Jekyll Island, A Golfer's Paradise for a Million Reasons

Andy ReistetterAnalyst ISeptember 24, 2012

Author with Johnny Paulk... when you think golf, think jekyll Island and Johnny Paulk!
Author with Johnny Paulk... when you think golf, think jekyll Island and Johnny Paulk!

By Merri Daniel & Andy Reistetter, 9/22/12

Golf Writer Andy Reistetter is joined by Merri Daniel, golf's newest voice for women, as they share another intimate "stay & play" golfing experience. This exclusive "Play-Write" article encompasses a weekend visit to Jekyll Island, the State of Georgia's "Landmark Experience." Much has been written about its aesthetic, cultural and historical significance. These were the homes for Millionaires starting back in 1886. But what sense of being is found today on the island? Why does it attract so many visitors? Join Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, Daniel and Reistetter, yes Merri Daniel and Andy Reistetter, as they share their perspective of why Jekyll Island is today's destination of choice.

Walter Hagen once said "I never wanted to be a millionaire. I just wanted to live like one." The millionaires of the late 19th and early 20th centuries lived on Jekyll Island to escape winter and rejuvenate themselves. Today there is no need to be a millionaire, but there are a million reasons to come to Jekyll Island.

"It's different. It's just different," was what the man said to us when I asked him to describe Jekyll Island. After only a few hours on the island we knew that what he said is true. Jekyll Island is different. After a fabulous dinner in the Grand Dining Room of the Jekyll Island Club Hotel, Merri and I set out to stroll down the many sidewalks of the Historic District. We came upon the Sans Souci, rumored to be the first condominium project in the world, a segue between the rooms of the hotel and the opulence of the "cottages" of the millionaires.

The man was sitting on the front porch rocking away with his 16-year-old son. Rocking as in a rocking chair on the covered verandas, not as in musical gyrations though the beat of their father-son conversation was noteworthy. It was the peaceful tone of that conversation which attracted us to mosey over their way. As simple as being happy and fulfilled, we joined in with the rhapsodists. What we conversed about, whether it was the weather, the activities of the day or the splendor of experiencing Jekyll Island is forgotten. But the charm of Jekyll Island is not. Where else can you meet a stranger, share a moment and depart friends celebrating such a tranquil experience?

Well of course that can also happen on a golf course. Jack Lemmon, who told us the story of Bagger Vance said, "If you think it's hard to meet new people, try playing the wrong golf ball." Opportunities to play into other fairways are minimal due to the spatial world class design of the golf courses. Jekyll Island is "the World's first golf course designed with suitable tee locations for the entire family to enjoy the game of golf together." Perhaps a game of alternate shot is a course of design for fun and making more friends in the family?

Golf has been on Jekyll Island since 1898 and today boasts 63 holes and is the largest public golf resort in the state. That's three 18-hole courses and one 9-hole keepsake from the 1926 Walter Travis creation of "American Ocean Links" called the Great Dunes course. Oleander is a 1917 Donald Ross masterpiece redesigned in 1964 by Dick Wilson. Indian Mound was designed by Joe Lee in 1975. Pine Lakes is a 1968 Dick Wilson/Joe Lee design renovated in 2002 by Clyde Johnston. So if one is into name dropping, the golf architects of Jekyll Island are right up there in the world of golf as Rockefeller, Vanderbilt and Morgan are in the world of finance.

Like the quiet conversations on the front porch, you will find a great deal of humbleness and dedication behind the scenes on Jekyll Island. If you look into the concept of family tees on a golf course you will learn it was done under the direction of Johnny Paulk.

A living legend of Georgia golf, Paulk started as an Assistant Professional at East Lake Golf Club, home club of the legend in golf, Bobby Jones. On the wall outside his office hangs the letter Bobby Jones wrote on his behalf, recognizing Johnny as a personable, competent and industrious person and recommending him for a job. Of course Jones started the Masters Tournament a long time ago. Paulk announces the golfers as they approach the 18th green and is only the third person to do so. When you bring your family to golf on Jekyll Island, seek out Johnny Paulk for a story or two and learn something about the true essence of the game.

I said there were a million reasons to come to Jekyll Island. Here are Merri's Marvelous Moments of Jekyll Island. Ten of those million reasons to visit Jekyll Island:

10.   Staying at the Jekyll Island Club Hotel. "The room was capacious, the bed extra comfortable and the bathroom even had a window that opened to the flowery courtyard below."

