Kiawah Island Resort (Ocean) - South Carolina - USA

Kiawah Island Golf Resort,
1 Sanctuary Beach Drive,
Kiawah Island,
South Carolina 29455,
USA


  • +1 843 768 2121


Kiawah Island played host to the 1991 Ryder Cup matches between the USA and Europe. Team Captains were Dave Stockton (US) and Bernard Gallacher (Europe). Later dubbed the “War by the Shore” the 29th Ryder Cup was one of the most fiercely contested in history with several lead changes and it all came down to one six-foot putt. Bernhard Langer was playing Hale Irwin in the final match and was left with the fateful putt to win his singles match and halve the overall match enabling Europe to retain the Ryder Cup. As everyone knows Langer narrowly missed the putt and the US reclaimed the Ryder Cup they surrendered at The Belfry in 1989. USA 14 ½ - Europe 13 ½. The Ryder Cup was played at The Belfry in 1989 and again in 1993.

The Ocean course at Kiawah Island opened for play in 1991 only weeks before the thrilling “War by the Shore” Ryder Cup match, which saw team USA beat Europe by the narrowest of margins, 14½-13½. This particular Ryder Cup is unfortunately remembered for Bernhard Langer’s missed six-foot putt that would have tied the match, allowing Europe to retain the trophy.

Naturally, after the Ryder Cup, the Ocean course, designed by Pete Dye, leapt into the limelight and has remained there ever since. There are panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean to drink in on each hole and the course is routed in an old-fashioned way alongside the ocean. But instead of a links-like nine out and nine back, the Ocean course adopts a kind of 4½ out and 4½ back figure of eight configuration.

According to Pete Dye, "There’s no other golf course in the Northern Hemisphere that has as many seaside holes". And Dye should know, because he built up the ground farthest away from the Atlantic Ocean by a few feet so that the golfer can enjoy unparalleled sea views.

Pete Dye certainly pays attention to detail and the green sites at Kiawah Island are consistently natural. With miles of underground pipes, which recycle surplus irrigation water, it’s no surprise that the Ocean course is a hit with the environmentalists as well as the golfers.

Kiawah Island hosted the 2012 PGA Championship. Measuring a formidable 7,676 yards, the Ocean course was tamed by Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy who cruised to an eight-shot victory and claimed his second major title, becoming the youngest winner of the tournament since it adopted strokeplay in 1958.

Remarkably, a 50-year-old Phil Mickelson rolled back the years when he became the oldest man to win a major title at the 2021 PGA Championship staged over the Ocean layout, which at 7,876 yards was the longest course in major championship history. Mickelson took the record of oldest winner from Julius Boros, who won the PGA Championship in 1968 at 48 years of age.

A trip to semi-tropical Kiawah Island would not be complete without a round on the best course on the island and one of the world’s finest courses. Add in a sprinkling of Charleston grace and you have the experience of a lifetime.

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Reviews for Kiawah Island Resort (Ocean)

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Description: According to Pete Dye, "There’s no other golf course in the Northern Hemisphere that has as many seaside holes" as the Ocean course at Kiawah Island. Rating: 8.6 out of 10 Reviews: 32
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Declan Flood

Course is so pure. Views are outstanding and the course is always in beautiful shape. Best visual looking course I’ve ever played. It’s amazing, if you get a chance to play it in your life take it! You won’t regret it.

September 09, 2022
10 / 10
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Dave Stebbins

As good as it gets. Just pray you get a less breezy day — which means pretty much anything below 20-25mph. I’ve had the pleasure of playing it twice now and they were vastly different experiences (once with 15mph winds and once with 30mph).

As you wind your way through the lush fairways and sandy surrounds up and down the coast, you quickly forget about the last 3-putt or the alligator nest you just drove your ball into because you’re constantly able to look out over the ocean and breathe it in.

Every hole is uniquely its own. Some more challenging than others (#4, #13, and #17 immediately come to mind), and some that let you get aggressive (#7 and #16), but don’t let your guard down.

The staff takes great care of you and the caddies will not only save you a few strokes, but give you a great story about the last guy that hit it where they’re telling you not to.

