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Callawassie Island

Life at this enchanting gated community in the South Carolina Lowcountry revolves around nature, whether it’s playing one of the three superb nines by Tom Fazio, cruising in a boat or kayak on the marshes and rivers that surround it, or living in one of the eco-friendly homes

S

alt marshes rank among the most pro-

ductive ecosystems on earth, and South Carolina has more acreage than any other Atlantic coast state. Vast expanses of cordgrass bordered by

estuaries and sounds stretch for miles inland with the water levels rising and falling throughout the day with the tides. The marshes teem with all kinds of crustaceans, fish, and birds. So imagine living in a place that’s surrounded by salt marsh and rivers, where this fertile setting is a big part of the fabric of daily life. The place is called Callawassie Island, the state’s first Wildlife Certified

ERIC HORAN (2)

Community. “People are really struck by the amount of nature here and how serene it is,” says resident Joan Eckhardt, who’s lived at Callawassie since 2008

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ABOVE: Callawassie Island is surrounded by salt marsh and rivers, making it a perfect place to kayak or boat. BELOW: Callawassie is home to four deepwater docks, including one with a kayak launch area.


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and serves on the Ecology Committee. “It’s what grabs them in the beginning and it’s also what holds them.” The commercial world just fades away when residents travel through the gate and over the causeway to reach the 880-acre community, which is located between Hilton Head and Beaufort. Once on island, hundred-year-old live oaks, with their long, moss-draped arms forming a canopy, line the main road leading to the clubhouse, while gators cruise the ponds on the course, and snowy egrets and herons prowl the banks.

TOP: The Clubhouse offers casual and fine dining areas and a pool overlooking the marsh. ABOVE: Nature abounds on the island. RIGHT: A glorious Callawassie sunrise

“You drive across that causeway and you just exhale,” says Steven Fells, who has lived

Callawassie on the Internet researching

at Callawassie for six years with his wife,

properties in the Lowcountry between

Lesley. “Your mind just lets go. And since

Charleston and Savannah. Since the Browns

there’s only one way on and off the island,

love the outdoors, one of their top priori-

there’s also a very secure feeling.”

ties was a very natural environment with

Sheila and Stephen Brown moved to

access to great fishing. (The couple likes to

Callawassie in 2009 after becoming disen-

fly fish for red fish and sea trout right off

chanted with South Florida. They owned a

one of four deepwater docks, where there’s

home near Ft. Myers but the congestion

also terrific crabbing and shrimping.) The

just became too much. It really wasn’t a

island setting immediately captivated them,

whole lot different than their home in New

particularly the view of dolphins in

Jersey—only warmer. “We wanted a more

Chechessee Creek from the home they

gracious and elegant way of life,” says

eventually bought.

Sheila. “The notion of living on a private island was very intriguing. They found

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The strong sense of community also distinguished Callawassie, which has a rich his-

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Emerald green marshes. Ancient water oaks dripping with Spanish moss. Snowy egrets and great blue herons. Those are just a few of the things that make Callawassie Island such a special place to live. It is simply paradise.

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tory that includes tabby ruins of an early 19th-century sugar mill, Yemassee Indian burial grounds, and a previous owner, Thomas Heyward Jr., whose signature is on the Declaration of Independence. “Many of the others seemed more transient,” says Sheila. “At Callawassie, you can count on people being here. For most of us, it’s our primary home.” With housing prices ranging from $200,000 to more than $1 million, and home sites starting at $25,000, affordability at member-owned Callawassie was another factor in their decision. Currently, there are 500 homes with room for about another 200. Says Sheila: “Other places like this do exist, but not at these prices.” And since Stephen travels often on business as a mining industry executive, convenience was also important. Savannah airport is less than one-half hour away, while Charleston is 90 minutes away. Despite the seclusion Callawassie offers, it’s surprisingly easy access to great shopping and dining. The Browns aren’t golfers—not yet anyway—but when they decide to take up the game, they couldn’t ask for a better collection of golf holes to play: 27 dePREVIOUS SPREAD: The Magnolia’s 384yard 9th is as beautiful as it is brutal. OPPOSITE: A lake protects the Palmetto’s 374-yard 2nd. BELOW: Lowcountry architecture reflects the gracious lifestyle on Callawassie.

