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Stepping Up Its Game

Sea Island Golf Resort Invests In Enhancement Program To Broaden Guest Appeal

Monday, January 21, 2019
Steve Pike
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Between Ponte Vedra Beach, which is on Florida’s Northeast coast, and the sand hills of North Carolina about 415 miles to the northwest, are four of the nation’s more revered golf resorts. They are: the Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa in Florida; Sea Island Golf Resort in Georgia; Kiawah Island Golf Resort in South Carolina; and Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina.

Although each has its own personality and amenities that set them apart, each of these high-end resorts basically market to the same audience. And while executives from each resort publicly say they don’t pay much attention to the competition their actions are to the contrary.

Kiawah Island Golf Resort and Sea Island, for example, are each building new luxury golf cottages. Furthermore, Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa in 2017 opened the PGA Tour Performance Center, while Sea Island will open its new Golf Performance Center this spring.

Meanwhile, Pinehurst this past fall opened its renovated No. 4 Course, along with a par-3 course called The Cradle, while Sea Island this past summer opened its 18-hole Driftwood putting course on the ocean side of The Lodge. In addition, this past December the resort embarked on a full re-design of its Plantation Course by Sea Island residents Davis Love III and Mark Love.

Depending on how you keep score, Sea Island’s plans for 2019 and beyond might be the most ambitious. The $25-plus million enhancement program at The Lodge at Sea Island includes six new guest cottages; the Driftwood putting course; an oceanfront pool and pool house; an expanded driving range tee; and a new putting green and short game area.

Five of the cottages feature two bedrooms and a living room and one larger cottage features four bedrooms and a living room. As with all other accommodations at The Lodge—a man-cave of sorts that looks out over the Seaside and Plantation Course—guests in the cottages will have personal butler service.

“The new cottages provide an additional and different accommodation offering, with living rooms and fireplaces, and a cozy cottage feel,” said Scott Steilen, president and CEO of Sea Island. “The Driftwood Course adds a fresh and fun dimension during the day and evening for guests who may rarely play as well as for seasoned golfers. It creates a relaxed and fun environment that serves as an additional activity for golfers, a team building activity for groups, or an after-dinner activity for families. The hope is that more people will be attracted to the game through activities like this.”

The new Golf Performance Center at Sea Island will provide what Steilen calls “an unparalleled holistic experience.” It will include the latest technology, six instruction and club fitting bays, a putting studio designed by world-renowned putting instructor Phil Kenyon—who serves as the director of putting instruction at Sea Island—a full-service golf club workshop, fitness center with locker rooms, a retail area, and indoor and outdoor meeting and event spaces.

This renovation project furthers the renaissance of Sea Island, which features The Cloister at Sea Island; The Lodge at Sea Island; The Spa at Sea Island; and the Georgian Room restaurant. The resort’s Seaside golf course, designed by Harry Colt and Walter Travis, is one of the country’s more revered layouts.

Sea Island—part of Southeast Georgia’s “Golden Isles” of barrier islands—fell on hard times in the recession of 2008 and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2010. That same year, the Sea Island Company, it’s parent firm, was acquired by a consortium of investors for a reported $212 million. In 2016, the consortium was bought out by billionaire Philip Anschutz, who owns The Broadmoor resort in Colorado Springs, for an undisclosed price.

Also in 2016, The Cloister underwent a $40 million expansion of its original Addison Mizner design that added 63 rooms to the “Garden Wing” of the Mediterranean-style hotel, as well as a 5,000 square-foot ballroom.

“This is another very exciting time at Sea Island,” said Steilen of the latest renovations and additions. “Rather than resting on our laurels of being consistently ranked among the top hotels in the country, we are taking these steps to transform the overall experience and expand the appeal of The Lodge. When combined with the additional recreational amenities and access to all that Sea Island has to offer, we believe The Lodge will become an unequaled destination for a luxury golf experience or couples’ getaway.”

Steve Pike
Hotel Interactive® Editorial Division

Bio: Steve Pike is an award-winning golf writer and author who helped define golf business reporting in the early 1990s as the first Golf Business Editor for Golfweek magazine and later at Golf World and Golf Shop Operations magazines for Golf Digest. Pike further pioneered this genre at the PGA of America and Time Warner as the golf business writer and editor for PGA.com. He started in newspapers more than ...
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