Golf legend Arnold Palmer once said, “What other people may find in poetry or art museums, I find in the flight of a good drive.”
Many golfers express similar sentiments about picturesque seaside golf courses. When you merge the natural beauty of the ocean with lush, green fairways, the result is an inspiring turf masterpiece.
The Southern U.S. has some of the nation’s most scenic and iconic oceanfront golf courses. Fortunately, too, they’re located at meetings-oriented resorts or near exciting meetings destinations. Here are some of the best waterside beauties in the South.
Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Resort, S.C.
Designed by golf architect icon Pete Dye, the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Resort has more waterside holes than any other course in the Northern Hemisphere, with 10 directly along the Atlantic Ocean and the other eight parallel to those.
“In addition to the unique and beautiful setting, what makes the Ocean Course so popular is that players of all skill levels can have an enjoyable round if they play the tee length that matches their skill levels,” said Brian Gerard, director of golf for Kiawah Island Resort. “Elevating the experience is a walking caddie program that’s truly unmatched.”
Situated 21 miles from historic Charleston, S.C., Kiawah Island Resort has hotel, villa and private home accommodations, 35,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space and four other courses: Turtle Point, Osprey Point, Oak Point and Cougar Point.
Palmilla Beach Golf Club, Port Aransas, Texas
Located along the Gulf of Mexico, the Palmilla Beach Golf Club at Palmilla Beach Resort near Corpus Christi is the only true links-style course in Texas.
“Palmilla Beach was designed by Arnold Palmer, and it has three holes that run along the ocean and three that frame Corpus Christi Bay,” said Chris Thomas, general manager for the Palmilla Beach Golf Club. “No matter how many times you play here, with the wind and the links style layout, it will feel like your first time.”
Palmilla Beach Resort, a 40-minute drive from Corpus Christi, has condo, villa and home accommodations and can handle group golf events for 16 to 130 players.
Kiva Dunes Golf Club, Gulf Shores, Ala.
Designed by former U.S. Open champion Jerry Pate, Kiva Dunes takes full advantage of the magnificent oceanside terrain in Gulf Shores, a popular coastal meetings destination in Alabama.
“The mass appeal to most players is the uniqueness of Kiva Dunes,” said Mark Stillings, general manager at Kiva Dunes. “It has much more of a seaside links feel than most other courses in our region. The course has spectacular beauty with native vegetation, sand dunes, plenty of wildlife, undulating greens, links-style bunkering and the common presence of wind.”
For meetings, Gulf Shores has several waterfront properties with meeting space, 15,000 total guest rooms, 14 other golf courses and a wide range of restaurants.
Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club, Naples, Fla.
Opened in 1929, the Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club course, located across the street from the Gulf of Mexico, is a legendary Southwest Florida layout. It recently received a $9 million redesign and reconfiguration by golf architects John Sanford and Jack Nicklaus.
“The course has been totally redesigned and modernized to stand up to today’s equipment and technology,” said John Sanford, president of Sanford Golf Design. “It was a great pleasure working with Jack Nicklaus, who played the course when he was 10 years old. It’s a fun and exciting layout.”
Set on a white sandy beach, the 319-room Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club has 34,000 square feet of meeting space and outdoor and beachfront venues for special events.
Harbour Town Golf Links, Hilton Head Island, S.C.
Since its opening in the late 1960s, this Pete Dye/Jack Nicklaus design emerged as a top “bucket list” course for golfers everywhere. Incorporating spectacular water views, towering pines and moss-draped oaks, Harbour Town Golf Links is one of America’s great golf experiences.
“With the iconic red-and-white-striped lighthouse standing sentinel behind the 18th green, golfers walk up the fairway of the famous finishing hole along the Calibogue Sound and know they’re playing a course that’s truly special,” said Cary Corbitt, vice president of sports and operations at Sea Pines Resort.
Encompassing 5,000 oceanfront acres, Sea Pines Resort has inn, villa and private home accommodations, 20,000 square feet of meeting space, including the 10,000-square-foot Harbour Town Clubhouse, and two other courses: Heron Point by Pete Dye and Atlantic Dunes by Davis Love III.
Ocean Links at Omni Amelia Island Plantation, Amelia Island, Fla.
“The fact that Ocean Links has five holes directly on the ocean is really special since most courses that are set on the ocean only have two ocean holes, if they’re lucky,” said Mike Block, director of golf at Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort. “What makes Ocean Links extra special is the varying elevation changes from the tee boxes to the fairway and from the tee box to the green.”
Located 29 miles from Jacksonville International Airport, the 1,350-acre Omni Amelia Island Plantation has 404 oceanfront hotel rooms, 300 villas, 80,000 square feet of meeting space and two other courses: Oak Marsh and Long Point.
Seaside Course at Sea Island Resort, Georgia
Reached by causeway from St. Simons Island, Sea Island is an ideal location for a seaside golf course. The native vegetation and expansive ocean panoramas give golfers an exceptional setting.
“Our aptly named Seaside course is our most requested and prestigious golf course at the resort,” said James Gibson, vice president of operations, hotels and golf at Sea Island Resort. “It’s home to the annual RSM Classic, an official PGA TOUR event, and it has stunning vistas of the ocean and our tidal marshes.”
Sea Island Resort has 390 guest rooms and 87,000 square feet of meeting space, including several venues with oceanside, riverside or garden views, and two other courses: Retreat and Plantation.
Great Southern Golf Club, Gulfport, Miss.
Set near downtown Gulfport, the Great Southern was designed by Scotsman Donald Ross in 1908. It recently upgraded its landscaping, irrigation systems and green approaches.
“On the oldest course in Mississippi, you’ll find sweeping views of the Mississippi Sound, a historical setting surrounded by majestic oaks, and a clubhouse with the 1908 Bar & Grill,” said Craig Mackay, sports development manager for Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast. “We recommend the course for groups of all sizes and it has reasonable day and weekend rates.”
The Mississippi Gulf Coast region, which encompasses cities like Biloxi, Gulfport and Bay St. Louis, has more than 15,000 hotel rooms and other excellent golf courses designed by architects such as Jack Nicklaus, Tom Fazio and Davis Love III.