signed by perhaps the preeminent architect in the game, Tom Fazio. The first two nines, Magnolia and

the area—one reason why Callawassie hosts a number

Palmetto, opened in 1983, while Dogwood was added

of top tournaments every year, including a 2010 U.S.

in 1991. In 2008–09 under the guidance of lead Fazio

Senior Open Sectional Qualifying. The irrigation sys-

designer Tom Marzolf, the holes underwent a $4

tem was also completely overhauled, leading to a 50

million renovation. The club redid all the greens to

percent reduction in water use, which is a huge benefit

their original designs, as well as to U.S. Golf Associa-

both to the bottom line and the environment.

tion specs, while regrassing them with MiniVerde bermuda. The putting surfaces are some of the best in

Despite the water savings, the courses still have a lush appearance as they wind through oaks and palmettos and around lakes and marshes. The fairways are pretty generous with the challenge coming from the big, undulating greens guarded by steep fall offs, grass mounds, and deep bunkers. The Dogwood nine features four holes on the marsh, starting with the 491-yard 6th green. Golfers must cross a 50-yard wooden footbridge over the marsh to reach the green—one of the better walks in golf. Wetlands flank the entire left sides of the difficult closing holes but the setting is so beautiful that most players don’t mind making a bogey (or two). The closing holes are also the most memorable and challenging on the Magnolia course. On the 607-yard 8th, the shots keep getting tougher as you make your way to the two-tiered green, which is sandwiched between large bunkers in front and the marsh in back. Birds are hard to come by, but there are plenty of real

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ones, like the ospreys who make their home at the top of one of the trees above a lake near the narrow layup

months met 70 percent of the membership.” Like any great community, Callawassie offers many

area. On the 384-yard 9th, wetlands and sand run

other activities, including an active tennis scene with

down the entire right side, requiring two precise shots

six Har-Tru courts. Head pro Bill Hoppe organizes a lot

on this brutally beautiful hole.

of fun events, like “Callawassie Wimbledon” when the

Standout holes on the Palmetto course include the 374-yard 2nd that’s protected by a lake down the left from tee to green, which is fronted by an eye-catching (and ball repelling) tabby wall, and the 207-yard 6th, which is all carry to a massive green over a lake from the back tees. Whatever the members’ favorite nine, director of golf Jeff Spencer does a great job of pairing up players, whether it be on Men’s Day on Tuesday, Ladies’ Day on Thursday, or by tee-color preference. “I don’t have to work to find a game. There’s always someone to play with,” says Tom Dudreck, an eight handicap L.C. LAMBRECHT

who plays in both the white and blue-tee groups. “I came here not knowing anybody and within two

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club sets up a grass court on the 9th fair-

Callawassie Island 176 Callawassie Island Drive Okatie, S.C. 29909 843.987.2125 CallawassieIsland.com

DogwooD PAR: 36 YARDAGE: 3,501 YEAR FOUNDED: 1991 ARCHITECT: Tom Fazio

MAgnoLIA PAR: 36 YARDAGE: 3,564 YEAR FOUNDED: 1983 ARCHITECT: Tom Fazio

PALMETTo PAR: 36 YARDAGE: 3,443 YEAR FOUNDED: 1983 ARCHITECT: Tom Fazio

way of the Dogwood course. There’s also a fitness center with a fulltime director, Cyndi May, and a River Club overlooking the Colleton River where special events like “wine downs” and oyster roasts take place either inside around the big stone fireplace or outside around the pool. The two deepwater docks in front are the launching spots of many a trip of the paddle club, one of the largest in the state. At Callawassie, it always comes back to the water and the outdoors. Just as salt marsh gives life to so many different species, so does it to the residents who are lucky enough to call this island community home. Contact Callawassie for a three-day two-night Discovery Tour package.

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L.C. LAMBRECHT

Magnolia’s 406-yard 7th is one of the signature 27 holes of world-class golf.

CALLAWASSIE ISLAND 176 Callawassie Island Drive Okatie, S.C. 29909 843.987.2125 CallawassieIsland.com

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