By Rachel Zuckerman, Guest Contributor
Just an hour southeast of downtown Charleston, SC is the 13.5-mile long barrier island of Kiawah. The nature sanctuary and world-class golf resort includes 5 public golf courses. More specifically, it is home to the most notable fairways, the Ocean Course; the backdrop of the 2007 Senior PGA Championship, the 2012 PGA Championship, and future host of the 2021 PGA Championship. The expansive 10-mile, dog friendly beach, with an abundance of maritime forests and wildlife, embodies this golf oasis.
Kiawah Island, SC is a true nature sanctuary, and the journey alone, leading up to the Ocean Course is an adventure in itself. Once on the island and through the first gate, the Kiawah Island Parkway twists and turns under a canopy of live oaks with Spanish moss, palmetto trees and lush greenery. Glimpses of fresh water ponds, pristine greens and fairways, marshes and vibrant landscaping showcasing magnificent private homes and villas can be enjoyed on the scenic approach to the course. A bobcat may dart across the road at dawn or dusk; 6-point bucks with their mates and fawns will be foraging along the roadway, and any number of the hundreds of species of birds could fly across one’s path or be seen wading in the marshes. As you drive over the many bridges, spanning mystical waterways, you can witness ethereal sunrises and dramatic sunsets.
Once at the Ocean Course, the stately cedar shake 24,000 sq. ft. clubhouse is poised regally overlooking the 18th green and the Atlantic Ocean. The Ryder Cup bar and restaurant showcases panoramic ocean views as well as a covered, wrap-around porch for outside dining and antique rocking chairs for non-golfers to relax in while waiting for the players. What makes this golf course so unique is the actual experience of walking the course in what are essentially sand dunes. There are no macadam cart paths, no structures that don’t conform with the weathered seascape, and while the fairways, tee boxes and putting greens are all richly green and precisely manicured; the surrounding areas are left wild and untouched. While strolling down a sandy and oyster shell laden path to one’s next shot, with the guidance of a caddie, you may spot a buck in the brush, or a sensational 10+ ft. alligator sunbathing, a turtle, a newt and, on rare occasion, maybe even a more serpentine resident, although they make themselves scarce. A hawk or osprey may tether their feathers and wings overhead poised to make their dive bomb descent upon a mouse or vole.
The first front 9 holes are set back a little further from the beach and ocean. You can feel the salt in the air and on your skin. A consistent breeze pushes off of the water and cuts through the sometimes otherwise oppressive humidity. It’s a day at the beach while golfing! Ponds and marshes are home to so much wildlife and they reflect an array of moods that change with the weather. You can see the reeds dance as the wind picks up or the changes of hues in the water as the sun rises in the morning, where all you hear is the whistling of breezes through the trees and the calls of the gulls along the shore. At dusk, the colors reflecting off of the inner course waterways are romantic splashes of magenta, purple, orange and copper.
The back 9 hugs the beach. As you stand on the tee box contemplating your drive, the lull of the waves crashing on the shore coincides with the tempo of a swing; of the breath you take as you start your backswing and gain momentum for the pendulum drop of the club to kiss the ball into the air and send it soaring over the dunes and into the fairway, just like the ebb and flow of the sea - that fluid rhythm and torque. Golf at the Ocean Course can be a religious experience. It is not only stunning physically, and awe inspiring in its design and location, but it’s a most challenging course as well. Even some of the finest golfers are often heard mumbling or shaking their heads at how it can be so humbling. Along the outer perimeter of the back 9 holes are interspersed luxurious estates. Each and every private home has unique architectural features and yet they all blend in seamlessly with the wild, tropical landscape.
NOTE: Between the amenities at Kiawah, the elegance of the lowcountry-inspired homes and and the natural and untainted beauty of the Ocean Course, it is no wonder this will be once again be home to 2021 PGA Championship, and yet it’s just a quick drive to everything else the Charleston area has to offer. After all, living on Kiawah Island is unmatched in the exclusive and private lifestyle it delivers and the vast array of "something for everyone" things to enjoy.
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