Tom Fazio briefly seized the spotlight at the Kiawah Resort, designing Osprey Point — the resort’s third golf course — which opened during 1988. Pete Dye’s Ryder Cup-hosting Ocean Course would open the next year, however visitors to Kiawah Island still seek out Fazio’s contribution to its crown.
The course is perhaps the most widespread of the resort’s offerings, wandering almost from the north side of the island all the way to the south shore. Although it lacks the coastal views of the Ocean and Turtle Point courses, Osprey Point brings more water into play than the others combined. A series of ponds dot this area on the island and Fazio uses them to provide both challenge and strategy to players.
Canvasback Pond is among the most prominent, beckoning players along hole nos. 10, 17 and 18 (a lengthy par five along the water), but the most intimidating tee shot — not just at Osprey but perhaps the entire island — comes at No. 9. The long par four (460 yards) may only allow GIRs for those who hug the lake off of a Cape-style tee shot, while avoiding a centerline bunker that presses the shore.
The course delivers on what it promises to deliver. There isn't a lot of strategic value, but it is an attractive and enjoyable resort course where you lose few balls. Very enjoyable and a strong complement to the Ocean Course.
During my recent stay at Kiawah Island, I headed over to Mingo Point for the resort’s weekly oyster roast. Although I certainly indulged in some shellfish, I also made sure to grab a few ribs at the buffet. Baby backs are the definitive Ryan Book meal, and I prefer no sauce better than the region’s lowcountry mustard-based condiment. I, however, seemed to be the only other diner of this mindset…the buffet line was near dry of Kansas City’s smoky variety, while the more yellow BBQ sauce jar was still well full. “Tourists,” I, an Ohioan, sniffed self-righteously.
The Kansas City sauce was soon restocked because the Resort knew exactly who it was serving. I get an uncomfortable feeling that the resort’s non-Ocean courses were designed with this same perspective.
Tom Fazio has never been accused of being easygoing. Some of the nation’s most demanding courses bear his mark. These courses arrive because his employers ask for them. No issue there. Occasionally, I reckon, his employers ask him for a golf course that provides the simulation of playing a monster…while keeping those foursomes moving along at a modest clip. Osprey Point bears no resemblance to Ocean, but its unofficial status as Kiawah’s second course invite expectations from golf tourists that it should offer some level of bite, albeit not quite at the level of its big brother.
Osprey was, of course, designed prior to Pete Dye’s standout track. But if we pretend otherwise, Fazio’s done a rather splendid job emulating the masochism players would pay $600 for just down the road, without actually punishing the player. Water lurks everywhere…but generally only on the left side of the hole — only the second shot on No. 16 offers a real threat of wet to the fader/slicer. This leaves nearly 85% of golfers unharmed and confident; the enormous channels of water along the left offer the same level of mental intimidation, and the player leaves quite satisfied with having avoided (most) of them. Happy customers.
It’s a good demonstration of logistics, but a relatively thoughtless exercise for the strategically-minded golfer. I quickly learned that hazards to one side of the fairway (nos. 1, 4) don’t necessarily equate with an optimal line into the green. No. 5, a significant dogleg right, features a palm tree planted to deter thoughts of cutting the corner. But why should you? The yardage guide demonstrates the best line into this angled green is actually achieved from the outside of the dogleg, where no hazards lie. It’s almost as if the palm tree serves to discourage players from potentially slicing over the treeline into some (very) pricy real estate, rather than from finding birdie. (Using my foursome as a case study for the average player demographic, the real estate is nonetheless not safe).
Ironically, where the most basic of woke golf course activists bemoan water, the forced carries at Osprey Point contribute to several of its best holes. Could the par threes at nos. 3 and 11 operate the same without the marshland stretched from tee-to-green? For the former, maybe, but the view is the best on the course, and Fazio is renowned for his views. It’s an image that brings a smile to the face of the average golfer, and even to the face of this prickly architecture-obsessed codger. For the latter hole, featuring what I believe is the largest green on the course, its alignment along the water allows the conservative player a safer landing area the farther right they aim; that the pin will often be well left of that aiming point is the (Osprey) point.
The best par three, and perhaps best hole, is No. 6, which reminds me of NGLA’s No. 2 “Sahara” from its back tee. A slight exaggeration perhaps, but to play directly to the green requires carrying a 200-yard bunker along the left, while the fairway to the right of the green has been shaped into hummocks so to not reward the conservative play from the tee.
Although the course punishes the hooker from the tee (sorry, other 15% of golfers), a good draw benefits the best at several of the better holes. The course’s No. 1 handicap needs to show off its water via a carry, of course, to a landing area defined by a centerline bunker. Those who can curve around the hazard get more distance, and those that favor the lakeside will have the shortest approach (while those who aim right of the centerline will need more club for a GIR). Similarly, No. 7 challenges a skilled player with its short distance — 325 yards from the “regular” tees.
