Jekyll Island Club Resort

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Discover the historic Jekyll Island Golf Club and its four prestigious golf courses: the Great Dunes Course, the Oleander Golf Course, the Pine Lakes Golf Course, and the Indian Mound Golf Course.

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The Jekyll Island Club Resort’s golf heritage dates back to 1894.

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The Jekyll Island Club Resort on Jekyll Island, Georgia, was once an exclusive retreat for America’s wealthiest families of the Gilded Age. But today, this fantastic historic resort is open to all. In addition to its historic guestrooms, guests have access to countless activities that range from spa visits to fine dining. However, visitors may also play a round on one of the resort’s four fantastic golf courses: the Great Dunes Course, the Oleander Golf Course, the Indian Golf Mound Couse, and the Pine Lakes Golf Course. All the courses are supervised by the resort’s Jekyll Island Golf Club—a magnificent facility that has a pro shop, private lessons, and tee time reservations. The Club can even host special tournaments if desired! Its heritage is quite remarkable, too, as it has served travelers to the Jekyll Island Club Resort for well over a century. Indeed, the first golf course at the resort debuted in 1898, but the Club itself was founded (and inducted into the United States Golf Association) four years earlier. Club member William K. Vanderbilt managed to convince Willie Dunn Jr.—the runner-up at the very first U.S. Open—to create the course on the resort’s behalf. Dunn used his limited expertise on golf course design to create a simple, yet charming, nine-hole course that traversed the grounds near the resort compound. Intent on making Jekyll Island a premier golf retreat, the resort even hired another professional golfer—Horace Rawlins—to be the supervisor for all club operations. (Ironically, it was Rawlins who defeated Dunn at the 1st U.S. Open.) Despite the picturesque qualities of Dunn’s original course, the members nonetheless grew tired of the design. To remedy the situation, the resort subsequently commissioned the renowned Donald Ross to revamp the location in 1910.

Unfortunately, the Ross course debuted incomplete, with some speculating that ongoing drainage problems had hampered its development. Nevertheless, the course was still an impressive site and helped elevate the prestige of the Jekyll Island Golf Club. One of its members, Secretary Cornelius Lee of the USGA, even managed to successfully petition the organization to allow the Club to help it experiment with new golf equipment. Perhaps the greatest round of testing on the course involved the first modern, steel-shafted clubs, which enhanced the drive and accuracy of hit balls. As a way to further capitalize on the Jekyll Island Golf Club’s mounting popularity, the resort decided to open another course at the height of the Roaring Twenties. The members specifically enlisted the help of amateur golfer Walter “Old Man” Travis, who had just designed the neighboring Plantation Course a few months prior. Travis subsequently worked hard on the course, but he died half-way through the project in 1927. Nevertheless, when the “Great Dunes Course” finally opened triumphantly a year later, it was quickly hailed as one of his best creations. The Jekyll Island Golf Club only continued to rise in importance, although America’s entry into World War II abruptly brought its ascent to an end. The Jekyll Island Club Resort actually closed from a shortage of labor and worries of a potential attack from the sea. While eventually reopened after the war was over, the fairways still remained closed.

With the lack of available resources to keep them maintained, both the Ross and Travis courses fell into disrepair. But the desire to save the resort’s golf heritage spawned a massive period of restoration. The historic Great Dunes Course was the first to undergo a significant renovation in 1955, which saw its nine gorgeous holes completely revitalized to their original appearance. Donald Ross’ course then became the target of an even larger renovation a decade later. The accomplished Dick Wilson specifically spearheaded the redesign in 1964, gradually transforming the Ross course into a challenging 6,521-yard construct known as the “Oleander Golf Course.” Wilson subsequently began work on a third series of fairways immediately thereafter alongside his longtime acolyte, Joe Lee. It was Lee who finished the project though, as Wilson had died while it was under development. This new course—the family-friendly “Pine Lakes Golf Course”—opened in 1968. Impressed, the resort commissioned Lee to develop its final course—the meandering Indian Mound Golf Course—during the mid-1970s. Together, the courses have since ensured that the Jekyll Island Golf Club has remained an elite destination for golf enthusiasts. Like the resort itself, the Club is also hailed prominently as an important cultural and historical itself. In fact, wildlife conservation plays an integral role at the Jekyll Island Golf Club. All four courses are members of the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf, an education program that helps golf courses protect the environment and preserve the natural heritage of the game of golf.

