Jekyll Island Club Resort

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In 1924, the USGA tested new steel clubs against the traditional hickory clubs at the Jekyll Island Club Resort’s Donald Ross course. These tests changed the game of golf.

The Jekyll Island Club Resort on Jekyll Island, Georgia, began as an exclusive Gilded Age private retreat for America’s wealthiest families in 1886, but today the barrier island resort community is open to all. Guests can choose from any of the fine accommodations in several beautiful historic hotels and access to beaches, contact sports, cycling, fine dining, spas, and – of course – a golf club. Today, Jekyll Island Club Resort guests are invited to take part in the heritage of the club. Along with tee times, there is a pro shop, private instruction for groups and individuals, and the island club can play host to private group contests and tournaments. (The Jekyll Island Club Resort itself was inducted into Historic Hotels of America in 1994.)

Travelers to Jekyll Island have played golf on its sandy courses for over 120 years: The first golf course at the resort was constructed in 1898, although its governing body—the Jekyll Island Golf Club—was founded four years prior. Nevertheless, the most historic golf course still in play on the island is the nine-hole, par 36 Great Dunes Course designed by Walter “Old Man” Travis in 1926. Travis was a championship amateur golfer, an Australian immigrant to the United States who worked as a writer between winning British, U.S., and Cuban tournaments throughout the Atlantic World. Most of his golf courses can be found in the Northeastern United States, but he built courses as far west as Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Jekyll Island Club Resort’s Great Dunes course is his southern-most achievement.

Jekyll Island resort also features three 18-hole par-72 courses designed in the late 1960s-early 1970s. These are the Pine Lake Course, designed in 1968 and renovated by Clyde Johnson in 2002; the Oleander Course designed by Dick Wilson in 1970; and the Indian Mounds Course designed by Joe Lee in 1975. Donald Ross, renowned course designer, contributed a course to the island resort in 1910, but his course was removed to give way for Dick Wilson’s Oleander Course. An apprentice of Old Tom Morris, Ross had trained at St. Andrews in the 1890s, and then spent most of his career and life in the United States. He eventually built dozens of iconic fairways throughout the United States, including Aronimink Golf Club, Seminole Golf Club, Oak Hill Country Club, and the celebrated Pinehurst No. 2. His influence on the game and its architecture continues to this day, on his historic courses and on new courses his designs inspired.

The Jekyll Island Club Resort is one of a few holiday destinations in the United States that the U.S. Secretary of the Interior has designated a National Historic Landmark District. In golf history, along with hosting notable figures and golf championships, it is significant because the United States Golf Association chose it as the site for equipment testing. In 1924, the USGA tested new steel clubs against the traditional hickory clubs. The Association also tested golf ball sizes and densities. These tests on Jekyll Island’s courses changed the game of golf. Along with historic preservation, wildlife conservation plays a role at the Jekyll Island Golf Club. All four courses are members of the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf, an education and certification program that helps golf courses protect the environment and preserve the natural heritage of the game of golf.

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