Sea Island’s Seaside course has all the great elements of Lowcountry and coastal golf

Perhaps the most telling aspect of a quality and overall appeal of a golf destination or community is the number of PGA Tour players that call the location their home or at least their home base. Such is the case with Sea Island, the resort at the southern tip of Georgia’s St. Simons Island where no less that 16 Tour members live, train or play on a regular basis.  

Sea Island, long considered to be one of the best golf resorts in the Southeast let alone the entire United States, has three courses on its property – Seaside, Plantation and Retreat – and all are wonderful choices. 

Seaside and Plantation play host to the PGA Tour’s RSM Classic from Nov. 17-20 this season, with both courses used for the first two days of the Fall Series event before those that make the cut move exclusively to Seaside for the final two rounds. 

The RSM Classic has been a permanent fixture on the PGA Tour since its birth as the McGladrey Classic in 2010 but the resort has been a favorite of golfers since the first course was built here in 1927. Through the years, Sea Island has hosted events big and small, including tournaments on all levels, from the collegiate to the professional levels. 

Sea Island has been a magnet for celebrities and the well-heeled for generations, with its call of the genteel in a wild setting. Its backdrops are the most exquisite of waterfront vistas, maritime forests and rolling dunes. 

Photos of the famous and non-so-famous line the walls of the resort’s properties, along with other, lesser lights: women in old-time bathing suits romping in the surf, wealthy businessmen and dignitaries planting ceremonial trees, others just digging the scene – and golfers, plenty of them, all with smiles on their sun-splashed faces. 

Sea Island: Seaside

The Seaside Course

Seaside was designed initially by Golden Age architects Harry S. Colt and Charles Alison in 1929. The course today is a Tom Fazio re-design in which he tied the resort’s original Seaside Nine (Colt and Alison) with the Marshside Nine (designed by Joe Lee in 1974) to create a totally new 18-hole course. 

According to area resident Davis Love III, Fazio’s work transformed the two nines from “18 holes that didn’t match into 18 matchless holes.” 

Fazio emphasized many of Colt’s earmarks in the rework, keeping the smallish putting surfaces, the big clamshell bunkers and exposed sand dunes that bring the wind into play throughout. The redesign also removed hundreds of trees and reintroduced sandy waste areas to give Seaside, which plays as 7,005 yards and a par-70 from the tips, a more rugged appearance. 

During your round on Seaside, you’ll find tee boxes that are slightly elevated, offering excellent views of the Intracoastal Waterway, St. Simons Sound and marshes as far as the eye can see that change colors with the seasons and serve as both challenging obstacles and an aesthetically pleasing backdrop. 

The stunning coastal property where Seaside resides sports numerous water hazards and some captivating views of the Atlantic Ocean with soft shapes and contours throughout the layout. While the site is essentially flat, the holes cut attractively through tidal marsh areas and, on the back nine, briefly skirt the Intracoastal Waterway.  

And then there are towering longleaf pines, sleepy native oaks, and putting surfaces that are both devilish and flawless. 

Wayward tee shots on the front nine will often find water or marsh area that will forever claim your ball. The back nine has sandy and natural areas and is considered by many to be the better of the two sides. Seaside demands conviction from the golfer, particularly when the winds off the Atlantic roar up and makes themselves felt. 

If you have trouble with long carries you’d be advised to move up to the middle or forward tees as this oceanside course places a premium on careful shot selection, recovery, and putting. 

Even the pros are tested by the fourth hole, a 421-yard par-4 that plays as the most difficult on the course. Water rests to the right of the fairway and marsh area tightly hugs the left, with a bunker guarding the outside corner of the dogleg-left to tighten the driving zone. The approach is to a heavily undulated green protected by a bunker along the entire left side and mounding around the rest of the putting surface. 

Players can likely get back a stroke at the sixth, a straight forward 164-yard one-shotter with a large kidney-shaped green semi-folded around a medium-sized bunker fronting the putting surface. 

Perhaps the best stretch of holes at Seaside is Nos. 13-17. On the par-4, 409-yard 13th the routing takes the golfer towards the ocean. A trio of bunkers on this dogleg-left run up the right side of the hole and the marsh lays on the left. An additional bunker spills out of a sand dune on the right side of the hole 20 yards short of the green while a final bunker fronts the putting surface. 

The 407-yard 14th hole is the nearest point to the salt water on the course and provides an intriguing, yet simple, challenge. The dogleg-right plays to a fairway that slopes right to left while also featuring a bunker and a pair of trees protecting the corner. The fairway tightens to half its former width towards the bunker-less putting surface that features mounding to create intriguing playing options if the green is missed. 

The only par-5 on the back is the 545-yard 15th, which begins the march away from the ocean. A bunker protects the near side of the dogleg while another bunker sits on the far side of the turn in the fairway and asks for a right-to-left shot to find the premium position. The approach plays between a set of trees before chasing up to the green that is pinched tightly in front by a pair of bunkers. The nearer shots are to the green, the closer a pond encroaches in from the left. The hole is reachable in two but the green is well protected and will reward only the finest of shots. 