August 19, 2022
10 / 10
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Dean Petrone

The Ocean Course is undoubtedly world class and in every way lives up to its billing as one of the toughest tracks in the world. Though I’m not a Pete Dye fan, I thought this to easily be his best work. Strangely, the sum of its parts left me feeling unsatisfied when the round was over. Yes, it has its moments on the back nine and surely one’s opinion hinges greatly on which way the wind is blowing that day — but “unsatisfied” is not a feeling I was expecting given the Ocean Course’s universal acclaim.

August 05, 2022
8 / 10
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Carl Gelardi

Great course in a slightly more remote location which is great for those trying to escape a neighboring city!

June 27, 2022
8 / 10
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Monte McDougal

Truly one of the greatest experiences in golf. From 1-18, you are treated to a world-class experience and a world-class golf course. As a 5 handicap, I found the Ocean Course to be a fair and exhilarating test of golf where every shot demanded strategic thought and execution. The back nine, in particular, was spectacular, particularly holes 16, 17, and 18. The clubhouse, too, is a great hang.

June 08, 2022
10 / 10
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Bill Vostniak

No need to go hole by hole whatsoever. Anyone unfamiliar with this course does not have a television. There are also countless reviews on here agonizing over the numbers.

The construction and routing is the stuff of legend. Bury Me in a Pot Bunker - go read about it. I love the routing of the first nine, one of my favorite by Dye and I love Dye. Such clever holes and angles, variety and challenge and then the second nine is so repetitive, the highlight being the Volcano Par 3 at the turn of that second nine. Then again it is all very hard.

The course begs you to play on the ground - and there you will find that bloody paspalum sp. This golf course is always hard as nails. Always move up a set of tees from where you usually play yardage-wise unless you are truly skilled, otherwise every drop of fun will be soon gone. Or maybe black-and-blue golf is your pleasure, I'm not one to judge. It is in the small, similar category as Bethpage Black for absurdity of challenge, but know the Black is easier. Notably so!

Ocean at Kiawah is a true Bucket List Course for far too many reasons, the Sanctuary is a lovely place to stay. It's great to play where the pros play and be on the ground where you are so familiar from watching the screen. Go and do it, you must.

I've played the course off and on for over 25 years, it is iconic. I don't think it has enough variety nor enough versatility to be called one of Dye's greatest and I don't think it is #1 in South Carolina.

Cheers,

May 21, 2022
7 / 10
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Ryan Book
May 24, 2022

This is an argument I've had with many...the relative bone-crunch of Kiawah vs. Bethpage. I'm of the mind that it's the latter...but I've noticed that lower handicappers tend to vote "Kiawah" whereas the guys in my stratosphere vote "Bethpage." Granted, I also happened to play Kiawah during a healthy wind, but one that generally in the face or away from it, which helped keep the fairway in play.

M. James Ward
May 24, 2022

Ryan,

Interesting discussion of Bethpage Black v The Ocean Course. I have played the former in excess of 200+ times over the years and The Ocean roughly 15 or so times since it opened.

The Black's Tillinghast connection was morphed into an updated Rees Jones layout. That's unfortunate. The Black was also Tillie homage to PV and you see it clearly with the par-5 7th (hell's half acres) and the dropshot par-3 8th (reminiscent of PV's 15th.

The Black sadly does not have any world class change of pace holes. To use a baseball analogy -- it's pure fastball pitch. The scale of the property is always a treat.

Unfortunately, the finale at the Black is horrific. People moan about the conclusion of CP in California but the 18th at the Black has been surgically altered to the extreme. When Lucas Glover hit 6-iron off the tee at the '09 US Open it reached new depths of tragedy.

With the Ryder Cup coming in '25 -- it would be most helpful if an architect were called in and attempted to reconnect to the Tillinghast vision that's clearly missing now.

The Ocean Course is two loops -- clockwise and then counter clockwise. I agree with Bill's comment that the turf used for the fairways inhibits any real ground game option and when the wind is blowing -- which is frequent -- one must do as he stated and play a teeing area in front of where one normally plays. I am a big time fan of the par-4 3rd and the tabletop par-3 14th often gets little attention because of the attention paid to the penultimate hole. The moving of the tee and green area for the 18th was done well.

