluffton)
41. Wexford Plantation (Hilton Head Island)
47. Heron Point by Pete Dye (Sea Pines)
50. Dataw Island Club - Cotton Dike