2023 RBC Heritage Course Preview
2023 RBC HERITAGE COURSE PREVIEW - Howdy, golf betting degenerates. Jack and I will be handing out some picks later on tonight after we record Clubhouse Picks, but I wanted to quickly stop in and give a little course preview to everyone so that you know what to look for this week.
Once again, we are looking at a designated event, which means the big guns are heading just up the road from Augusta to Hilton Head, SC. There’s a $20 million prize pool at stake to incentivize some of the bigger names who would typically take the week after a major off.
The one notable player to WD is Rory, but other than that, pretty much everyone is here, including Masters champion, Jon Rahm.
Harbour Town Golf Links is a unique course that favors surgical precision over brute strength, so you should expect to see a different kind of challenge for the pros this week relative to other tournaments.
Harbour Town has hosted the Heritage since 1969, so we have a pretty long history to draw on to figure out a strategy for betting this week. But for now, we’ll dive in on the venue itself.
Harbour Town Golf Links at Hilton Head
Harbour Town measures out at a little over 7,100 yards, typically, and plays to a par 71. By almost any measure on the PGA Tour, this is a short course, averaging around 200 yards shorter than the standard Tour venue.
Designed by Pete Dye, this course will have a lot of the features typical of his designs. An emphasis in positioning off the tee and precision with the irons are his usual hallmarks, and Harbour Town checks both boxes.
Pretty much like most southeastern courses, the dominant grass is Bermuda. TifEagle Bermuda makes up the slick putting surfaces. Last year, they overseeded with Poa, but that’s not typical and I don’t expect it to happen for this event.
As usual, there are guys who tend to do their best work on Bermuda surfaces, so that should be on the list when it comes to handicapping. Some players struggle with the grain on Bermuda surfaces, so it’s worth looking at players to see if they tend to do their best work on the West Coast or Midwest (not Bermuda) or if they tend to play better in Florida or other parts of the Southeast where Bermuda is the dominant grass.
Yes, there are hazards. Many of them, in fact. Seventeen out of eighteen holes have water and bunkers are strategically placed everywhere.
And there are trees. Harbour Town uses pines, oaks and palmettos as another line of defense. Over half the holes have trees positioned to block approach shots to the green, even if you found the fairway off the tee.
You can’t just be accurate off the tee at Harbour Town, you need to be precise. Hitting the fairway isn’t enough, you also need to be on the correct side of the fairway.
The one thing that stands out amongst winners here is iron play. The greens are among the smallest on Tour, as only Pebble Beach has a smaller average size. The Tour average green size is in the neighborhood of 6,600 sq. ft., but Harbour Town averages 3,700 sq. ft. so the difference should be apparent even when watching on TV from the comfort of your couch.
Bombers don’t have much of an advantage here, except that they may be using shorter clubs to lay up off the tee.
The overlooked aspect of this course may be the pressure that it puts on players to scramble effectively. These greens are tiny, so everyone is going to miss some of them.
In order to win here you not only need to be hitting your irons well, you’ll need the short game clicking in order to salvage pars when the inevitable missed green occurs.
The finishing hole is one of the most iconic on Tour. It’s not an overwhelming par 4, but the Calibogue Sound on the left and out of bounds on the right make for a nervy tee shot. After that, it’s a forced carry over the marsh to a tiny green guarded by water and bunkers.
The red and white lighthouse framing in the background here in addition to the myriad hazards on all sides make for a breathtaking view and a dramatic finish.
Who Wins and What are We Looking For?
The past winners are a who’s who of iron play greatness. Webb Simpson and Jim Furyk (2) both have wins here and typically the leaderboard is full of guys who won’t overwhelm with power, but are precise and boast strong short games.
Guys like Kevin Kisner, Luke Donald, Matt Kuchar, and Jordan Spieth have also had excellent results here relying on a combination of good iron play and world class short games.
The key stats for the eventual winner will almost certainly be in three categories: SG: Approach, SG: Around the Green, GIR.
Unless a player is a complete liability off the tee, it’s not a terribly important metric this week. The average drive on this course is about 15 yards shorter than an average Tour event, which suggests that most guys are hitting less than driver on a lot of the holes in order to gain better position for their second shot and avoid the hazards.
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