Love Letter

On the Green at Kiawah Island

by Kate Donnelly

The PGA Championship just wrapped up at The Ocean Course on Kiawah Island, South Carolina. After Tiger and Rory and Vijay pack up their clubs, Kate Donnelly will be on the porch with a sweet tea, taking in the quiet scene.

KIAWAH ISLAND, South Carolina – I don't love Kiawah Island Golf Resort for the golf. Admittedly, I don't play, though there's nothing like walking along its prized golf course for sweeping, spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean. There's the weathered Robert A.M. Stern clubhouse, anchoring the end of the island with its unpredictable breezes. Nothing blocks the view — it's just an endless expanse of the horizon.


I've sat under the Ryder Cup Bar's massive compass dozens of times — sipping wine, savoring a bowl of local she-crab soup. On another perfect day, I order a Palmetto Lager (bottle, please) outside on a rocking chair, watching the scattered wisps of clouds and waves roll into shore. The shorebirds glide. Everything in is sync. I could be in a Pat Conroy novel (dysfunctional plotline aside).

My family has been visiting this place for nearly fifteen years. Long before the high-falutin' days of their award-winning Sanctuary Hotel and the hoopla surrounding this month's PGA tournament, where the purse might afford the winner a stunning beachfront house. For me, Kiawah was always on the map.


First a nature preserve, the island is home to a vast array of wildlife. Snowy egrets and blue herons perch like statues, and Atlantic bottlenose dolphins dance along sailboats. I've paddled on marsh kayaks, floating along the curves and bends of the low country landscape, to spot nesting loggerhead turtles. I've biked 30 miles of trail on my beach cruiser to catch a glimpse of alligators warming up in the sun.

On family days I pedal down to the beach and play a game of bocce ball. Brown pelicans plunge for their food as I dive into the salty ocean. Feels just right. Out on the horizon sit shrimper boats with birds fluttering above. Later, I linger on a porch swing with a good book or play a bit of tennis with my sister (clay courts, Ritchie Tennenbaum-style). Afterwards, a glass of sweet tea and a brisk bike ride back home. When I crave a touch of civilization, Charleston is just down the road.

There's no need to pay attention to time. Still, I make sure to watch the sun set over the island. I take a night beach stroll when everything is quiet. The stars looks like diamonds. I always sleep better on those nights.

Life Saver


Fly: Kiawah Island is 35 miles south of Charleston International Airport (CHS). Charleston is 20 miles away.
Rent a Home: As an alternative to the golf resort, houses are available to rent through Pam Harrington Exclusives and Beachwalker.


Kiawah Island Resort
1 Sanctuary Beach Dr.
Kiawah Island, South Carolina 29455


Charleston Guide
A Few Days In: Charleston
The Best Golf Courses in the USA

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