Archive » June 9, 2011
GOLF & TRAVEL
By Ray Navis, Contributing Writer
There are really two golf resorts in the U.S. that stand out alone, far from the crowd. Pebble Beach is one and Sea Island is the other. We visited the latter recently and were not disappointed. Sea Island features two 5-star hotels set amongst pristine coastal marshland with three championship layouts and a beach club. It is no wonder that the G-8 summit of world leaders was held here. Sea Island is elegant and super private.
The resortUpon entering the area from I-95, you will cross a couple of bridges and make your way onto St. Simons Island home to the Sea Island Lodge. Traveling across another coastal marsh takes us to Sea Island itself where The Cloister and Beach Club are located. As you pass through the gated entry you cross a river with The Cloister to the left and Beach Club to the right. The cobblestone streets start to give one a glimpse of the kind of luxury that first greeted leaders of the world and now brightens your own arrival. On this visit we stayed at The Cloister which is the latest creation at Sea Island. This Spanish style mansion fronts the Black Banks River with the Atlantic just steps away. This is a grand building reminiscent of a European Castle. A large stone staircase leads to the very private rooms above. You might wish for a rainy day to spend some extra time at The River Bar or Georgian Room downstairs.
The coastal marsh scene really makes this setting beautiful, and it is no wonder so many have fallen in love with the area. The natural setting and abundant wildlife make for a peaceful backdrop on your balcony. The rooms are large, starting at 700 square feet and feature 5-star qualities throughout. Marble bathrooms and the finest in bedding and electronics are found in each room or suite. The Spa and Fitness Center is directly across the street from the Cloister and The Beach Club – just a bit further. These buildings are equal in design stature to The Cloister and quite spacious. The Beach Club has several restaurant options, including a daily seafood buffet at Big George’s.
The golfAs you turn onto Retreat Drive you get the feeling that you are in for something special. The solitary road continues for well over a mile with overhanging trees above, spacious golf holes on both sides and not a structure or sole in sight. Finally you arrive at the gated entry reserved for hotel guests and members only. Only Augusta is similar in entrance.
The Lodge at Sea Island also serves as the main golf clubhouse, home to the famed Seaside and Plantation courses. This is a large classic-style building similar to the great clubhouses found further up the East Coast. As you walk in, the elegant furnishings inside would normally be of most interest. Instead, it is the sweeping views of the Atlantic across the course that capture the most attention. This setting is serves as the backdrop for casual lunch and dinner at The Oak Room with a nightly bagpipe ceremony to complete the atmosphere.
The Lodge has 80 years of golf history in its past, and all the greats have been here starting with Bobby Jones. This history is tastefully remembered with precious memorabilia throughout. There are only 40 rooms at the Lodge and all offer golf to water views. We dined at Colt & Allison in the Lodge and the food was superb. My choice of Chilean sea bass and escargot still conjure up yearnings of the palate.
The Seaside layout is probably the signature course and is home to the McGladrey Classic part of the PGA Fall Series. This links-style layout includes numerous sand dunes and waterfront holes looking out toward nearby Jekyll Island. The Plantation is an equally challenging course with an inland routing. Nearby, a third option is The Retreat layout which is most popular with Sea Island members. All three layouts are expertly manicured, with putting surfaces USGA Championship ready.
The learning centerThey take their golf seriously here at Sea Island and the Learning Center is arguably the best practice facility in the world. Set on a peninsula, the center features almost 360 degrees of hitting areas with multiple putting, chipping and pitching surfaces adjacent. A serious player could spend all day here. Some 15 PGA Tour players agree, and that is why they call Sea Island home including Davis Love III, Lucas Glover, Matt Kuchar and Boo Weekly.
The Learning Center has four of the top 50 golf teachers in the world according to Golf Digest, so if you need some attention look no further. You might want to see putting guru Mike Shannon, who has worked with numerous tour stars and countless amateurs in their search for success with the flat stick. Mike has taken the teaching of putting to a new level and should be considered a Ph.D. in the field. For further details, visit SeaIsland.com.