Spot gators, ride kayaks, have some fun on Kiawah Island

by: Nelson Hicks Updated:

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KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. - Kiawah Island will be on display for the world to see next week as the best golfers on the planet head to the South Carolina Island for the 2012 PGA Championship. WSBTV.com ventured to the island ahead of the tournament to learn more about this vacation hotspot.

Kiawah is just outside of Charleston between Savannah and Myrtle Beach.

Readers of Golf World magazine voted the Kiawah Island Golf Resort as the No. 1 resort in the United States. The Ocean Course hosted the 2007 Senior PGA Championship and will host the 2012 PGA Championship. Some publications have called it America's toughest resort golf course.

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"It's going to be fun to have the greatest players in the world play what is the toughest golf course in the United States," Roger Warren from the Kiawah Island Golf Resort said. "So, we think it's going to be a great experience with everything that has to go with it besides the golf course, the ocean, the whole ambiance here. We think it's going to be a very special week."

Warren said that the wind is the biggest factor at the Ocean Course. He estimates the winner will shoot around five under par if the wind is a factor. The average score for people playing the course is over 120.

The Ocean Course is a public course. Warren noted that makes this year's PGA Championship special.

"People who see this on TV or come out here and watch it onsite know they can come back and play this golf course," Warren noted. "And what's unique is, there will be a lot of people watching that will remember the last time they played the golf course, where they were on that hole, what club they hit, where they hit the ball. When you get that opportunity for the public to be able to play a major championship golf course, it just changes the dynamic for everyone."

If the golfers have any spare time, there's plenty to keep them entertained.

The island boasts 10 miles of uninterrupted beaches and any vacation to the area starts with some time by the ocean.

Visitors to Kiawah can spend all day, everyday at the beach, but in doing so, would miss what really makes Kiawah Island a unique destination.

GALLERY: Spot a gator, ride a kayak, have some fun on Kiawah Island

"This is hands down the nicest beach that I've been to," visitor Terry Talley told wsbtv.com. "I lived in Myrtle Beach for six years and it seems to be more like a party-type atmosphere. This is a lot more family-oriented, a lot more laid back."

Visitors won't find strip malls on every block, a mini golf course on each corner or even a go-cart track. What they will find are plenty of opportunities to spend time with family while interacting with the great outdoors.

"This is about being together," Mike Touhill from Kiawah Partners said. "It's about spending time more than it is about buying experiences and shopping and that sort of thing. We feel that offering avenues and venues for people to come and enjoy each other's company at no cost is an important part of being on vacation."

Most vacationers spend time walking the trails or riding bikes around the island. It's not uncommon to encounter wildlife on a walk or ride. WSBTV.com spotted several alligators strolling through the creeks around the island. Night Heron Park and Freshfields Village host free nighttime activities including music, dancing, movies, a farmers market and wildlife showcases.

"It's just the whole atmosphere, just the excitement and activities they have planned," Christie Tucker said. "It's a little something for everybody."

Other outdoor recreational opportunities include kayaking and tennis.

Kiawah was ranked as the No. 1 tennis resort in the world by Tennisresortsonline.com. Tennis magazine picked it was the No. 3-ranked tennis resort in the United States.

Kiawah is unique in that there isn't a high rise hotel on every block either. The island is home to only one hotel. The Sanctuary is an ocean-front resort with an amazing array of amenities. Visitors who opt not to stay at the Sanctuary can choose from a number of villas and private homes.

Looking for a family getaway? If some time riding bikes, on the beach and family fun is on the checklist, Kiawah Island might just be the place.


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