RBC Heritage promises great golf with fun on the side

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The Ultra Club, located at the "19th hole," between the 18th and the Harbour Town Yacht Basin, is a popular meeting spot during and after play at the RBC Heritage golf tournament. COURTESY RBC HERITAGE

More than 135,000 spectators attended the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing golf tournament in Harbour Town last year. World-class golf, of course, takes center stage April 15-21 this year, but it certainly isn't the only attraction that for vies for patrons' attention.

Hospitality vendors, sponsor tents and a host of other off-course events will be out in full swing.

The lineup includes craft beers, premium wine and signature cocktails; quail sliders, veggie wraps and burgers; premium apparel; sponsored outdoor viewing areas; ice cream, cookies and a play zone for youngsters.

"You can sit at home and watch our golf tournament from the comfort of your couch, but we have to give you many reasons to come out to the tournament and spend days with us," said Angela McSwain, marketing and communications director for the Heritage Classic Foundation. "It's more than just a golf tournament; we want to enhance the experience."

McSwain, the sales team and the Foundation staff of 11 "have an arsenal of ideas to give potential sponsors."

It's a year-long process for the team to attract and sign sponsorship agreements that gives the Foundation money from sales proceeds to feed the Foundation's sizable charity donations to local organizations. Since 1987, the Foundation has directed $41 million to hundreds of nonprofit groups.

Part of the allure of sponsorship is the opportunity "for exposure and to put their brand out there," she said. The Ben and Jerry's locally owned and managed franchise in Bluffton is a prime example.

Here's a rundown of what's happening on the sidelines this year.

What's new

• This year's Youth Zone provides young golfers with a six-hole miniature putt course and a new long putt contest.

• Stop by the Geico Golf Tent for PGA Tour player meet-and-greets and test your short game for the chance to win a wedge, a Geico Gecko headcover, and other prizes.

• The Southern Tide, the official style sponsor of the Heritage, will have a Pop Up Shop near Heritage Lawn at the 18th hole, offering premium men's and women's apparel inspired by coastal colors.

What's relocated

• The Certified South Carolina Grown Food Truck will be located behind the 15th green. Enjoy veggie wraps, seafood po-boys, sliders, shrimp salad and more ... all 100 percent Southern and state grown.

• Patriots Outpost, which supports military personnel and their families, has moved to the scenic 7th hole and features a "mess hall" food and beverage tent with an open-air outdoor viewing area. Panera provides the goodies.

• Hilton Head Island Regional Hospital's medical trailer can be found on-site at the entrance to the Harbour Town Golf Links and also at a tent on the Heritage Lawn for sunscreen, lip balm and bug spray.

Also ...

• Plaid Nation Day will be held Saturday, with contests and fun on the Heritage Lawn from noon to 2 p.m. Fans can compete for prizes in such competitions as Best Dressed in Plaid and Fastest Clad in Plaid.

• Meiomi will be the celebrated northern California label with its sparkling, rose, chardonnay and pinot noir wines at the Wine At Nine, located between the 1st and 9th fairways. Fun extras include a photo booth and product giveaways on Friday and Saturday.

• Signature cocktails, giveaways, raffles and a themed photo booth are on the menu at Tito's Stillhouse at the Heritage Lawn.

• The Ultra Club, Michelob's premier gathering space just beyond the 18th hole, is open to anyone 21 and older for light beverages and people watching.

• Stop by the Coke Kitchen at Heritage Lawn for a cold beverage paired with fresh cuisine made on-site.

• The U.S. Women's Open Championship trophy will be on display next to the 10th tee over the weekend. Take pictures, putt for prizes and enjoy interactive elements of the women's major event before it comes to Charleston May 28-June 2.

• Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream will locate their tent on the premises.

• A handful of concession stands can be found at various locations on the front and back nines. New this year are cookies created by contest winners.

"The RBC Heritage has always been more than just a golf tournament and that has made us successful," McSwain said. "We have to keep getting better and better."

Lowcountry resident Dean Rowland is a veteran senior editor and freelance writer.

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