From the mainland to the islands lie 180 holes of golf on some of the country's most spectacular and widely acclaimed courses. For those who love the game of golf, few places can quicken the pulse quite like the Golden Isles of Georgia.
Lush natural beauty, delightfully inviting year-round weather and a wide range of accommodations —from name brand hotel chains to luxury resorts — all combine to make golf in the Golden Isles an experience to savor again and again.
Furthermore, visitors to the Golden Isles can watch the PGA TOUR's best compete at The RSM Classic on the Seaside Course at Sea Island Golf Club — a tournament that is poised to become a fall tradition in the Golden Isles for years to come.
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Our Quintessential Golf Experiences: Why Golfing in the Golden Isles is So Magical
With the warm sun on your back, you crouch down to read your putt. Left to right? Uphill slightly? Then it hits you once again: the beauty of your surroundings. An elegant live oak tree — draped in Spanish moss — casts a long shadow across the green, while a great blue heron lifts off from a nearby marsh. Good luck focusing.
The distractions may be abundant on the Golden Isles' golf courses , but after one round here, you'll surely rediscover why you love this game in the first place. Here are four quintessential golf experiences in the Golden Isles.
1. Scottish Links + American Marshland
Of all the styles of golf courses, few are as demanding as the Scottish links style, where the rough is unforgiving and an open layout leaves your game prone to the elements. Here on the Golden Isles, several courses — most notably the King and Prince Golf Course , Jekyll Island Golf Club and Heritage Oaks Golf Club — mix the Scottish-links style with the undeniably beautiful natural marshes of the Georgia Coast. This approach creates an unforgettable setting. You seem to be floating on the marsh grass and estuaries as you move from tee to green.
2. Match Wits with Davis Love III & Company
Across the Golden Isles, several 18-hole layouts were either designed by renowned pros or acclaimed architects. Tee up on Sea Island Golf Club's Retreat Course (designed by PGA TOUR legend Davis Love III), the King and Prince Golf Course (Joe Lee and Billy Fuller) or the Coastal Pines Golf Club (Mark Bennett). Just by playing these courses, you'll be matching wits with the best minds in the game.
3. Turn Your Vacation Into a Golf Marathon
File this under the “Only for Die-Hards” folder, but it is entirely possible to play two 18-hole courses per day for 5 straight days and not play the same hole twice.That amount of golf might be pure crazy, but considering that across three islands you have 10 different 18-hole layouts to choose from (plus two 9-hole courses), the possibilities of a “golf marathon” over a week-long trip are truly tantalizing.
4. Play Where the Pros Play
There are only a handful of golf courses in the United States that regularly host the PGA TOUR, and even then, many of them are completely private. But, as host of the annual McGladrey Classic, the Seaside Course at Sea Island Golf Club fits the bill, and you can play it if you are a guest of The Cloister or The Lodge at Sea Island. Discover what the pros know about this challenging, Scottish-links style course by booking an early morning tee time.
Whether for competition or relaxation, Golden Isles golf is a distinguished tradition. Many golfers are aware of the exceptional golf courses found on the Georgia coast but, some golfers might be surprised to learn that Golden Isles golf and its competitions have a long, celebrated tradition that goes back more than 100 years and includes some of the greatest names in golf.
The Golden Isles' first official recognition as a golf venue came in 1894, when the Jekyll Island Golf Club was registered with the United States Golf Association. The millionaire members of the Jekyll Island Club built the area's first golf course in 1898.
Accounts of the day note that the course was "absolutely flat with sand greens" and caddies used mats to drag and even up the green after play was completed on a hole. USGA records credit the architecture to Willie Dunn, Jr., a Scot who was close friends with John D. Rockefeller and W.K. Vanderbilt, the latter an original member of the Club. The exact layout of the course is unknown, though one account said, "It wasn't even the quality of a cow pasture.". A "new and improved" course, designed by Donald J. Ross, was built in 1910 on land now occupied by Jekyll Island's Oleander course.
The Golden Isles received a big boost in prominence as a vacation destination in 1926 when Howard Coffin bought Sea Island and the old Retreat Plantation on St. Simons Island. Coffin's ambitious plan called for the transformation of Sea Island into an elegant playground for his wealthy and sophisticated contemporaries.
He chose the venerable Walter Travis to design and construct the Plantation Course, which opened to much acclaim in 1927. That auspicious beginning put Sea Island on the fast track toward becoming a world-class resort and golf destination.
Not to be outdone, the members of the Jekyll Island Club commissioned Travis to build a course for them. Opened in 1928, the remnants of that course comprise Jekyll Island's historic Great Dunes course.
These courses established a Golden Isles legacy of great golf courses conceived by many of the world's greatest course designers. Colt and Alison. Dick Wilson. Joe Lee. Rees Jones. Davis Love III. Tom Fazio. Mark Bennett. Clyde Johnston. All have left their mark with challenging layouts from the mainland to the barrier islands.
Build great golf courses and great golfers will come to challenge them. It wasn't long before the challengers arrived. Bobby Jones shot the Sea Island Plantation course record of 67 in 1930. His record stood for 28 years, until Sam Snead bested it with a 63. Their names are among the scores of well-known professional and amateur golfers from around the world who have been drawn to compete in state, national and international tournaments in the Golden Isles.
Among the better-known international golf events that have taken place in the Golden Isles are the UBS Warburg Cup, a senior event that pitted a U.S. team led by Arnold Palmer and an international team led by Gary Player, the Walker Cup and the London Daily Telegraph Junior Championship. National events have included USGA and LPGA championships as well as the U.S. Kids Golf World Championship.
In October 2010 a new PGA TOUR Fall Series event, The McGladrey Classic, brought professional golfers from around the nation to compete on the Seaside Course at Sea Island Golf Club. The first two years of this now annual golf tournament have received accolades from golf professionals and spectators, and is poised to become a fall tradition in the Golden Isles.