Coolest spots in golf: Inside the ‘Oyster Bar’ at Kiawah Island Club’s River Course

February 23, 2019
The Oyster Bar is the heart of the rebuilt River Course Clubhouse.

While casual golf fans are no doubt familiar with Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course—host of the 1991 Ryder Cup, the 2012 PGA Championship and one of America’s top public courses—the Kiawah Island Club hums along under the radar. The association boasts about 1,400 members, but only about 200 property owners routinely tee it up on its two pristine 18-hole tracks: The River Course and Cassique.

In 2010, the River Clubhouse was destroyed by a kitchen fire. After nearly three long years, the club was finally able to open its doors again. The star of the rebuild is without a doubt the uniquely designed Oyster Bar. (Members call it simply “the men’s locker room,” because, well, it’s attached to the men’s locker room.)

The first thing you’ll notice when you enter the room is the vaulted, whisky-cask-inspired ceiling hewn from reclaimed white oak. The walls and bar top are two-inch thick white oak harvested from virgin Ohio forest. The dark color of the “live” edges on these planks indicate that each was taken from wood just behind the bark of the oaks.

But the showstoppers—each anchoring one end of the room—are twin walls of white oyster shells. It’s the River’s update on local “tabby stucco.” To execute the look, local artisan Dave Jackson mounted small, sand-filled boxes, then meticulously placed each shell and secured them with concrete. (Each box weighs about 200 pounds.) The result is a visually stunning Carolina-inspired piece of art.

The lounge also provides everything a relaxing golfer might need. There’s a flat-screen TV, plush recliners, a pool table and a fully stocked bar. Maker’s Mark has blended a custom bourbon specifically for the River Course. If you can manage to get yourself invited, it’s the perfect end to a lovely round. Oh, and do not skip the prime rib sandwich.