A shout greeted John Farrell as he strolled onto the balcony of Harbour Town’s clubhouse for a mid-morning respite.
“Happy to be home!” the golfer said, giving a thumbs-up before driving off in his cart.
Farrell smiled, noting the kudos came from a Harbour Town regular. While Monday’s reopening went without any formal ceremony, it was a day for Sea Pines’ head professional to renew acquaintances with dozens of familiar faces who hadn’t been around while the course underwent an agronomic upgrade.
“It’s been exciting,” said Farrell, noting that he’d seen plenty of hugs exchanged between regulars and Harbour Town staff.
“The member who plays here almost exclusively, we haven’t seen them. And a lot of members travel during the summer months, so they’ve been away as they usually are. But it’s definitely a reunion of sorts. People we haven’t seen for three or four months, we’re excited to see.”
It had been nearly five months since anyone had hit a shot at Harbour Town, which went offline May 4. During the interim, every blade of grass on the layout had been replaced — tees, greens, rough, practice facility. The irrigation system also was replaced with the latest technology.
The result was a carpet of rich, green hues, with putting surfaces a lighter shade than the fairways. Greens received a fresh covering in TifEagle Bermuda, the same breed used at Harbour Town since 2001, while the rest was covered in Celebration Bermuda that thrives better in warm weather.
The irrigation system, meanwhile, takes advantage of the latest science in water management. Moisture meters in the soil direct where water needs to be applied — and where to keep the sprinklers off.
“We don’t water all areas at night,” Farrell said, noting that the course’s water bill figures to go down. “Sustainability is a big buzzword these days, but it’s a smart use of water and money.”
Fewer uneven spots will help Sea Pines deliver on its quest to give the everyday golfer — members and resort guests — the same conditions that PGA Tour pros find when arriving to play the RBC Heritage presented by Boeing.
“You could cover (problem areas) up with overseed and get away with it for the tournament,” Farrell said, “but we’re advocating for 52-weeks-a-year course conditions.”
Monday’s reopening also gave Harbour Town another opportunity to showcase its vast clubhouse, which opened just before last April’s Heritage but has refined its look over the summer.
The $25 million facility features paintings of every Heritage champion since the tournament’s 1969 debut, Pete Dye’s original course drawings, upscale dining and a 4,000 square-foot locker room where golfers have ample space to relax, order from the grill downstairs and share a locker with someone from the most recent Heritage field.
Jordan Spieth, crowned the FedExCup champion Sunday in a season where he also won the Masters and U.S. Open, has his nameplate on locker No. 106.
“If you come for the day and say you want Jordan Spieth’s locker, your request is granted,” Farrell said. “You’ll get a key to it and have it for the day.”
Golfers began arriving before 7 a.m. Monday, with the first tee time set for 7:30. At noon, Harbour Town was turned over for the annual Els for Autism Challenge, one of two dozen held around the nation to raise funds for Hall of Famer Ernie Els’ signature charity.