Travelling To The South Is Fun
By Scott A. Sumner
Even though we haven't had as much snow as normal in most parts of central Canada this year there is still something very enticing about travelling to a warm climate in the winter time. My trip was to attendthe Travel South Showcase held this year in Myrtle Beach, South
Carolina. Travel South is a group of 13 southern States that come together to jointly promote their sunny warm part of the United States. Intriguing to me was a pre conference golf trip to play some famed South Carolina course with some of my fellow Canadian journalists from Toronto and Ottawa.
After a great Air Canada and then Unites connection I was able to fly right to the Myrtle Beach airport where I met up with our other writers to begin the drive to one of America's favourite resort destinations, Kiawah Island. Incidently a 80 degree Fahrenheit temperature change in a few hours of travelling time is amazing. You left at -15 degrees and arrived to 65 degrees.We were going to stay in the 5 star Sanctuary Hotel right on the island and play the famed
Ocean Course, which has hosted the Ryder Cup and will host the PGA in the years ahead.
The Kiawah development includes the 255 room and suite Sanctuary Hotel, 5 golf courses, 2 tennis centers as well as many villa and home accommodation for renters. The island is 10,000 acres in total with the resort being about 1/3 of that. The resort opened in 1976 when the island was primarily a hunting and fishing place. Kiawah is an American tribe name. A Kuwait investment group, that's right from the middle east, opened it originally to sell real estate and built the first golf course. It was an executive course then and now is a championship course. In the mid 80's the Kuwaiti sold their interests to a group of
local Charleston investors who still own the real estate but were not interested in being the resort operator. The resort then went up forauction in 1993 and American entrepreneur Bill Goodman bought it. The Sanctuary Hotel became the crown jewel of the property which since
purchased has seen some $200 million additional dollars invested not
counting the land.
We closed the original hotel on the property on Aug 20, 2004 as we didn't want the brand new Sanctuary to compete on such a small island. Our rooms range from $275 to $625 and the suites are $1000 to $4500.The villas off season rent as low as $99 a night or up to
$16,000 a week for an ocean front large 8 bedroom unit, stated Matt Owen, the PR Director for Kiawah development. Three levels of quality exists in our accommodations. On the golf package you can stay and play or there are also tennis and spa packages. All of our
facilities are open to the public. The green fees at our 5 courses are as low as $70 at Oak Point to $325 plus caddy fee of $65 at the Ocean Course. We have a season that runs all year round with families or golfers. January is the month with the worst weather while in July the
temperature will be in the 90's. Spring and fall are the best times for golfers due to the climate.
Visible on the course is a new 24,000 square feet clubhouse which this year. In June or July it will open to the public.The Ocean Course has previously held the Ryder Cup, World Cup in 1997 and 2003 and the UBS Cup, the US against the rest of world in 2001. In 2012 they
are hosting the PGA. The Ocean Course has been ranked the most difficult course to play in the United States by Golf Digest magazine based on a combination of USGA ratings. You can play from the shorter tees to 7900 yards at the championship level. The course record is held
by PGA player Alex Ceijka, a 63.
The fun factor is being right on the beach.You can see the ocean from all 18 holes and play right beside it. The wind can vary the way the course plays hole by hole. Tiger hasn't played here yet but Ernie Els has been here twice in the last year to get a feel for it. We get many celebrities and both former Presidents, Bush and Clinton have been here in the last year, notes Matt Owen. We have 5 diamonds at the hotel Sanctuary. Our other properties owned in Nashville and Richmond are both 5 stars. The lobby here at the Sanctuary is huge, much larger than normal for a 255 room hotel. We wanted to draw people out to the lobby, the lobby bar and other areas like the morning room to read their newspapers and drink their coffee.
During the peak season rooms are sometimes sold out at the Sanctuary. Groups who are many time Fortune 500 companies, have the whole golf course for the day. In the morning you must walk but in the afternoon you can use a cart. Caddies are required to preserved the
integrity of the game at the Ocean Course.
Travel South Showcase 2007
The state tourism directors and their staff were out in full force at Travel South Showcase. Also some 600 exhibitors consisting of CVB's and suppliers as well as purchasers such as tour companies were there to encourage buying selling relationships between the many attractions in this 13 state region.
There are 1300 golf courses in the state of Florida which is a great attraction. You are never very far from a golf course. Many Championships are played each year including the TPC, Doral and Bay Hill. The courses are from the very difficult to easier to cover all facets of the game.
Virginia has 200 courses designed by famous architects like Palmer or Player. There is a huge amount of golf product ranging from sea side to mountain golf such as a new European style course in the mountains.
Chuck Morse stated we have wonderful golfing in Louisiana. There is the Auburn Golf Trail-14 dynamic courses from the north and south which have different landscapes. The Chapel Isle Golf Course is a beautiful new course. Black Bear is new as well. The area has much great music including jazz and blues and the south is proud of it's history. A great Mardi Gras was held this year and 24, 000 Realtors had their meeting in New Orleans.
Arkansas has the Clinton Centre. There is the State Trail which consists of 15 golfcourses. They held a screening process to find the best golf courses and invited them to join the golf trail. It is working pretty well. We also have the best fly fishing in America.
Tennessee has the Jack Nicklaus golf retreat and Elvis the King of Rock Roll.
In North Carolina the US Women's Open will be held at Pine Needles from June 21 to July 1. They have several of the best courses for women. What makes a good women's course- ammenties and diverse layouts to play. Pinehurst is seen as one of the premier golf resorts
in the US.
Georgia has the Masters Tournament which has a world focus. Their kindred spirit is St Andrews. Georgia has a great quality of golf and some of the nicest coastal courses. There is the Calloway Gardens course.
If you want to play the famed Augusta National, there are 300 connections , the members. Billy Payne is the new chairman of the Masters. You can get Egg Salad sandwiches for $1.50. Big on Golf Georgia offers great golfing experiences. There are 2 hour flights to Georgia from Toronto.
Mississippi has 157 golf courses including 10 in the top 100 in America. The quality is great and 75% are casino owned. A great course can cost $1 million per hole. They have a new one that cost $ 44 million at Bilucksie Mississippi.
The first organized golf club in America was in West Virginia. There are Mountain courses by Pete Dye and Robert Trent Jones.
Alabama has the best golf value in the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail according to Golf Digest. It is the best value in 30 destinations for value and in the top10 in quality. The Grand Hotel in Mobile had water problems during the hurricanes but is now completely restored. The Battlehouse Hotel is opening in May and these are two largest hotels in Mobile downtown.
Kellie Pickhardt is the GM of a hotel in Charleston, one of America's most historic cities of 150,000 people. It has more historic building than any other American city, some dating to 1600's. After the civil war Charleston was left in a state of flux. When tourism became their
goal the city was rebuilt. They have wonderful museums, great shopping and dining and golf nearby at Kiawah. Charleston is in the the top ten destinations by Conde Naste. It is very affordable compared to many locations.
The south has something for everyone!