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|The Great Dunes course at Jekyll Island Golf Club offers challenging coastal golf at a bargain price. (Courtesy of jekyllisland.com)|
Jekyll Island, Ga. provides an affordable alternative to nearby St. Simons for someone looking to save a few bucks but still have access to golf courses and the beach. It can't match St. Simons or Sea Island for the quality or quantity of restaurants, hotels and courses - but it isn't a bad alternative.
Jekyll Island, accessible from the mainland by a causeway built by the state of Georgia, has 63 holes of golf and more tranquility. The Jekyll Island Authority was created to monitor development on the island, and by law, no less than 65 percent of the island must remain in natural state, which has allowed Jekyll to remain a relatively quiet place.
There are 63 holes of golf from which to choose on Jekyll Island, with the three 18-hole courses sharing a clubhouse at Jekyll Island Golf Club and the original nine-hole course starting across the road that fronts the ocean.
None of the holes are on the ocean, but the constant breezes let you know the surf is less than a mile away. And don't complain about the breeze; it keeps the gnats from congregating on your upper lip.
If you're going to make this a luxury swing, you'll want to play each of the three courses that Jekyll has to offer: Oleander, Pine Lakes and Indian Mound.
The Pine Lakes course at Jekyll Island Golf Club was originally built in 1968 by Dick Wilson and Joe Lee and then renovated in 2002 by Clyde Johnston, who added bunkers and redesigned the green complexes. It is generally considered to be the jewel of the islands.
Jekyll Island Golf Club's Oleander course was built in 1964 by Dick Wilson, is only 300 yards from the Atlantic Ocean at one point and is the course most affected by the wind. It is loaded with doglegs and is routed around lakes and through the pesky pine trees.
The Indian Mound course at Jekyll Island Golf Club, built in 1975 by Joe Lee, gets its name from the large oyster shells deposited there by aboriginal tribes hundreds of years ago. Like the two other courses, it's flat and plays through pine forests. Don't be surprised if you see a deer or two late in the afternoon.
Fees (including a cart) are $38 Monday through Thursday and $42 the rest of the week.
To take your stay to the next level, you can register for the Jekyll Island Golf Academy. You could end up with a lot of one-on-one time with your instructor, PGA Tour professional Steve Godley.
Accommodations: The Jekyll Island Club was once the playground for the richest Americans. It is now a National Historic Landmark and features a private beach club, although you must drive to reach it. Plan to spend $250 or more per night at the Jekyll Island Club, which is ranked among the world's top 500 resorts by Travel+Leisure.
If you can only squeeze in a couple of rounds, take whatever you can get and enjoy the day. The Jekyll Island Golf Club courses are always well maintained. Pine Lakes gets most of the attention because of its recent facelift, but regulars seem to prefer Oleander. Besides, those ocean breezes at Oleander really make you feel like you're at the ocean.
Be sure to stop by the pro shop and have a conversation with Director of Golf Johnny Paulk, a member of the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame. Johnny is a great guy and a wonderful storyteller.
Those who attend the Masters each year might recognize Johnny as the man in the red sports coat who introduces the players as they approach the 18th green. Offer to buy him a cup of coffee, and you'll get triple your money's worth in terms of anecdotes and insider information.
Accommodations: You should be able to find comfortable lodging anywhere on the island. There are many hotels available, but if you plan to spend much time at the beach, it's probably best to find a place on the southern end of the island. Another option is to rent a house or condominium, which can put you closer to the ocean or the golf course. Expect to spend $100-$150 per night to find a place to crash.
If you are short on funds, you won't shortchange yourself by playing the nine-hole Great Dunes course at Jekyll Island Golf Club, which was built in 1926 by Walter Travis.
The terrain is what you'd expect from a coastal golf course, plenty of native grasses and troublesome areas. The Great Dunes course isn't long (5,856 yards from the white tees, par 72) but makes up for the lack of length with its small greens. You can play and ride all day at Great Dunes for $25 or walk all day (very doable) for only $18.
Accommodations: With the exception of the Beach Club, all the accommodations on Jekyll are fairly basic. If you are really strapped for cash, you might consider bringing a tent and pitching it at the campground. A tent site with an electrical hookup costs around $26 per night.
If you shop hard enough and are willing to do some negotiating, you might possibly find a condo to rent for less than $100.
September 11, 2009
Stan Awtrey spent 25 years as a sports writer with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He is editor of Golf Georgia, the official magazine of the Georgia State Golf Association, and writes a weekly column for PGATOUR.com. His work has appeared in dozens of newspapers, magazines and Web sites.
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