What would the golf lifestyle be like without the buddy golf trip? A bunch of friends piling into a plane, train or automobile with their clubs polished, Footjoys shined and a suitcase full of clothes that can hopefully be mixed and matched with some semblance of style and don’t need ironing.
Most of us will use any excuse we can for a golf trip. But a buddy trip to Sea Island in Georgia is something you can check off your bucket list.
Located between the low country of South Carolina and the great expanse of golf in Florida are the captivating coastal islands of Georgia. These pristine stretches of marshland – punctuated by small islands known as hammocks – are home to many excellent courses, but it is the 54 holes of golf at Sea Island that are the ones everyone wants to play at least once.
“It’s a little like South Carolina, but it’s definitely not Florida,” Brandon Youmans, head pro at the Sea Island Retreat Club, says of the southern Georgian coastline. “We are kind of in a hidden spot right off I-95.”
The Sea Island Golf Club offers three exceptional championship courses. The Seaside Course, home to the PGA Tour’s McGladrey Classic, is a links course graced by majestic ocean vistas in the tradition of St. Andrews. The Plantation Course winds enticingly through marsh and forest, while the Retreat Course offers a uniquely dramatic and challenging design cultivated by Davis Love III and Mark Love.
As did the famed designers – or the re-designers – who took old, modest golf courses and turned them into modern marvels along the sea.
The Seaside Course, being Sea Island’s flagship course, is a Tom Fazio-design splashed with dunes on the beach side. The Plantation Course is a Rees Jones- product that plays more parkland in style with plenty of water in play and is littered with bunkers. The Love-designed Retreat Course, while forgiving off the tee, features large greens that produce the layout’s biggest challenges.
As a native of Georgia having grown up only a few hours from Sea Island, Youmans is fully aware of the virtues of the resort.
“As a golf professional, this is one of the great places to be in the country,” he says. “With its great location, state-of-the-art facilities, and the fact that it is always on the cutting edge in the industry, Sea Island Resort is a great place to work.”
Maybe that’s why it has been rated No. 4 out of the 75 Best Golf Resorts in the United States. At Sea Island, beauty, distinction, and opulence come in several award-winning choices. The Lodge is a golfer’s paradise, surrounded by all three of Sea Island’s famed golf courses. The Cloister centralizes the Sea Island resort experience, encompassing beach access, the Cloister Spa, and the full spectrum of resort activities and amenities. Finally, The Cottages are available for year-round rental.
Youmans says the combination of location, lodging and golf at Sea Island makes it the ideal destination for those looking for the finest in buddy golf trips.
“It’s quite normal to meet players from the West Coast, the Northeast and the Midwest a couple of different times throughout any given day,” he says. “[Buddy golf] is one of the bigger sections of our business. We have a lot of trips come into our 42-room lodge and stay for several days. With 54 holes of golf you can do everything you want from a group’s perspective. We have first-class accommodations, two great restaurants and one of the best locker rooms in the country. It is definitely a sought-out golf trip.”
Beyond the links, soaking up the Sea Island experience can include tennis, spa days or numerous outdoor and nature-based activities from horseback riding and open-sea kayaking to fishing and a world-class shooting school.
“Sea Island is a world-class destination in a great location,” Youmans says. “We are less than five hours from Atlanta, an hour from Savannah and just over an hour from Jacksonville.” Sea Island Resort is also within driving range of the Middle Atlantic, and many airlines now fly into Savannah. Jacksonville International is just 60 miles away.