The First Tee at the RSM Classic
The Tour moves to Saint Simons, Georgie this week for the RSM Classic at Sea Island, which will be played over two tracks, the Plantation Course and the Seaside Course. Defending champion Kevin Kisner captured his first PGA Tour win in style at the RSM last year, firing a tournament record 260 (-22) while finishing six strokes clear of Kevin Chappell (-16).
The Seaside course will be stretched out to 7,005 yards and will play to a par 70. The original course architects were Harry Colt and Charles Alison who routed the first nine holes along the southern tip of St. Simons Island. Their design dates back to 1929 and one of the biggest fans of these nine holes was none other than Bobby Jones. Joe Lee then designed the back nine in 1973, before Tom Fazio was tasked with the difficult job of forming cohesion between the two nines and making the Seaside a true 18 hole course in 1999. After Fazio had completed his work, David Love III—the tournament host—was quoted as saying “Fazio transformed two nines from 18 holes that didn't match, into 18 matchless holes". It is hard to disagree with him, as the course includes breathtaking views that run directly parallel to the water and provide an interesting test for the PGA pro's.
The Plantation course is very short by PGA Tour standards, playing just over 6,700 yards and plays to a par 72. Rees Jones is credited as designing the final nine holes, while bringing the original front nine back to life, that was originally designed by Walter Travis. Travis created the front nine in 1928, and used the plantations old corn and cotton barn as a makeshift clubhouse. It has a traditional routing of four par 5's, four par 3's, and 10 par 4's. The course is a true testament to its namesake, showing off “ancient live oaks, cedar and Georgia long-leaf pines". Rees Jones preserved the old trees as a way of creating an ambience that was one of true southern roots. While the courses have two different aesthetic feels, both feel right at home in St. Simons Island, and show off both the history of the island, as well as its ability to thrive in our current generation.
Both courses are short tracks that have been very easy in terms of driving accuracy and greens in regulation in past years, allowing the players to be very aggressive from tee to green. This leads to low scores and while it may be wrong to call it a shootout, it certainly has the excitement of one. The metrics I will be playing close attention to this week are Greens in Regulation, Proximity to Hole, SG: Putting, Par 4 Scoring and Birdie or Better Percentage.