As a golf destination, Savannah is often overshadowed by its more famous neighbor, Hilton Head Island. But although the golf complement to this alluring Southern city may lack national acclaim, the area’s top courses resonate with authentic coastal character. Plus, they’re easily accessible and relatively affordable.
Savannah itself—equal parts colonial, antebellum and up to date—is a cultural destination that’s not to be missed. With boutique shopping, galleries, centuries-old architecture and a sense of culinary sophistication, personality drips from Savannah like the loose curtains of Spanish moss hanging from its gothic oaks. The romantic notion of a city shrouded in mystery isn’t a notion at all: It’s what Savannah is.
The city is also the point of departure into a vanishing Lowcountry—specifically, the sparsely populated Daufuskie Island. Traveling down the Savannah River toward Daufuskie Island Resort and its two scenic courses can seem like a trip back in time. It evokes an era when golf in the Lowcountry was about executing shots in idyllic marshland settings, not playing through faceless housing developments. This is a retreat into the heart of a wonderfully preserved area, a journey to the unspoiled South.
Day One Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport is well served from most East Coast cities and located just ten miles from downtown. Once in Savannah, head to the historic district and check into the Mansion on Forsyth Park, a two-year-old, 126-room hotel built as a private residence in 1888. The hotel doubles as an art gallery, with more than four hundred pieces of classical and contemporary European and American art hung throughout its hallways. Themed exhibits are often mounted in the Grand Bohemian Gallery, which is just off the lobby.
Once you’ve settled in, drive twenty-five minutes southeast across the Intracoastal channels to the Wilmington Island Club for a smooth indoctrination into Lowcountry golf. Donald Ross designed the course, which opened in 1927, as an amenity to the former Oglethorpe Hotel (now a luxury condominium complex), and though there have been minor alterations to the layout over the years, it retains a charming pre–World War II feel. The routing is folded neatly into an asymmetrical tree-lined property. Although the course’s push-up greens make for challenging targets, its ample fairways allow you to find your swing without unduly impacting your scorecard. This classic theme of wide fairways and demanding greens will be played out under increasingly tight conditions over the coming days.
For dinner, head to Sapphire Grill, tucked into a narrow, multilevel space near River Street. This cozy restaurant offers Southern-inspired entrées as well as à la carte selections of prime beef, lamb, pork and local seafood.
Day Two Cross over the Talmadge Memorial Bridge to Hutchinson Island, the body of land across the river, en route to the Club at Savannah Harbor. Bob Cupp’s low-slung design roams the island’s open ground between pockets of riparian buffers and, by changing directions often, exposes players to wind off the river from a variety of angles. There’s plenty of room to drive the ball aggressively, but at such holes as the 533-yard fourth and the 447-yard sixth, the greens are pinched by diagonal bunker clusters and encroaching wetlands. Cupp’s visual treatment of the design extends to grand, off-course focal points—the looming Westin hotel, the bridge’s towering superstructure and suspension cables, and the golden dome of Savannah’s city hall. The architect skillfully uses these landmarks as targets and dramatic backdrops.