Kiawah Island Golf Resort has been an idyllic retreat for over four decades and is planning for the future with a number of new amenities.
Half an hour southeast of historic Charleston, S.C., sits Kiawah Island, a gem on the Atlantic coast. With 10 miles of pristine beaches, moss-covered oaks and abundant marshland, this 10,000-acre barrier island is an ideal vacation getaway. Kiawah Island Golf Resort has been welcoming visitors to the area since 1976 and now occupies roughly half of the island.
Even though the resort is a short drive from Charleston, with non-stop flights from Denver, one feels much further away. Guests can totally disconnect as they slip into the relaxed southern pace of the island. The sense of tranquility that abounds is what draws many to return.
A golfer’s paradise, the resort features five exceptional courses. The Ocean Course is best known and was the site of the 2007 Senior PGA and 2012 PGA Championships. The 2021 PGA will also be played there. Turtle Point Golf Course, designed by Jack Nicklaus, was recently renovated and reopened in October, 2016.
While the resort is known for golf, there is a delightful array of outdoor activities. Guests from Colorado and elsewhere enjoy miles of biking and walking trails that crisscross the wooded interior of the island, beaches, marshland and scenic ponds. Kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding are popular as well.
Tennis is another big sport. Two tennis complexes offer a menu of programs for adults and juniors including instructional clinics, mini camps and private lessons. For more than 35 years, Roy Barth, a founding member of the ATP Tour, has been the resort’s Director of Tennis.
The accommodations at Kiawah Island Golf Resort are second to none. The crown jewel is The Sanctuary hotel, a swanky seaside mansion with every imaginable convenience and winner of a 2017 Forbes Five Star award. There are also more than 500 villas and exclusive homes available seaside or near the fairways, and 12 restaurants.
The resort is planning for the future and unveiled a series of major projects in the spring that will further enhance the property’s impressive amenities. They include a 150-room luxury beachfront hotel, state-of-the-art conference center, 150-seat chapel connected to The Sanctuary hotel and new Cougar Point Clubhouse with full-service pro shop, sports tavern and locker room. All tennis programs will be consolidated at Roy Barth Tennis Center, 10 new Har-Tru Hydro Courts will be added and existing courts will be fully resurfaced. Night Heron Park will be reimagined and enhanced with a new Nature Center, Pavilion and other activity and dining spaces.
“These developments mark an exciting chapter in Kiawah Island Golf Resort’s notable history,” said Kiawah Island Golf Resort president Roger Warren. “They will completely revitalize the West Beach area, which formed the nucleus of the resort when it was first developed in 1976, but will also enhance and complement the world-class facilities, amenities and programs Kiawah has been proud to offer its guests over the past decades.”
Most of the projects have already broken ground with completion dates ranging from late 2018 to winter 2020. Management emphasizes guests will still enjoy the serenity they have come to expect from a Kiawah vacation while the work is underway. The new hotel will occupy the site of the original inn, which was torn down a number of years ago. True to the resort’s environmental commitment to the island, no previously undeveloped land will be cleared for its construction.
Kiawah is known for its conservation efforts. All the golf courses at Kiawah Island Golf Resort are Audubon-certified to ensure minimal impact on the flora and fauna. The resort also has a fulltime naturalist.
Wildlife lovers will not be disappointed with all the island has to offer. Loggerhead turtles, bobcats, cougars, herons and ospreys are some of the natural inhabitants. Birding excursions are a growing activity at the resort and allow guests to view native and migratory species as well as birds of prey. The Junior Naturalist program provides young guests the opportunity to explore nature in a fun, hands-on approach.
The Atlantic bottlenose dolphins that live in the Kiawah River and its inlets are among the island’s most popular residents. They participate in an unusual feeding ritual called “strand feeding” where a group of them herd a school of fish or shrimp onto the shore. The dolphins, who weigh several hundred pounds, then catapult themselves onto the beach or sandbar to feed. Kiawah is one of a few places in the world to see this phenomenon.
Dolphins aside, the Kiawah Island Golf Resort is a place to which many visitors want to return. “We are at a point where we have a lot of multi-generation families. Guests who were children when they first started coming in the 70s are now bringing their children, and even grandchildren, and we have three and four generations visiting us. Especially in the summer, we have a lot of families that come back year after year,” said public relations director Bryan Hunter.
No matter the season, Kiawah has something for every guest. A vacation there promises a delightful retreat from hectic everyday life.
Kiawah Island Golf Resort
One Sanctuary Beach Drive
Kiawah Island, SC 29455
Jennifer Turner lives in Denver. Her articles have been featured in Colorado Expression, Cherry Creek Now, Country Club Neighborhood Living, Life on Capitol Hill and the Washington Park Profile.
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