  • About the Location +

    Jekyll Island today is a state park managed by the Jekyll Island Authority on behalf of the Georgia state government. Easily accessible from the mainland by way of the Sidney Lanier Bridge, millions of people visit the island every year. It features many popular cultural attractions, including the Georgia Sea Turtle Center. Founded in 2007, this fantastic facility is Georgia’s only sea turtle rehabilitation center. Yet, Jekyll Island was not always a state-run park. The first known inhabitants of Jekyll Island were Native Americans part of the Gaule tribe, who resided along the Georgia coastline centuries before the arrival of the English. While they called the area “Ospo Island,” the Gaule Indians mainly used the location as a spot to hunt and fish. When the English landed on nearby St. Simons Island in the 1730s, Jekyll Island remain largely unpopulated. It was not until a Frenchman named Christophe DuBignon purchased most of the arable land on the island that it finally had permanent residents. Fleeing the outbreak of the French Revolution, DuBignon chose Georgia as the place of his exile during the early 1790s. He subsequently bought dozens of acres on Jekyll Island for the creation of a grand plantation. DuBignon’s descendants operated the estate throughout the antebellum, until the American Civil War bankrupted their enterprise. Seeking a way to distance themselves from the failing enterprise, the family eventually sold the plantation to Newton Finney in 1886.

    Jekyll Island is specifically one of Georgia’s Golden Isles, which themselves are part of a much larger geographic location known as the Sea Islands. Stretching from Jacksonville to Charleston, the Sea Islands are a beautiful chain of barrier islands that protect the coastline for much of the southeastern United States. The Golden Islands of Georgia are specifically a group of four islands that consist of St. Simons Island, Little St. Simons Island, Sea Island, and of course, Jekyll Island. They are also home to Historic Brunswick, a coastal city that English colonists under the control of James Oglethorpe first settled during the 1730s. Like the rest of the settlements in colonial Georgia, the English intended to use the Golden Islands as a bastion against incursions from Spanish Florida to the south. Brunswick was formally founded in 1771, just four years before the start of the American Revolution. It then went on to become one of the five major ports of entry by decree of George Washington during his first presidential term. Brunswick itself then lost some of its national importance as the country grew, although it became an important site for the construction of merchant marine ships in World War II. Much of Brunswick’s rich heritage is preserved today within its nationally recognized Old Town Historic District.


  • About the Architect +

    Donald Ross: Few other golf course designers have had such an impact on the sport of golf than the legendary architect Donald Ross. Born in Dornoch, Scotland, Ross’ legendary career began when he apprenticed under Old Tom Morris at historic St. Andrews during the late 1890s. He harnessed several important skills from Morris that ranged from club maintenance to landscaping. Ross then used his education to parlay a job at the Royal Dornoch Golf Club near his childhood home. Unfortunately for Ross, the pay was abysmal. With the encouragement of Scottish expat named Robert W. Willson, Ross decided to try to find more rewarding work at one of the many new professional golf facilities that had started opening across the United States. Willson subsequently financed Ross’ trip across the Atlantic in 1899, who helped him settle down just outside of Boston, Massachusetts. Ross accepted a job as the resident golf pro at the Oakley Country Club, where he left an immediate impression upon its members. Word soon spread of his talents, which eventually attracted the attention of prominent businessperson James Walker Tufts. In the midst of developing the resort town “Pinehurst” within the North Carolina sandhills, Tufts decided to hire Ross to head the new settlement’s golf club. Ross headed south that winter, although not without some cajoling from friends who doubted the entire endeavor.

    Nevertheless, Ross went to work in 1901, serving as the primary golf instructor for a single, 18-hole course created a few years prior by Dr. Leroy Culver and John Dunn Tucker. Ross decided to completely renovate its fairways after conferring with Tufts, thus jumpstarting the work on the future Pinehurst No(s). 1 – 4 over the next two decades. Over time, they quickly became the treasures that Tufts had originally envisioned. Their success further catapulted Ross’ reputation throughout the United States, inspiring many other destinations to hire him to design their respective courses. In all, Ross would create (and redesign) over 400 unique golf courses across the country, with some of his most notable being at the Seminole Golf Club, Oak Hill Country Club, and the Aronimink Golf Club. Ross was also commissioned to renovate the second golf course at the Jekyll Island Golf Club in 1910. He subsequently transformed the layout into a stunning system of 18 different holes that blended in seamlessly into the surrounding countryside. Ross continued to work well into his seniority, often returning to Pinehurst to modify his first four professionally made courses. When he finally died in 1948, he had managed to leave a legacy that few others in the golfing world have come close to matching ever since. In fact, Ross’ legacy is still so great today that the World Golf Hall of Fame even inducted him posthumously several decades later in 1979. 

