The RBC Heritage golf tournament is one of the highlights on the PGA Tour calendar and has been held in the picturesque community of Hilton Head Island, S.C., since its inception in 1969. During that time period, Sea Pines golf course designer Charles Fraser thought it would be a novel idea to hold a professional tournament dubbed the Heritage Classic in the area at the newly constructed Harbour Town Golf Links. Unfortunately, few people in the golfing world knew where to find Hilton Head Island on a map, so initially the event planners had dim hopes of their event succeeding.
Luckily, after sending out invitations to a number of the world's best golfers, organizers were amazed to find that many prominent golfers would play the inaugural tournament. The original event was held on Thanksgiving weekend of that year and managed to attract some of the biggest names in golf history, including Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Pete Dye. Palmer won the first Heritage Classic, which was his first victory in 14 months, which helped the event gain plenty of publicity and acted as the catalyst in growing the tournament into one of the most highly anticipated competitions on the PGA calendar.
The humble Heritage Classic has grown by leaps and bounds from those early days, originally featuring a purse of $200,000, which has now grown to $5.7 million. The Royal Bank of Canada obtained the sponsorship rights to the tournament in 2011, and the event now attracts more than 100,000 spectators each year. The RBC Heritage is one of only five "invitational" tournaments on the PGA Tour, which helps to reduce the field from around 150 competitors to 130, which means that the event does not offer open qualifying and golfers can hit the links as soon as the RBC Heritage gets underway.
Since its inception, the RBC Heritage has been held at the beautiful Harbour Town Golf Links, which is consistently ranked among the top golf courses in the country by publications like Golf Digest, Golfweek and Travel & Leisure. The course is known for its embrace of nature and the surrounding landscape, which is punctuated by its famous par-4 18th hole that overlooks Calibogue Sound. The course has also achieved a designation of being a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary, a prestigious distinction that combines environmental planning, water conservation and quality management, as well as wildlife and habitat safeguards, to limit the course's impact on the environment.