No. 17 plays at 176 yards and straight toward St. Simons Sound to a shallow putting surface that sits at an angle away from the player with the front left corner being the nearest point to the tee and the back right corner being the furthest. With the hole location and the wind speed dictating everything on this hole, a lot can happen down the final stretch at Seaside

The Seaside course is classic Lowcountry golf in a remarkable and picturesque setting. It’s ranked by Golf Digest as the 36th best public course in America and is must-play for fans of both coastal golf and classic-turned-modern course design. 

Sea Island: Seaside

Sea Island’s Plantation course

Rated among the best in the United States in the “World’s 50 Best Golf Hotels” by Golf Digest, Sea Island is a lot more than just the Seaside course. 

The Plantation course winds enticingly through marsh and forest, while the Retreat Course offers a uniquely dramatic and challenging design. Both were designed by Davis Love III, his brother Mark and the Love Golf Design team. 

The recently renovated Plantation course takes elements from both the original Plantation nine holes as designed by Rees Jones and historical elements of the property itself to create a course that can be enjoyed by golfers of all levels and that can be maintained at modern standards. 

The Plantation course plays at 7,060 yards and is a par-72 and unfolds among a forest of ancient live oak and cedar, with a hint of danger lurking in its tidal creeks and lakes. The track boasts expansive fairways that give definition and showcase beautiful views of the Atlantic Ocean. Its edges are defined in places by blooming flowers, and it’s chock full of lush natural scenery. 

Commonly referred to as a second-shot course, Plantation’s multi-tiered greens make putting a real test if the approach is off target and to the wrong segment. 

The course begins with a pair of friendly, straightaway par 4s before offering a challenging par-3 third hole that plays at 219 yards from the championship tees.  This is the theme at Plantation, as difficult holes are dotted amidst those providing scoring opportunities. 

Some of the more memorable holes at Plantation are the picturesque 10th, a challenging par-4 that’s nestled nicely between The Lodge and the Sea Island Sound, as well as the 8th and 18th, two risk/reward reachable par-5s where solid tee shots tempt the golfer to attack the water and bunker-guarded greens in two. 

The variety of shots required and abundance of water hazards (11 of the 18 holes feature water) result in an entertaining, yet challenging layout.

Sea Island: Plantation

The Retreat course

The Retreat course plays at 6,735 yards and is a par-72, and it was originally fashioned by Dick Wilson in the 1950s, renovated by Joe Lee in 1974 and re-designed by Love III and Mark Love in 2001. The team added 300 yards of length to the back tees but also widened the fairways to make the course more playable. 

The land on which the Retreat is routed is relatively flat but it is beautifully defined by the large pine trees and strategic bunkering. Several holes are lined by water and give the golfer an opportunity to bite off as much or as little as he or she wants. 

Its greens complexes are rife with sand bunkers, slope and undulations, presenting golfers with a truly testing experience and offering a variety of shots. 

The short par-4 sixth hole is likely the Retreat’s signature offering. It’s drivable from the tee for longer hitters but requires a carry across water to reach the front edge of a three-tiered green that leans to the right with a valley in the center. 

The Retreat course might not be the most famous of the three offerings at Sea Island, but it is very playable and a great option on which to start your golf vacation at the venerable and fun-in-bunches resort. 

Sea Island: Retreat


With a golf vacation that is anchored by PGA Tour-level golf with the Seaside and Plantation courses and complemented with a relaxing setting on the Retreat course, Sea Island is the perfect hub for any golfer looking to enjoy some of the best offerings of the Lowcountry.  During your stay, you’ll have the ability to stay at one of the finest resorts in the world with multiple lodging options available. 

We often find that golf groups like to stay at The Lodge due to its adjacency to most of the golf offerings, luxurious accommodations, the Speedway Putting Course, the state-of-the-art Performance Center and one of the best Men’s Locker Rooms you will find anywhere.  The Lodge also features a series of Cottages onsite that are perfect for the group looking to stay all under one roof during your stay. 

We love The Lodge as an option for you and your group, but the resort has so many other great options too that you really can’t go wrong.  The Cloister, a Forbes Five Star resort just like The Lodge has been recognized to be, is the epitome of Southern luxury and comfort and a must-visit location even if your group stays over at The Lodge.  There are also adjacent Beach Club accommodations available, and for larger groups you can inquire about other Cottages and Homes that are available for rent during your stay. 

Finally, if you’re looking for a more affordable option, Sea Island offers The Inn is an incredible option as these well-appointed rooms are extremely comfortable and more affordable if you are looking to save a buck. 

Sea Island is one of those places that groups and families come back to for generations, so we recommend switching up your accommodations when you come back for later trips.  Overall, you cannot go wrong with a golf trip to Sea Island and your group will be glad you picked this Southern gem for your next golf getaway.