    Walter Travis: Now honored in the World Golf Hall of Fame, Walter Travis has since been hailed as one of the most influential figures in golf. Despite the renown his name elicits today, Travis had actually begun pursuing the sport much later than many other golfers of his age. Indeed, the one-time salesmen from Australia did not even get his first bag of clubs until his mid-30s. His late entrance into the game even inspired his contemporaries to call him as the “Old Man.” But the moniker was a term of endearment for Travis, as he eventually rose to be among the most talented amateur golfers in the world by the early 20th century. Known for his meticulous—and even obsessive—approach to golf, Travis succeeded to winning the U.S. Amateur three times in 1900, 1901, and 1903. (He also had two second-place finishes at the end of the 1890s, too.) He also became the first non-British golfer to win the 19th British Amateur—a feat that remained untouched for more than two decades! Travis’ victories proceeded to generate significant interest in golf across America, which he had called his home for some time. The New York Times even declared Travis was the “World Champion of Golf” upon reviewing his wave of championship titles. (Travis later used his performance at those tournaments to publish a few respected publications about golf.)

    But Travis’ interest with golf did not merely involve just playing the sport—he also created a deep appreciation for golf course design, too. He specifically became fascinated with the craft after observing several English courses during trip to the United Kingdom in 1900. He quickly fell in love with their open, undulating terrain and strategically placed hazards. Seeking to replicate the designs back in the United States, Travis proceeded to form a partnership with John Duncan Dunn to create the gorgeous layout at the Ekwanok Country Club in Manchester, Vermont. Afterward, Travis branched out on his own to either create or renovate around 50 more golf courses, including the Cape Arundel Golf Club, the Canoe Brook Country Club, and the Columbia Country Club. Perhaps his greatest design was one of his first—the Deveruex Emmet course at the Garden City Golf Club. His reworking of its bunkers, greens, and fairways led many at the time to hail the Deveruex Emmet as a masterpiece. In fact, his changes to the course eventually led the USGA to hold the 14th U.S. Amateur at the Garden City Golf Club in 1908. Among the last designs that Travis oversaw was the creation of the nine-hole Great Dunes Course on Jekyll Island. Scholars today identify its expansive fairways and strategically placed traps as hallmarks to Travis’ amazing design aesthetics.

    Dick Wilson: The creator of 60 professional golf courses, Wilson was born into the world of golf. Indeed, he worked as a water boy while his father helped construct the illustrious “West” course at the Merion Golf Club during his youth. Wilson subsequently held onto his passion for golf into his adulthood, dropping out of his undergraduate studies at the University of Vermont to work for the esteemed landscape architects Howard Toomey and William S. Flynn in 1924. Interestingly, Wilson’s first project with Toomey involved returning to the Merion Golf Club, where he assisted in the design of its “East” course. From there, Wilson aided in the firm’s development of numerous courses across the United States, including the fairways at the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, the Cleveland Country Club, and the Boca Raton Resort. After taking a brief leave from the industry to enlist in World War II, Wilson decided to create his own golf course construction company during the 1940s.

    While business was slow at first, he nonetheless managed to secure a few significant projects. Perhaps his most influential was his work at the West Palm Beach Country Club in 1947, which quickly gained renown for its rolling terrain and elevated greens. In fact, the designs featured at the West Palm Beach Country Club were emblematic of his contributions to the many other golf courses he constructed throughout his career. His later courses specifically showcased such components like broad fairways and spacious greens. Putting areas were also raised on flatter ground, often tiled anywhere between 30 to 45 degrees toward the fairway. He also installed numerous hazards throughout his courses, specifically large ponds and curvilinear bunkers. Nevertheless, his early independent work eventually inspired many other golfing organizations to hire Wilson as their designer. One client was even the Metropolitan Golf Club in Melbourne, Australia! Among his last projects involved the family-friendly Pine Lakes Golf Course, which was completed by his protégé, Joe Lee, some three years after his death in 1965. Since then, Wilson’s golf courses have been hailed as being some of the finest in the entire world.


  • Film, TV and Media Connections +

    The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000)


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