KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. — The boom years of development among the elite golf resort properties in the southeast rolls along. Many of the finest name-brand destinations, from Pinehurst to Sea Pines to Sea Island, continue to invest great sums into their golf courses and facilities to attract resort guests, not to mention new members and residents.
Already one of the region's largest and most luxurious golf getaways with five resort courses, Kiawah Island Resort has big upgrades in store prior to the 2021 PGA Championship. Resort officials unveiled a comprehensive "Kiawah 2.0" plan that will include numerous enhancements.
For golf travelers, the most noteworthy amenities are an entirely new 150-room inn and Cougar Point clubhouse, as well as the chance to finally stay right on the Ocean Course.
"These projects will be transformative for the resort and bring it into the next generation," said Roger Warren, President of Kiawah Island Resort.
Other amenities on deck are a chapel, conference center, a totally reimagined Night Heron Park and an expanded and centralized Roy Barth Tennis Center.
The announcement follows a thorough renovation of the resort's five golf courses since prior to the 2012 PGA Championship. All 90 holes were regrassed with Platinum Paspalum turf, while each course was also renovated to varying degrees.
Cougar Point, the 18-hole Gary Player design, is receiving a new clubhouse that will rival the Ocean. Designed by Robert A.M. Stern Architects, it will feature a grand lobby, full-service pro shop, locker rooms, and a 125-seat bar and sports tavern. It will address a potential weak spot Kiawah has for buddies groups: a signature sports bar (for now, the best option is the Osprey Point clubhouse, which has a BBQ menu and some TVs). The grand opening is expected in spring 2019.
More accommodations planned for resort
Already home to The Sanctuary, a 225-room luxury hotel, plus more than 400 luxury villa and home rentals, Kiawah Island Resort is planning a brand new hotel at the site of the original hotel in West Beach. The 150-room inn will be five-star in service and materials, but offer a more casual vibe compared to the more formal Sanctuary, where one may feel a little out of place moseying down the grand staircases in flip-flops or a tank top. The plan features multiple pools with casual dining, a two-story oceanfront restaurant, full-service spa and a grand boardwalk with 10 shops.
"The Sanctuary is the grand mansion," described Warren. "The Inn is a seaside home. Comfortable and less formal."
Kiawah Island already has 400-plus villa units for families and buddies trips, but for those groups in search of a truly elite home base, Kiawah is adding two, 4-bedroom cottages adjacent to the Ocean clubhouse. These will surely be the most coveted digs in town for the PGA Championship (corporate sponsors, start your bidding).
Ocean Course cottages
Kiawah Island is owned by Bill Goodwin, who also owns Sea Pines Resort in nearby Hilton Head Island, as well as Keswick Hall in Charlottesville, Va. (though all three are operated independently). Sea Pines has undergone significant upgrades in the past decade that included two excellent clubhouses and a total rebuild of the Ocean Course into Atlantic Dunes by Davis Love III. Keswick Hall, meanwhile, commissioned Pete Dye to totally rebuild the course into what is now Full Cry at Keswick Club.
Located about a 45-minute-drive from Charleston, Kiawah Island has a much more spacious and laid-back vibe compared to its coastal neighbors Myrtle Beach and Hilton Head Island, but it plays a huge role in area tourism. According to a study conducted by the College of Charleston's School of Hospitality and Management, Kiawah Island brings an estimated $200 million of annual impact, and they expect these enhancements to boost the number to $300 million annually, in addition to $200 million for the PGA Championship alone. The PGA Championship's move to May should also benefit Kiawah Island, as spectators and players shouldn't be so warm compared to August.
You can view full project details at KiawahResort.com/2-0
Video: Charlie Rymer visits Kiawah Island