April 2019

Heritage for dummies: As the island gears up for the fifty-first annual RBC Heritage tournament, Justin Jarrett breaks it down for newcomers.

Author: Justin Jarrett

If you can recite every champion from the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing’s first 50 years, know all the tournament records by heart, and can rattle off all of Jim Furyk’s top-10 finishes at Harbour Town, feel free to turn the page.

But if the thought of trying to play the part of PGA Tour fan for a week fills you with more anxiety than Satoshi Kodaira staring down a 25-footer for his first PGA Tour win (or if you have no idea who Satoshi Kodaira is), please keep reading.

It’s better to be a know-nothing than a know-it-all. You’ve seen the type—decked out in flashy golf attire, including completely unnecessary golf spikes, and offering “expert” analysis to anyone within earshot. But it’s best to aim for the sweet spot in the middle.

So, our aim is to arm you with just enough golf knowledge to get by, at least until the booze kicks in and everyone in your group forgets they’re at a golf tournament at all.

What’s he hitting?
The aforementioned Mr. Know-It-All might feel compelled to speculate as to whether Dustin Johnson is hitting a 5-iron or a 6-iron for his second shot at No. 15, and even though it doesn’t make one iota of difference to your enjoyment of the tournament, you should have a general grasp of the club types.

On the tee boxes (with the exception of par-3s), most players will hit driver or hybrid—the clubs designed to hit the ball the farthest, but also the most difficult to hit accurately. Drivers have an oversized club head designed to smash the ball more than 300 yards, while hybrids have largely replaced the “woods” of old and can be used for longer shots from just about any lie.

You’re already nodding off, aren’t you? Don’t worry, there’s a beer tent at the next tee box. Hang in there.

Players use their irons for approach shots to the green, with lower-numbered irons (like a 3-iron) for longer shots and higher-numbered irons (like a 9-iron) for shorter distances. Wedges are high-trajectory clubs designed for hitting short, high shots near the greens and to escape from bunkers, and the putter is used on the green (and also in putt-putt, which might be more familiar to you).

What’s he wearing?
It can be difficult at times to determine whether the RBC Heritage is a golf tournament or a fashion show, and in many ways, it’s a bit of both.

Unlike team sports, there is no uniform in golf, so many players like to use their fashion ensemble as an opportunity to make a statement—and a paycheck. You’ll see flashy pants and shirts in every color of the rainbow, usually with a sponsor’s logo prominently emblazoned, and plenty of eye-catching accessories like shoes and hats.

But it’s not just the players who get decked out for the Heritage. Lowcountry ladies love to bust out their favorite sundresses or show off the latest styles (you’ll see Lilly Pulitzer for dayyyyyyzzzz), and the dudes who aren’t in full golf attire look like they walked straight out of an ad for Chubbies or Vineyard Vines.

What are you doing?
Even though the RBC Heritage is the biggest party of the year on Hilton Head Island, there are a few house rules you’ll want to recognize. As has become customary at most sporting events, the only bags allowed are those smaller than six inches by six inches or clear bags smaller than 12 by six by 12 inches.

The PGA Tour has softened its stance on smartphones in recent years, but be sure to keep it on silent, only take calls in designated areas away from play. Mobile devices may be used to capture video, audio and photos in all areas throughout the tournament.

There are also a few no-nos that aren’t technically prohibited, but we strongly advise against, including wearing golf shoes (do you wear cleats to watch a baseball game?), smoking cigars around crowds (gross), and being a jerk to marshals.

That last one bears repeating: Be kind and respectful to the marshals. They’re all volunteers, and without them we wouldn’t have the pleasure of enjoying one of the best events on the PGA Tour schedule.

Golf glossary
If you want to fit in at the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing, you’ll need to have a basic grasp of the links lingo. Never fear! We have you covered:

Basics
Par: The score an accomplished player is expected to make on a hole, either a three, four or five. A player’s total score is often referenced in relation to par. The par at Harbor Town Golf Links is 71, so a score of 69 would be 2-under.
Ace: Hole in one. Also, one of the nicknames of choice that golf bros will use to refer to someone they don’t know on the course.
Albatross: Also known as a double eagle, this refers to the extremely rare act of making a score of 3-under-par on a hole.
Birdie: A score of 1-under-par on a hole, usually accompanied by a roar from the crowd.
Bogey: A score of 1-over-par on a hole. A total bummer.
Eagle: A score of 2-under-par on a hole. If you see one in person, you have witnessed greatness.
Double bogey: A score of two over par on a hole. There is nothing funny about that.

Advanced Lingo
Approach: A golfer’s shot into the green, typically the second shot on a par-4 or the second or third shot on a par-5.
Backswing: The motion that involves taking the club away from the ball and a time when you should be very, very quiet to avoid inciting a golfer’s wrath.
Bunker: A depressed area on the course, usually filled with sand. Bunkers can be found in the fairway or greenside and can spoil an otherwise promising hole.
Caddie: A person hired to carry clubs and provide other assistance. They wear white bibs with their golfer’s name on the back and don’t want to talk to you.
Chunk: A poor shot caused by hitting the turf well behind the ball. Also, how you might feel after a week of indulging in Heritage concessions.
Divot: The turf displaced when the club strikes the ball on a descending path, or when you foolishly wear wedges to a golf tournament.
Draw/Fade: A draw is a shot that flies slightly from right to left for right-handed players. A fade is a shot that flies slightly from left to right.
Fried egg: The slang term for a buried lie in the sand. Mmmmm, fried eggs.
Get in the hole!: A phrase you should never, ever yell after a player hits a shot. See also: “Ba-ba-booey,” “Mashed potatoes,” or “You da man!”
Hazard: An area, so-marked, in which special rules apply. A player may not touch the ground with his club before playing a ball in a hazard, and a one-shot penalty applies to play his next shot from outside the hazard (see: Take a Drop).
Hook: A shot that curves sharply from right to left for right-handed players.
Lie: The position of the ball when it has come to rest. Also, what most amateur golfers do when asked about their round.
Line: The intended path of the ball, usually referred to in the context of putting.
Mulligan: The custom of hitting a second ball, without penalty, on a hole—usually the first tee. These are not allowed in professional golf, and that joke has already been made 743 times today, so leave it alone.
OB: Abbreviation for out-of-bounds. A ball that is hit out-of-bounds carries a one-stroke penalty, and the next shot must be played from the same position.
Take a drop: A player must take a drop after hitting a ball into a hazard or when he has an unplayable lie. Most drops include a one-stroke penalty, but a player may be given a free drop for relief from a man-made obstruction or in other special cases. Not to be confused with taking a dump (something you don’t want to have to do while at the Heritage, though the portable toilet trailers are a major upgrade from your typical porta-johns).
Whiff: A complete miss, which you won’t do if you study your golf vocabulary before Heritage week.

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