Imagine that you have the means to live in a community filled with golf, low-country charm, exquisite dining, and proximity to a bushel of outdoor activities. The residents of the Kiawah Island Club are fortunate to know these amenities. They have worked long hours to yield the opportunity to consider a residence in this extraordinary community. The only remaining question, after a visit, is why one might choose to live anywhere else. After a recent visit, I have no good counter to a simple, “Yes!”
An illusion exists that Kiawah Island lies adjacent to the mainland south of Charleston, South Carolina. This is not the case. It is a healthy, 45-minute drive from the Route 17 turn-off to the gates of the Club. The miles are spent viewing Antebellum buildings and the wondrous flora unique to the region.
We turned left off Route 17 a bit below Charleston, but a comfortable initiation awaited before reaching our destination. Live oaks enveloped our route as we breezily traversed the low country of South Carolina along the path that leads to Kiawah Island. Nearly the entirety of John’s Island must be crossed, followed by a sliver of Seabrook Isle, prima di arrivare, in a remote place known for equal-parts solitude and mass attention.
Kiawah Island, the resort, has hosted major events on the world golf stage. Aficionados remember the 1991 Ryder Cup matches and the 2012 PGA Championship. Denizens anticipate gentle sunrise walks along a familiar path, long sunsets on a porch, and comforting meals from intimate ingredients. Kiawah Island Club, the association, is a space apart that should appeal to all who find its way.
For the golfing iluminati, the double draw of the Cassique and River courses at the Kiawah Island Club is irresistible. Designed by an acclaimed golfer (Tom Watson) and a recognized architect (Tom Fazio), respectively, each is as much a product of the land as it is of the hand. Each course lies low under the sky, although both surprise with an occasional turn of elevation. Both have been tested in battle, as the club was the site of the 2009 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship, the second of four won by U.S. Walker Cup stalwart Nathan Smith. Both refuse to rest on any laurels. Reevaluation is a constant in an effort to offer members and guests the most enjoyable and complete tests of golf.
The Cassique is situated near the beginning of Kiawah Island, and it’s home to the Performance Center, Tom’s Pub, and the Voysey’s dining room. The River Course, located deeper into the island, offers a casual dining facility of its own for post-round consumption. Farther still beyond these two layouts awaits The Beach Club, a stunning point of relaxation with an infinity pool looking out over the marsh and delicious, casual fare.
The River Course moves among the oak trees that anchor the South Carolina lowlands. The brilliance of Tom Fazio’s routing exists in the width of the fairways. One encounters a variety of playing angles on each hole and never feels the claustrophobia that frequently accompanies a tree-lined course.
The course is filled with gentle doglegs among its longer holes. The fairways move around sand traps and over a few water hazards. The River Course closes with three unforgettable holes, moving toward, then along, the Kiawah River. Schedule your rounds for the afternoon here, and you’ll watch the sunset glisten across the 18th green, toward the waterway.
The Cassique Course, designed by Tom Watson and staff, contrasts with its sister layout in the tree department, of which there are few. Cassique was developed as an homage to an Irish links, and earth was pushed up and lowered to recreate the hills and dells found on the Emerald Isle. One of the highest points in the county is the No. 5 tee at Cassique, and the views across the course are unimpeded and breathtaking. From the summit, golfers relive holes already played and others yet to come.
Cassique is unique in its ability to play differently on different days. Not just the weather or the conditioning, but the brilliant foresight to include different routings of holes from different tees. The aforementioned No. 5 tee can be played to a par-3 or a par-4; the previous green can play in multiple ways. The three renderings are Pulpit, Nip and Tuck, and Due East. I recommend that you experience them in person to fully understand their subtleties.
At the far end of the Cassique practice range, a new building anticipates the arrival and return of members who wish to improve their games. The Performance Center was finished in 2017, and it supplies each student with every imaginable tool for game improvement. Three garage-door bays open onto the spacious practice field, allowing for practice and instruction on the island’s most challenging weather days.
A skilled instructional staff, led by Golf Magazine Top-100 Teacher Carol Preisinger, manipulates the most current equipment for identifying tendencies and enhancing the golf swing. Among these are:
- TrackMan4, using Doppler radar for ball flight measurement;
- SAM PuttLab, which captures and analyzes roughly 30 data points to help you perfect your motion with the flat stick;
- FocusBand, a neurofeedback component that takes the student out of the physical and toward the mental aspect of the game;
- Foresight GCQuad, similar to TrackMan, but focused on the impact location of the club and ball;
- MySwing, a technology that tracks the movements of the body through critical swing positions, ultimately rendering a multi-dimensional image at each of these stages.
Instructors at the club are trained not only in implementation of these devices, but also in the storage and dissemination of data. Tendencies, successes, and failures will be stored and delivered to each student, so that a complete understanding of state and goal are at the ready. Could you ask for more?
Sasanqua is a species of Camellia flower commonly found in China and Japan. It is also the name of the Kiawah Island Club Spa, located near the River Course. Secluded on a peninsula that juts into the Kiawah River and designed by Irish architect Clodagh, the Sasanqua offers time away, physically and spiritually: time intended to relax and recapture.
Our time at Sasanqua was dedicated to a deep-tissue massage. Full disclosure: it was the Mrs. who undertook this demanding assignment, and she is extraordinarily difficult to please. She found herself in dire straits with a troublesome lower back and hamstring issues that reduced her physical activity. After 60 minutes with a tiny, but powerful masseuse, the Mrs. had no words to describe what had happened. She did, however, have a complete release of all aches and restrictions. Score one large win for Sasanqua!
The Beach Club, far out on Kiawah, beyond even the storied Ocean Course of PGA Championship and Ryder Cup fame, is an ideal spot to have a light lunch or dinner, enjoy a bath in the infinity pool, and relax on beach chairs alongside the marsh. The River Course offers meals in its clubhouse pub, perfect for a quick nibble after a round of golf over the Fazio masterpiece.
It is the Cassique Clubhouse, however, that shines in memory for its dining options. Voysey’s is elegant, cozy, convenient, and more. Its offerings change every few days, and they range from comfort food done with a unique touch to classic steaks and seafood prepared with a blend of low-country attention and contemporary inspiration.
More disclosure: we are eaters of a simple essence. Each of our servers patiently guided us across the menus, pointing out options for appetizers, sides, and main dishes that would please our nascent palates. Thanks to their poise, we were able to comprehend the extent of the Voysey’s cuisine, and to add a few, daring branches to our dining tree.
There is so much to be said for the Charleston region. Temperatures rarely drop below 60 on average, and only in January-February. Having a few months of chilly weather might allow residents to appreciate even more the wonderful climate they inhabit. In the hottest months, proximity to the ocean ensures that temperatures never rise much above 90 degrees.
In my estimation, two principal types of families move to a facility like the Kiawah Island Club: those who want a comfortable community in which to raise children, and others who seek a lively space in which to live out their retirement years.
For both types, the gamut of activities available at the Kiawah Island Club has no equal. From fitness and friendships, to cuisines and comfort, the offerings of the entire community attend to every need that one might have. We’ve painted a thorough portrait herein, without even delving into housing options and the fitness center. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, a bit more reveals itself.
If you’ve heard of Kiawah Island from the major golf events at the resort, take a long look at the living in its private community, the Kiawah Island Club.