Unfortunately, even if you carry the large cross bunker on this hole, you’ll never get the run necessary to reach the green. If the resort saw fit to stock its fairways with a grass strain that runs, rather than the bloody Seashore Paspalum, there might be some fun to be had. If you had ants in your condo’s kitchen, you could peel up a swatch from the course and find them stuck there in the morning. But, to the theme, grass that runs would result in more balls running into bunkers, and more delays, and less-satisfied customers.
I should clarify that, although this review has leaned particularly negative, Osprey Point is better than the average Ohio public. . Unfortunately, there are certain things I expect from a $275 tee time (the same I paid at Bandon earlier this year), but they are very different things than what the average Kiawah guest expects. Much like how different dinner guests expect different BBQ sauces, to suit their own vision for the task ahead. If I’m being honest, the smoky sauce at Mingo Point was also delicious (I tried both).
Osprey Point is a Fazio design. The first hole is welcoming, water left trees right but an expansive fairway. The second hole is a 489 yard par five. Very reachable, there is water left, 4 bunkers distributed randomly on the right and one greenside left. Really a par 4 1/2. The first par is mid-length with a carry over a swamp. The green sits right behind a long front facing bunker. The 4th is a long par four, fairway bunker left and treelined both sides. The green has bunkers left and right. The fifth is a big dogleg right. Favor the left side off the tee for the best angle into the green. The 6th is a long par three with water and a bunker running down the entire left side. The 7th is a fun short par four. Laying up by aiming at the left fairway bunker is probably the smart play. Not I, I tried to carry the right fairway bunker that starts about 125 yards out. The par 5 8th bends left. For your first two shots favor the right side and you will be left with an attack wedge. The 9th is the longest par 4, dogleg left with a water carry and water all the way down the left side. There is a strategically place bunker in the center of the fairway that starts about 200 yards out from the green. Right of the bunker is the safer play, but left gives you a much shorter approach.
The back starts with a long demanding par four. Fairway bunker left, the green is slightly elevated with two small bunkers front right. The 11th is a long Florida par 3 all carry. The 12th is a par five dogleg right. There is BAB on the inside elbow that has a large oak tree in it. The green is protected by a bunker left and two right. The 13th is a short par four, large fairway bunker right. The fairway bunker left is in play. Ideal drive is right, as there is a speed slot there and should leave you a wedge in. The elevated green falls off right with a deep bunker left. The 14th is a short par 4 with fairway bunkers left and right that hourglass the fairway. Either bomb it or layup. This is a wide and narrow green. Good birdie hole. The mid-yardage par 3 15th looks more intimidating than it is. There is a BAB that runs from the tee to the green and another one left of the green. This is a two-tiered green. The 16th has a fairway bunker left with a wide landing area right. The approach is downhill and the fairway narrows significantly with a water hazard right. The 17th is a long par four with water all down the left side and treelined right. The finishing hole is a par five with water down the left side. As the hole bends left around the water hazard it drops down. There are two pairs of twin bunkers right and a long trench bunker left.
One of the better courses at Kiawah.
Have played here a few times. I hold a special place in my heart for Osprey as it yielded my 2nd time I broke 70. 5 birds and 2 bogs. The greens are in fantastic shape but predominantly flat. The terrain also is flat with water intruding fairly often to define your playing corridors. A lovely finisher par 5 which offers some risk reward as the green sits along a tidal pond and requires the aggressive player to carry it to challenge it in two. It's a great tune up before taking on the Ocean.
Just like a previous review definitely better than Turtle Point. Greens where well maintained and quick. Fairways nice a juicy. Played here in the fall/early winter and the course was stunning. Great challenge. Would I Play here again? Yes, but make sure you make your way to the Ocean Course.
I recommend playing here over turtle point.
Osprey Point is one of three auxiliary resort courses on Kiawah Island, in addition to the championship Ocean Course and two private layouts – River and Cassique – associated with the Kiawah Club. Of those three, I’d argue it’s the best, narrowly edging out Turtle Point, but this site has them ranked the other way in the South Carolina rankings. I played the course for the first time in a very long time on a recent trip, though my family went to Kiawah a lot when I was growing up, so I was very familiar with it to start with.
The course is a typical resort layout – each hole is lined by either marsh, ponds, or houses, and there are several street crossings between tees and greens. Most holes exist in that sort of vacuum, but there are a few good ones nonetheless. The difference between Osprey Point and Turtle Point, for me, lies in the three great short par fours the former course features. #7, #13, and #14 all are 355 yards or fewer and give the player options off the tee – but none of them are pushovers. (Turtle Point’s shortest par four, by comparison, is 385 yards.) Other notable holes at Osprey include #9, a long dogleg left par four over water with a strategically placed centerline fairway bunker, #11, a 200+ yard par three over water to a green split in two sections by a large hump, and #18, a dogleg left par five featuring a heavily mounded fairway and interesting layup options. The rest of the three-shotters on the course are nothing to write home about, however.
A good golf course but not a great one, Osprey Point is probably only worth your time to play if you happen to be staying on Kiawah Island (and are paying resort prices).
Played August 24, 1993, September 2, 1994, June 30, 1999, August 22, 2006, & August 19, 2019