The Ocean Course was deigned to be a layout that would always test the top tier players. Those poor souls that go there to be "tested" are like sheep lining up in front of the wolf. It is akin to those fools who believe they can handle the double-diamond hill and should be on the bunny slopes

Major events have helped build the fanfare of both. I don't see either being among my top 50 courses internationally but there's a part of me that thrills at the constant "in your face" challenge each so uniquely provides.

Ryan Book
May 25, 2022

My theory is that the low HCP (Messrs Ward and Vostniak) sees Ocean as a more gettable girl, and therefore the rejection of scoring advances becomes all the more frustrating, whereas middle-range folks (myself) aim for bogey and can usually attain it. Aiming for bogey at Bethpage, however, usually results in much worse due to the conditions you describe. I would guess that golfers such as yourselves don't shoot dramatically different scores between the average round at Ocean vs. Black, but the perception of what you could have shot at the former makes it seem tougher. Whereas golfers in my bracket will shoot much better at Ocean.

Unrelated, if you appreciate No. 3 at Ocean, I highly recommend the profile of the hole's live oak tree that ran in the Winter 2018 issue of The Golfer's Journal. Not a fan of the writer, personally, but he did alright this time around.

Bill Vostniak
May 26, 2022

@Ryan

Tougher isn't of any real importance to me, I enjoy strategy - really only found on the first nine at Kiawah and really none at BB.

Mr. Ward an I go way back, I'm 7hcp these days with straight driving and super short game. I don't know what Mr. Wared is as we haven't played in some time, but I can say that he has always been very very long. I'm 70 now and not as long as before (116->100 swing speed with age). All that said, I still enjoy both courses but my education has emphasized architectural strategy and the setup of Kiawah Ocean while more thoughtful than BB - it is not at all the strength of either course.

From Dye in SC, look to Colleton River, Long Cove, Heron Point, Harbour Town - Heron Point being the most disrespected of the lot and CRP the most strategic from Dye. By necessity because of the missive of Ocean it is hard yet amenable to the elite player in nonsense winds. That in and of itself is really remarkable.

Cheers,

M. James Ward
June 10, 2022

Ryan,

I am a fan of BB but it's fair to say the Rees Jones updating is more about keeping the Rees fingerprints rather than elevating the Tillinghast side of things. BB lacks a vintage short par-4 -- at minimum - one of them.

Also, the 18th is simply a major disappointment -- in the same vein as the concluding hole at CP.

The best thing that could happen for the Black is if the PGA of America and the State of New York opted to truly rejuvenate the Black prior to the '25 Ryder Cup Matches.

One of the other things that hurts BB is the dreadful pace of play and the lack of awareness golfers have in playing from the wrong tee boxes. Again, this goes back to updating the course. BB should follow what many UK and Ireland courses do -- have a tee box for roughly 6,300-6,500 yards max.

In terms of The Ocean Course I like a number of the holes but Dye created the course for elite competitions. Like BB, it would behoove those in charge at Kiawah to have tees no more than 6,500 yards for daily play. With high wind velocities not unusual the tenacity of the course can simply overwhelm anyone above a ten handicap especially if they play from tee boxes beyond their capabilities.

When you swim in shark infested waters -- you will be quickly swallowed up.

One final thing -- I agree with Bill -- strategic interest with engaging compelling architecture should be the primary focal point. Having courses that are super hard is not that hard (no pun intended) to create. Just see a number of Sunshine State courses with an overabundance of water penalty areas.

jason

Bucket list course I enjoyed every minute of playing here despite miserable april weather.

We played this on our masters trip in 2018 and on the same trip we played pinehurst number 2 which was not a patch on Kiawah.

Highlight for our group was me falling out with our forecaddy when he told me off for using a range finder, only to misclub me on that very same shot ! To be fair I didn't argue too much with him as he looked more like something out of trawler men, clearly a hard life caddying all year round in all kinds of weather.

A rare and outstanding mix of what i would say is a more sculpted links course than i would play in the uk.

