Review for Kiawah Island (Cougar Point)

Reviewer Score:


Cougar Point is the best Gary Player-designed course I’ve played, which is a bit unfortunate. The Black Knight and his design firm have been prolific over the years, building hundreds of courses worldwide – but none really of major renown in the United States. In fact, the only other Player design I have personally played is Tapawingo National near St. Louis, which… if anyone reading this finds themselves playing there, I am sorry, for something dire has obviously occurred. It appears that half a dozen or so of Player’s American courses are listed on this site, but none are in the top 100 for the US – or particularly high on their respective state lists either. Without the likes of a Fancourt, Leopard Creek, or Thracian Cliffs nearby, we Americans probably are forced into somewhat of an uninformed opinion that Player isn’t in the top echelon of architects in the modern era.

Regardless, Cougar Point is fine. It’s a perfectly straightforward resort course mostly devoid of any kind of strategic complication, featuring the requisite pinched hole corridors surrounded by either ponds or houses with just enough water views to jack up the price to resort golf levels - in this case, the views are of the Intracoastal Waterway side of the island. It’s a bit less difficult than the other two resort courses on the island, Turtle Point and Osprey Point, so it would be my choice for a round at Kiawah where you didn’t have to work too hard to shoot a good score. (Indeed, the lowest gross scores I've had on my many visits to the island are a pair of 77s over twenty years apart at Cougar Point.) On my most recent trip, it was the site of a relaxing morning round with my wife while our son visited with his grandparents.

Most of the holes here are inoffensive enough, with a few excellent ones and a few terrible ones. I particularly liked #2, a well-bunkered par three with a wild green; #4, a long dogleg right par four with a green tucked in a corner against the marsh, #9, a par five requiring multiple shot shapes, #17, a great strategic short par four with all sorts of ways to play, and #18, a mid-length par four finisher with a unique “half-punchbowl” section of the green right in the middle against a pond to the left. There are a few holes, namely #3 and #7, which are routed so poorly that even a 3-wood would be impossible to hit off the championship tee for longer hitters and prevent going through the fairway. I suppose that’s the standard on a recreational-level resort course, but it’s frustrating. Forced layups are the worst, and unfortunately, no renovation can change a poorly routed hole corridor.

Having played this course several times since the days it was par 71 and named Marsh Point to its current state, several renovations later, I still consider it the lowest quality resort course at Kiawah, but it’s definitely grown on me and gotten better as it has aged. The newer Paspalum greens play nice and firm and the overall conditioning was excellent last summer. Had I rated it before last summer, I might have considered a two and a half-ball rating, but recency bias helps. I’d certainly be willing to play it again in a future visit to Kiawah - if only to shoot a decent score while I'm there.

Played August 27, 1993, August 1, 1997, June 29, 1999, August 21, 2006, and August 23, 2019

Date: December 29, 2020

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