Jekyll Island has been a golf destination since 1898, when members of the Jekyll Island Club constructed the first course on the island near what is now the present-day airport. Since then, golf course designers such as Donald Ross, Walter Travis, Dick Wilson and Joe Lee have used the natural landscape to create classic course designs highlighted by spectacular scenery.
The absence of any homes or development on Jekyll Island's four golf courses is a unique experience for today's golfer. Immerse yourself in nature, and focus on every shot with only an occasional disruption from deer, alligator, osprey or other wildlife.
Jekyll Island is Georgia's largest public golf resort with 63 holes on four golf courses, each offering players something a little different. From the historic links design of Walter Travis' Great Dunes, the family tees added onto Pine Lakes by Clyde Johnston, to the competition-ready Oleander, Jekyll Island Golf Club offers something for everyone to enjoy.
In difficult economic times, people are attracted to anything that offers a positive cost/ value relationship. From a golf standpoint, you won’t find many better bargains than those offered on Jekyll Island, where $45 will get you 18 holes and a cart on any of its three quality, well-conditioned courses, throughout the year. Jekyll Island offers the largest public golf facility in the state, with three 18-hole golf courses branching out from the clubhouse and a 9-holer that provides a bit of a peek into golf’s past.
All three courses have their advocates as to which is the best on the island, with all three used as sites for the many tournaments hosted by the facility. “It just depends on the group,” says Jekyll Island head PGA professional Rob Ellis. “People like the natural setting of all three courses, and I think that’s what stands out on all three.”
Pine Lakes and Indian Mound share several attributes because of their side by side setting, with Pine Lakes being a little more modern in terms of its bunkers, and Indian Mound getting much of its challenge from undulating greens
Due to the fact that Joe Lee had a hand in both layouts, sand will be a serious factor. Fairway bunkers are generally a modest concern off the tee, with Clyde Johnston’s renovations on Pine Lakes making them more in play for the longer hitters. Lee mixes up his green side bunker pattern on both designs increasing the need for accurate approach shots.
Both courses are fairly open off the tee, with water not a serious factor on a majority of the holes. However, the tree lines on Pine Lakes are dense in spots and errant tee shots will not be treated kindly. At 6,700 yards from the back tees, Pine Lakes is the longest of the trio, but is by no means a lengthy course, at least not until you reach the 18th hole. Accurate tee shots on all of the holes are required to score well. Pine Lakes measures 6,300 yards from the white tees and is a nice fit for mid handicappers, with the 18th the only hole with any serious length. Part of Johnston’s renovations involved installing several kid-friendly tees, and families who play golf together will find few (if any) courses that can accommodate younger players better.
Indian Mound is the shortest of the trio at 6,469 from the back tees, but is comparable length-wise from the next set at 6,221. The par 5's are more difficult than the modest yardage might suggest and only one of the par 3's can be considered a soft touch, with the par 4's offering a number of scoring opportunities to those able to take advantage of short shots into the greens.
Oleander is the oldest and generally considered the most difficult of the three courses, serving as the host course for the four years that the Georgia Open was played on Jekyll. Designed by Dick Wilson, one of golf’s most respected architects, Oleander is the oldest and most distinctive of the three courses. With its tight tree lined fairways and the abundance of water in play, Oleander is the testiest of the three layouts. Oleander measures a modest 6,521 yards from the back tees and 6,177 from the whites, but if you don’t keep it in the fairway the yardage numbers are irrelevant. One of the few holes where length is a concern is the par-4 12th, one of several holes that are exposed to the breezes coming off the ocean, with water very much in play for golfers of all ability levels. From the fairway, Oleander is not a particularly difficult layout, but keeping it in the short grass is a real task in itself, with the ability to shape shots from the tee a handy skill to possess.
For those who visit Jekyll with their golf clubs, a stop in at the Great Dunes nine is not something to be missed. The course features several holes with some of the smallest greens you will ever encounter, one of the most unique par 5s in existence, and one of the most difficult par 3's without water you’ll ever play. Great Dunes represents what is left of Jekyll’s original layout of 100-plus years ago and is a real treasure because of the glimpse it provides of golf from a bygone era.