Georgia Golf's Hidden Gem: The courses of the Coastal Georgia Golf Association

Jekyll Island Golf ClubMore than 100 miles of inviting coastline can be found as you travel south down Interstate 95 from Savannah, Ga. to Jacksonville, Fla. In either direction from I-95 a number of excellent golf destinations beckon; seven to be exact. Here you won't find the famous layouts of Atlanta or that premier patch of greenery found in Augusta but you will find the hidden gems of Georgia golf.

The elite and secretive Jekyll Island Golf Club started the ball rolling in Coastal Georgia by removing enough wild boars and keeping deer incursions to a minimum on a 26-acre site just north of and adjacent to what is now the historic district so golf could be played.

In 1894, The Jekyll Island Golf Club was registered 36th in the nation. Today Jekyll Island boasts three 18-hole courses and one 9-hole course, earning the island the distinction as Georgia's largest public golf resort.

The Jekyll Island Club is now a member of the Coastal Georgia Golf Association which is making it easy for golfers to experience all of their favorite courses in the area.

With the Coastal Georgia Golf Passport, golfers who stay at participating hotels on Jekyll Island Hotel, Sea Palms Golf Resort on St. Simons Island or Brunswick properties can play all of the CGGA courses for the same low rate. Golf packages include courses on Jekyll Island, St. Simons Island, Sapelo Island and Oak Grove Island - connected by island causeways and scenic two-lane country roads.

The passport ticket is provided by your hotel and is good for cart and greens fees at all participating CGGA courses. All of the courses can be reached in less than one hour from any point in The Golden Isles.

The northernmost point on the trip is Shellman Bluff's Sapelo Hammock. This course is conveniently located between St. Simons Island and the charming city of Savannah. Featuring 18 holes of golf with five sets of championship tees, Sapelo Hammock was designed to satisfy the needs of golfers of any skill level. A beautiful coastal layout, Sapelo Hammock is located on a scenic bluff, overlooking oak-lined fairways and lush, undulating greens.

Sand Dunes on Jekyll Island

If you travel southwest from Shellman Bluff you'll find The Lakes Golf Course, which is the furthest inland of all the CGGA courses. The Lakes is located within Laura S. Walker State Park and features a beauty rare in golf courses today.

So natural is the course - and so close to the Okefenokee Swamp - that it's not uncommon to see an alligator roaming the waterways. Located in Waycross, the 438,000 acre Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge is home to numerous species of reptiles, birds, plants and other animals.

Next up is the most visited destination in Coastal Georgia: Brunswick and the Golden Isles.

Nestled on the Georgia coast, midway between Savannah and Jacksonville, lies the mainland city Brunswick and four barrier islands: St. Simons Island, Sea Island, Little St. Simons Island and Jekyll Island. Spanish explorers came to the area more than 400 years ago, seeking gold. Modern adventurers now arrive and find great golf.

In Brunswick you'll find the Oak Grove Island Golf Club, a semi-private golf course that meanders along 240 acres of beautiful coastal scenery. Boasting panoramic views and majestic, tree-lined fairways, Oak Grove will prove a challenging test for players of any handicap. The course is a wonderful blend of nature and golf featuring ancient moss-draped oaks, pines, palm trees, marshland, deer and alligators.

The par-72 championship course can stretch to more than 7,000 yards from the tips, and features five sets of tees to ensure playability for players of all skill levels.

In mainland Brunswick you'll find remnants of an earlier time. The city's streets and squares are laid out in a formal grid, similar to Savannah and other colonial cities, and continue to bear their colonial names.

Sea Palms Golf and Tennis Resort, on St. Simons Island, offers 27 holes of golf on three newly renovated courses. In addition to the resort's terrific courses, Sea Palms is the only property in the Golden Isles to include six other golf courses in its golf package, giving guests an opportunity to experience all the sensational courses in the surrounding area.

While visiting St. Simons be sure to take in everything this coastal treasure has to offer. The village offers an array of shops and restaurants that range from fine dining establishments to casual outdoor eateries.

St. Simons Island also offers plenty of sites with historical significance and other noteworthy attractions, from St. Simons Lighthouse (a working lighthouse in operation since 1872) to Bloody Marsh, where British and Scottish soldiers successfully defeated a larger Spanish force and ended the Spanish incursion outside Florida.

Just south of St. Simons Island but further inland is one of the newest, semi-private golf facilities in Georgia. The Golf Club at Sanctuary Cove, located in Waverly, Ga., is a Davis Love III Golf Design/Fred Couples signature course that stretches just over 7,000 yards, different from the typical residential golf experience and one that is truly unique to the area.

Coastal Georgia GolfSouth of Waverly is historic Jekyll Island and its golf club. The island was once an exclusive winter retreat for some of America's wealthiest families. Their exclusive Jekyll Island Club, a collection of "cottages" and a variety of support structures are now National Historic Landmarks; the historic district is open to the public.

Today, owned by the state of Georgia, the island retains much of its natural beauty and offers a wealth of amenities and activities, including 63 holes of golf, tennis, beaches, 20 miles of bike paths, miniature golf and nature tours.

Finally we arrive in Kingsland, Ga., the southernmost stop on this journey through the CGGA, located just four miles north of the Florida state line. Kingsland is home to the Laurel Island Links Golf Course.

Situated along the marsh-hemmed coastline of Southeast Georgia, this Davis Love III design quietly interacts with nature throughout the course's entire 125-acre setting. Love's design takes full advantage of the diverse terrain - heavy woodlands, stretches of salt marsh and natural wetlands.

Known as Georgia's Island Connector, Kingsland's central location near the coast is close to Cumberland Island National Seashore, Laurel Island Links, the Okefenokee Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, Brunswick and the Golden Isles.

Kingsland is also home to a very unique event; the annual Labor Day Catfish Festival.

The festival includes a 5K race, bike races, parade, food vendors and arts and crafts. There is never an admission fee and parking is always free. Every year the festival features free live entertainment by nationally recognized artists; previous headlines have included stars like Lee Ann Womack, Trace Adkins, Diamond Rio, Charlie Daniels, Aaron Tippin, Tracy Bird and Gary Allan.

St. Simon's Island LighthouseWith winter highs of 63, this is truly a year-round golf destination. With seven oceanfront properties, one four-star hotel circa 1886 and several budget-friendly accommodations - a Coastal Georgia golf package fits all needs.

Fall and winter are the best times of the year to spend your golf vacation in coast Georgia. Temperatures in the mid 70s mean you can golf as much as you'd like and at very affordable prices.

Georgia's coastal region is approximately 110 miles long, a diverse and exciting area that provides many opportunities for visitors to stay somewhere and enjoy all of the coastal adventures nearby including Savannah/Tybee Island and Jacksonville which are both within reasonable driving distance. 


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