"Oh, go, mom, go," said Peggy, taking offense at her mother's choice of words.
Several graveyards were needed to bury the golfers after Harbour Town had eaten them alive. They all agreed that they had used every club in their bags in 18 holes, that it was strictly a target course that afforded gamble after gamble both on tee shots and approaches, that it might be a bit too severe in spots but that, by gosh, it was about the most different thing they had ever seen on the tour.
Nicklaus was accused of having designed a course that is thoroughly un-suited to his own game, Jack being a big hitter who likes some room. "You've built a course for you to practice the talent shots on," someone told him.
Jack laughed and said, "The truth is, this is the kind of course I really like. The kind that makes you play good golf shots. You have to play a definite side of the fairway depending on where the pin is or you haven't got a shot. You have to play to the side of the green where the pin is or you'll have to use a wedge over a bunker from one side of the green to the other. You've also got the option of going with a driver and, say, an eight-iron to a certain hole, or going with a one-iron and five-iron. This is what golf should be."
Nicklaus is so delighted with the way Harbour Town has turned out—he and Pete Dye will change only four holes when they get time—he might select a third or fourth homesite for himself along that 18th fairway not too near the graveyard but reasonably close to the yacht basin by the lighthouse. And here is another thing that Harbour Town is all about—resort development.
The Sea Pines Plantation Company, headed by a friendly Southerner named Charles Fraser, would very much enjoy turning Hilton Head into the greatest place on the Eastern Seaboard, and the worst thing that Florida ever heard of. The Fraser brothers, Charles and Joe, started developing the island only 13 years ago after it had languished as nothing more than a couple of vast plantations for nearly 300 years since that day in 1663 when Captain William Hilton, master of the good ship Adventure, discovered it. The Frasers first built the Sea Pines Plantation Club with its two golf courses and then they started selling homes and home plots to a variety of retired generals and admirals, or anyone else who loved golf, the good air and white beaches of the Gulf Stream and the crab soup.
The idea for Nicklaus and Dye to design a third course at Sea Pines was Charles Fraser's, who understood the publicity value of having a Nicklaus golf course. He also wanted a tournament to attract further attention, something different, and the Heritage Classic, a Thanksgiving week affair, small and intimate, is what he came up with. Hilton Head is so exclusive the Heritage Classic didn't even want people. The sponsors limited the gallery to a sparse 5,000 for the week at $20 to $30 a ticket. As a result, it was the easiest golf tournament anyone ever tried to watch, and the smallest army Arnie ever had rooting for him.
This was something of a shame, as it turned out. The fact is that Arnold Palmer has rarely played better golf than he did on that tight little island. He drove the ball beautifully straight through those confined fairways and sent his short irons high and biting into the small patches where one hoped a green might be. He did not putt so well. If he had, he might have won the tournament by a dozen shots, for he seemed always to be nestled up close to the flag.
Arnold was also feeling good. Since late August he has been doing 50 sit-ups every morning and 50 sit-ups every evening for the old hip hurt, and he was in a very pleasant frame of mind about his golf—almost as if he had reconciled himself to the fact it would all come back sooner or later if he only stopped pressing so hard and worrying about it.
Finally, however, he was fired up about playing on Jack's course, and on a course that he wasn't supposed to be able to play well. Arnold chose to joke about the course as much as anything. "Jack and Pete are very big on railroad ties," he said. But in a serious moment he admitted he thought that what they had done was pretty special. And he enjoyed the challenges that Harbour Town presented. When Palmer opened the tournament with a three-under 68 that might easily have been a 64 or better, Winnie said, "I've got a feeling this might be the week something happens."