9.  Golfing, it was fantastic. "Sorry I know it was mentioned before but from a women's perspective these golf courses are a lot of fun to play. Plus I love seeing up close the deer with their fawns."

8.   Riding bicycles around the island. "At the Club Hotel you can literally valet your car, walk a few steps and rent a bicycle to tour the island and get some exercise. I liked when we rode out to Driftwood Beach, what an interesting and beautiful place with fantastic views."

7.  Visiting the Commissary on Pier Road which was the General Store back in the 1920s. "Juliana, the owner has a private label of Georgia based food products. Georgia
Peaches and Vidalia Onions and Pecans are used to make delicious barbecue sauces, salad dressing, preserves, hot sauces, relishes, salsas and much more, which is quite extraordinary"

6.  Working on Jekyll Island. "Oops, we are not supposed to use that word but if you have to do that the new Jekyll Island Convention Center is the place to do it. It is oceanfront and there is an automatic positivity that comes to any event. A Beach Village retail center and three new hotels are planned."

5.   Visiting Faith Chapel. "Wow, the chapel is home to a treasured rarity- a signed stained glass windows by the famed artist Louis Comfort Tiffany. I am so excited that my daughter recently became engaged to be married to a wonderful guy. This would be a wonderful place for an intimate wedding celebration."

4.   Walking down to the Café Solterra at the Club Hotel to get some coffee. "Andy knows I need my coffee early in the morning. I love to pop down to the café to get some Starbucks coffee and bring Andy back a treat from the bakery."

3.   Taking the Historical District Tour starting at the Island History Center.  "Talk about going back in time, the only thing missing are the people. What gorgeous homes. It was as though we were joining the Rockefellers for the 1917 season. The antique Red Bug car they had was cool but I love driving the modern electric Red Bug around the island."

2.  Visiting the Georgia Sea Turtle Center. "Turtles are so cute in their hard shells. The ones in rehabilitation seem to have such personality. Not only are there sea turtles but diamondback terrapins too from the brackish water between the island and the main land. Since one of two turtles sited on the causeway are killed by motorists please drive slower and more carefully coming onto the island."

1.   Having dinner in the Grand Dining Room.  "Especially on a Saturday night, date night! The food was extraordinary, the people nicely accommodating and the desserts richly chocolate the way I like them.  My best tip is to have dinner early and take a leisurely romantic walk afterwards. Don't miss Sunday brunch as it is to die for. But eat late as you can before it ends at 2 p.m."

In reality maybe the reasons folks come to Jekyll Island today are very similar to the reasons the millionaires started coming 125 years ago. Sure we are curious about how they lived and what the insides of their homes looked like. Exploring the island and connecting with its natural beauty is a big part of the experience. Probably a bigger part, like that father and son rocking on the porch is connecting with ourselves and the people important to us in our lives whether friends or family. You don't have to be a millionaire. On Jekyll Island today it does not take long to decompress, relax and enjoy the ambiance of a special place. "It's different. It's just different."

The tag line in the Bagger Vance movie was "Some Things Can't Be Learned. They Must Be Remembered." Remembering things and creating new memories is easy to do when you spend a few nights on Jekyll Island. At least a million good thoughts and feelings will come your way. Enjoy!

p.s. Jekyll Island is "Celebrating 125 Years of History with a Year to Remember at the Jekyll Island Club Hotel." Dinner for two for $125 is available through the end of the year in the Grand Dining Room. In December any night in a Clubhouse or Traditional Room is $125 in the Club Hotel.


Merri Daniel is a Women's Golf Advocate in addition to being a Spokes Model for Vivacity Sportswear

Andy Reistetter is a freelance golf writer as well as a Spotter, Research and Broadcast Assistant for The Golf Channel, NBC and CBS Sports. A lifetime golfer, Andy enjoys volunteering at the World Golf Hall of Fame and THE PLAYERS while pursuing his passion for the game of golf and everything associated with it.

Residing within two miles of the PGA TOUR headquarters and the home of The PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, this golfing couple is focused on a number of entrepreneurial golf pursuits within the realm of "Outside the Ropes Entertainment."

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