If felt man made where as a lot of links feel like they have just grown there, but when a designer pulls a mix of new but with a links feel it off like this it is pure genius.

Go and enjoy it folks its a must and in my top 5 without doubt.

January 07, 2022
9 / 10
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M. James Ward

The return of the PGA Championship to The Ocean Course next month is fitting because it marks the 1st major championship event played at a Dye designed layout since the renowned architect passed away at 94 in the early days of 2020.

I covered the famed "91 Ryder Cup Matches -- ergo -- "The War at the Shore" -- a horrific tagline chosen as the marketing strategy for the matches. At no time - should war metaphors be linked to golf.

The reviews presented by those who have already posted is quite informative and I have a few elements to add.

In the years to follow I have played the course several times -- seen the actual nip and tucks done to the course and been on hand to observe other key professional events played here including the '97 World Cup, the '07 Senior PGA and the '12 PGA Championship, respectively.

The course is not anything close to a "links" layout and fortunately there's been no official attempt to brand the layout with such an erroneous connection.

The layout is essentially four different parts with only one minor exception. The first four holes follow a northeast direction -- you deviate with the par-3 5th which plays towards the nearby Atlantic Ocean. You then head back to the clubhouse for holes 6 thru 9 via a southwesterly direction.

The inward half does the same thing -- albeit in the reverse manner. The 10th thru 13th head away from the clubhouse in a southeast direction and then you make the turn at the furthest point of the property with the par-3 14th. At that point you march back to the clubhouse in a continuous northeast direction.

So, it's important keep this mind -- when you finish the par-3 5th -- you play in the same direction for holes 6 thru 13. That's a big time stretch of holes and if the wind is coming off the ocean in a southerly or southeast manner it will be a real test to keep one's golf ball alive and well.

Dye was ahead of his time in creating maximum versatility for The Ocean Course. If stretched to its maximum the layout can likely exceed 8,000 yards -- although for the PGA Championship coming up it will play in the same neighborhood as the '12 event -- at 7,676 yards / Par-72.

Over the years I have played a good mixture of Dye designs in different locations and it's fascinating to see his efforts in the Palmetto State where Harbour Town and Long Cove are among his other noted designs in South Carolina.

The key in playing the course successfully rests in coping with what type of wind velocities you encounter. The Ocean Course at times can be a beast -- 5-6 club wind is never out of the realm of possibilities. Being able to gauge club selection is pivotal and matters are not helped by the fact that turf conditions are not nearly as firm and fast as they can be. There is runout but it's much more modest than the proponents of the course suggest.

Dye also built up the green targets so that a meaningful ground option is not promoted as much as one would have preferred given the wind speeds that can howl at times.

Among my favorite holes on the outward half are the par-5 2nd which invites the bold tee shot as the hole bends to the left. The green is neatly positioned to both accept and reject 2nd shots into the target.

The long par-4 9th is also exceptional -- turning left in the drive zone and when encountered with a south/ southeast wind can be a brutal hole.

The inward half has a more diverse designed set of holes. I have always enjoyed the mid-length par-4 12th -- which can play far more than the usual 412 yards used for events.

When you reach the elevated tee pad at the par-3 14th you are able to see the Atlantic quite easily. Interesting, that for a number of holes at The Ocean Course -- you don't actually see it for much of the round.

The 14th is a tremendous hole albeit with a high-level difficulty. Played downwind the hole can be even tougher because of the elevated green -- perched high and set on a diagonal. Misses to either far side will result in some difficult moments to recover. Having professionals use longer clubs into holes is just not seen as much today and the long par-3 clearly has faded into the background on too many occasions. The 14th showcases why such holes are needed -- to leave with nothing more than a par here one has to be at your ultimate best. There is no negotiation at the 14th -- you stand and deliver. Simple as that.

The final four holes are a quality mixture. The 15th is a good two-shot hole. The par-5 16th gives players an opportunity for birdie but it's not given away easily.

The elbow feature one faces for the last 50-100 yards is a strategic and artful inclusion. Players have to be thoroughly committed in what they are seeking to accomplish.

