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The Best of the Best 2003: U.S. Golf Resorts – The Lodge at Sea Island

Driving down the elegant Avenue of Oaks and pulling into the courtyard entrance of the Lodge at Sea Island is reminiscent of arriving at an English manor that has been in the same family since Tudor times. That is, until the bellman opens the car door and welcomes you with a distinctive Georgia greeting: “How ya doin’?”

This often amusing mix of continental elegance and down-home Southern hospitality is just part of the reason why the Lodge has quickly risen to the pinnacle of American golf resorts. With the resort’s three delightfully different golf courses and warm coastal climate, you could be happy in Sea Island if you were staying in a double-wide. Well, almost.

Fortunately, the accommodations are equal to the surroundings. Unlike many modern-day golf destinations, the Lodge is not a production-line hotel. There are just 40 rooms and suites in the Lodge, which resembles a gabled and shingled Newport “cottage.” The public rooms are sumptuous, and the bedrooms upstairs are simply superb. No dressed-up, cookie-cutter concrete boxes here: Each room has been individually decorated, with Oriental rugs softening the hardwood floors and rich tapestries covering the sofas and the chaises, and the bathrooms feature polished marble, English-style fixtures, and deep soak tubs. A butler is assigned to each small group of rooms, ever ready to fetch ice or a newspaper, or make a dinner reservation.

The golf is equally appealing. Each of the three Sea Island Golf Club’s courses has undergone a complete renovation in recent years, a courageous decision considering that visitors had been enjoying the place in its original state since 1927. But Bill Jones III, the third-generation owner of the Cloister resort, knew he had to keep up with the times, so the bulldozers were called in.

Rees Jones took the old Plantation and Retreat nines and combined them into a cohesive and pleasurable whole, the new Plantation course. Tom Fazio tore up the old Seaside and Marshside nines and rerouted them into the new Seaside course while maintaining the distinctive upswept bunkers and the heroic carries over the salt marshes. Finally, local resident Davis Love III remade the already tricky St. Simons Island Club course into the even more difficult Retreat course.

The Lodge at Sea Island, 800.732.4752, www.golflodge.com

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