A 45-minute drive from historic Charleston, Seabrook Island neighbors the more well-known Kiawah Island, home to the iconic Ocean Course. Vacationers looking for a less crowded, more intimate setting come to Seabrook to enjoy its beautiful beaches, forests, and marshes and its terrific amenities. While great golf courses are just down the road at Kiawah and throughout the Charleston area, great golf can also be found on Seabrook Island itself with its 36 holes weaving their way through the picturesque island setting. The Seabrook Island club is a semi-private facility, but limited access is available to those renting property on the island.
The community was initially established in the early 1970’s, with the Ocean Winds golf course opening in 1973. Ocean Winds is a highly demanding course playing across the varying topography of forest, marsh, and dunes on the island.
Robert Trent Jones, Sr. designed the second course in 1981, Crooked Oaks. While not as penal as its counterpart, Crooked Oaks is a very challenging course in its own right. The course tours the native maritime forest, looping up to the northeast corner of the island and back. Accuracy off the tee is essential, while approach shots are often to elevated greens that are closely guarded by large bunkers, ponds, and marshes.
I have been a regular visitor to Seabrook Island since 2006, and have played the golf courses many times. In our trip to Seabrook this past Spring, I teed it up at Crooked Oaks to find the course in the best shape I’ve ever seen. Both courses had been double-seeded recently, and the greens staff did an amazing job as the course was in immaculate shape. On top of that, the weather was absolutely perfect, setting up for a terrific golf experience.
Another thing I love about this course is that so many tee options are available to suit all playing levels. Crooked Oaks has more than enough bite to challenge the scratch golfer despite tipping out at “only” 6,800 yards. On the other end of the spectrum, recently-added forward tees are only 4,674 yards with no forced carries off the tee. This appropriate length and difficulty level will make the experience much more enjoyable for the beginner or short hitter. Too often I see forward tees set at around 5,500 yards with forced carries over water and sand; this almost guarantees a frustrating experience for those learning the game.
Seabrook Island Club (Crooked Oaks)
Seabrook Island, SC
Architect: Robert Trent Jones, Sr.
Par 72; 6780/6383/6021/5674/5137/4625 Yards
#2 – Par 5, 498/490/473/448/396/363 Yards
The par fives on Crooked Oaks are relatively short and feature multiple risk/reward options. A great example of this is the second hole, a shorter dogleg right par 5. After navigating through a dense forest off the tee, a pond short and right of the green prompts a tough decision for those considering going for it in two. The green has three distinct tiers, penalizing approaches that end on the wrong tier. The smart play is usually to lay up and play a wedge to the correct tier, setting up a good look at birdie.
#4 – Par 4, 398/361/351/336/324/274 Yards
The fourth hole is a mid-length par 4, bending slightly to the left around a large “crooked” oak tree. The tee shot can be played over the tree to a wide fairway, setting up for perhaps the most demanding approach shot on the course. A marsh cuts in at about 90 yards from the green and completely guards the front side. After a mishit tee shot, the best play may be to lay up left, but many golfers may still be lured into attempting to hit the green. This would likely be a mistake, as the approach must carry all the way to the green to avoid water, and longer iron shots will have a tough time holding the green.
#13 – Par 3, 182/165/141/127/114/88 Yards
The 13th is a shorter par 3 with a pond bordering the front-left of the green. The pin placement will dictate the type of shot required. Front-right may be the toughest placement, as the green slopes dramatically back-to-front and misses right would be left with little green to work with. Back-left is no picnic, either, as the pond will guard against aggressive shots while bailing out to the right will lead to a difficult, undulating putt.
#18 – Par 4, 421/400/378/354/295/234 Yards
The finishing hole is loaded with all of the features that define Crooked Oaks: Forest, water, sand, and great scenery. Perhaps the most intimidating shot on the course, the tee shot plays semi-blind with a long carry over a pond. The fairway is wider than it appears off the tee, however I still somehow almost always choke on this tee shot due to the visual intimidation. The approach emerges into an open area to a large, flat green and must avoid a pond short and right and moguls left. Two well-executed shots will be rewarded, but a large number is certainly in play to close out the round.
Amenities and overall experience
Recent renovations have yielded a fantastic practice area. The driving range is spacious and well-kept. There are two large practice greens and a very nice practice chipping area by Crooked Oaks’ first tee. The clubhouse is large, modern, and tastefully decorated with a large casual dining area overlooking the course and an outdoor patio with a stunning view of the ocean. The menu is diverse with many local delicacies worth trying, including the outstanding seafood you’ll find throughout the Charleston area. The Beach Club is across the street, and in addition to access to a world-class beach it offers an outdoor pool and bar.
Overall, Seabrook Island has been an amazing vacation spot over the years, and the golf courses enhance the experience. Its chill vibe, great beaches, sparse crowds, and varied amenities make it a very unique place, and ideal weather in the Spring and Fall provides a nice respite from chilly Wisconsin temps. Seabrook Island would also be a well-positioned home base for a golf trip. The 36 holes on Seabrook would amply prepare a player to take on the Ocean Course, the other courses on Kiawah Island, or any of the other great tracks in the Charleston area.