Island in the South

With five championship courses on property, Kiawah Island Golf Resort in South Carolina is a golfer’s paradise.

It may be just 21 miles from Charleston, but anyone who pays a visit to Kiawah Island Golf Resort will tell you it’s a world away. Golf enthusiasts know it best as the home of The Ocean Course, the Pete Dye-designed masterpiece that holds the distinction of being the only course in the U.S. to host every major PGA championship.

But a visit to Kiawah Island reveals it’s much more than a golfer’s paradise; it is, quite simply, paradise.

For starters, The Ocean Course is just one of five courses on the island. Named “The Toughest Golf Course in America” by Golf Digest, and frequently appearing on golfing lists as one of the best courses to play, it is a magnet for both pros and amateurs.

“It’s a bucket list course, for sure,” says Mike Vegis, director of public relations for the resort. “Some people come to play that course exclusively, others come because they want to try it—and then they play one of the other courses. But there’s no other course like it.”

The Ocean Course, built at the eastern end of the island, boasts more seaside holes than any other course in the Northern Hemisphere. As part of the innovative design, the entire course was raised to allow players a breathtaking, unobstructed view of the Atlantic coastline from every hole. The winds play a major factor in each game, and players can experience up to an eight-club difference on holes, depending on wind strength direction. The winds play such a significant role that Dye designed two courses into this single layout, creating one for an easterly wind and one for the westerlies.

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The demanding course is a huge draw for golfers, but it is not, by any means, the only one. The other four championship courses—Osprey Point, designed by Tom Fazio; Oak Point, designed by Clyde Johnston; Turtle Point, designed by Jack Nicklaus; and Cougar Point, redesigned by Gary Player—all have unique personalities, challenges and followings.

“It really depends on the golfer,” Vegis says. “They can all find a course that they want to play.”


In addition to being able to play on the same courses that have hosted some of golf ‘s biggest names, Kiawah Island Golf Resort is home to a variety of recreational options that include both indoor and outdoor activities. Four swimming pools, including the kid-friendly Night Heron Children’s Pool, offer ample opportunity to take a serious swim or a leisurely dip. Bike rentals make for a fun way to experience

the island’s natural beauty, and with 30 miles of paved leisure trails and 10 miles of hard-packed beach, there are plenty of places to explore on two wheels.

Organized paddling tours as well as kayak and stand-up paddleboard rentals let guests truly enjoy the water around them, and the resort offers a variety of classes for all ages and skill levels to help guests make the most of the experience. More experienced kayakers will enjoy activities such as a guided exploration through the creeks of the marsh or the surf kayaking rodeo, which provides an exhilarating workout on the waves.

Those who prefer to keep their feet on the ground can sign up for walking tours and adventures to explore the island’s home-grown beauty and wildlife. The resort’s award-winning nature and children’s programs ensure that visitors can fill each day with a new experience—and many of those experiences simply won’t be found at other resorts.

“One of the great things we did when the island was being developed was to bring in biologists to catalog every plant and animal that lived there,” Vegis says. “Then we developed a land plan to keep that natural feel. We have more than 200 species of birds, we have deer, alligators, bobcats, river otters—it’s an incredibly natural experience, and that really helps when you’re coming here to unwind.”


Another way to unwind is, of course, with a visit to Th e Spa at the Sanctuary, the acclaimed five-star spa offering a complete menu of facials, body treatments and massages to help relax, ease tired muscles and let the cares of the day slip away. Beginning with a visit to the mineral whirlpool, steam room and sauna, and ending with quiet time in the garden-inspired solarium after the treatment, this is the perfect way to recover from a few rounds of golf or simply indulge a bit of pampering.

To complete the experience, Kiawah Island Golf Resort has a dozen dining options, ranging from casual fare like ice cream and poolside dining to barbecue and more upscale offerings, which includes seafood, steak, sushi and more. And, for those who can’t pull themselves away from the spectacular private view of the ocean, room service is available around the clock.

All photos courtesy Kiawah Island Golf Resort

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