The penultimate hole is mixed opinion for me. When set-up properly at approximately 200 yards the demands are rigorous but still manageable. However, when stretched to a max of 223 yards and then encountering any headwind -- or worse yet crosswinds-- the magnitude of the moment can overwhelm even the most seasoned of players. The landing area -- I am hard-pressed to call it a "landing area" -- is akin to landing a 747 airplane at a community airport. If there is ever a hole that cries out INITIMIDATION -- the 17th is the poster child for that.

Should the pressure of the moment overwhelm players just think back to the meltdown of Mark Calcavecchia from the '91 Ryder Cup matches. Any score is possible.

The finishing hole has been improved over the course of time -- the green is now closer to the Atlantic and the back teeing area pushed closer to the adjoining property line dunes so that a drive that attempts t cut the corner must have sufficient length and uncanny accuracy. Depending upon the force of the daily wind pattern -- the approach can be played with anything from mid-iron to a full fairway metal.

The Ocean Course does not present anything on the finesse side and having 1-2 really outstanding short par-4 holes would have added more versatility to the mix. Misplayed shots can finish in the most horrid of lies and being able to accept one's medicine when attempting to recover is something players will need to recognize -- otherwise they had best bring with them a calculator.

Played as a match -play venue the golf clearly works far better than a stroke-by-stroke exercise. Dye relished creating a fear factor for the world's elite players and when you add in a minefield site like The Ocean Course you have a finished product that is unrelenting.

The green contours are good but hardly noteworthy. There are a few holes which are divided up into different sections so being able to hit quality approach shots can be a real plus.

Ultimately, the central question in whether this constitutes exemplary architecture is a fair one. A bit more hole variety and a more robust routing would have added much to the final overall equation. The Ocean Course is etched in the minds of many because of the impact from the '91 Ryder Cup Matches. In my mind, Pete did a far more complete job with earlier efforts at The Golf Club and Teeth of the Dog. to name just two. I also believe his effort with Harbour Town still remains a classic layout for the sheer totality of the architecture provided.

Anyone going to The Ocean Course has to play from the appropriate tee locations -- failure to do that will mean a healthy donation to the golf ball fund at the facility. That's how you either live for another day -- or simply Dye. Pete will undoubtedly be smiling when the world's best return here.

M. James Ward

April 22, 2021
8 / 10
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Jon Williams

Disappointing / did not meet lofty expectations. Can only see ocean from last 3-4 holes and fairly ordinary layout. Greens in good shape but very little break / character. Beach dunes surrounding many holes are not visually appealing IMO. Heavy rough makes it tough to find balls which results in slow play (even with caddy). On a positive note, lots of PGA history and nice sitting area for fans to watch by 18th green.

April 01, 2021
6 / 10
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Alex Frolish

There are many reasons to love Kiawah Island. It is naturally blessed with an abundance of animal and bird life. Ospreys and Bald Eagles roam the skies and Bobcats and Alligators stalk the ground and water ways. The beach stretches some ten miles and is consistently voted as one of the best 10 beaches in the U.S.A. Island life is tranquil and relaxing and guests mix with residents on many of the cycle routes and beach walks that stitch their way across the island. And that is before we even come to looking at golf...

It is barely believable that a golf course could be constructed on the marsh land that the Ocean Course cuts through, but somehow Pete and Alice Dye managed to do just that. The course itself is raw and breathtaking as Dye intended it to be. The overriding feature is the raised nature of the course above the protective dunes leaving the fairways open to the elements and meaning you rarely play the course without some wind. It also means picking sight lines can be difficult off the tee and makes taking one of the course caddies around with you an absolute necessity on your first few visits. The last 5 holes hug the beach and are some of my favourite golf holes that I have played anywhere in the world.

It has detractors who things such as it is too penal, too difficult and is based too much around target golf. Dye in general can be a polarising golf course designer. For me though, golf is all about jeopardy and with jeopardy comes beauty and excitement. The course will end up winning most days but is that necessarily a bad thing? That birdie or flushed drive will feel all the more sweet on a course like the Ocean Course and I for one would love to come back and try and to get the better of it.

January 31, 2021
9 / 10
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