Review for Kiawah Island Resort (Ocean)

Reviewer Score:


If the best designers were all given a plot of land on which to build a Ryder Cup host, the golf world would be blessed. Not a U.S. Open, not a PGA Championship...but a Ryder Cup. Although that event may be the pinnacle of professional golf, none of the other major championships reflect the wants and needs of the passionate amateur better than a Ryder Cup course, and Pete Dye’s Ocean Course at Kiawah is the definitive proof.

Matchplay emphasizes the value of variety between holes, as well as risk-reward factors. Pete Dye is hardly an architect who needs encouragement to seek out unique hole concepts, but with a mandate from the PGA? The dog (and the actual dog who accompanied Pete on the grounds of all his projects) was off the leash.

Perhaps the best demonstration of Dye’s variety in motion is to consider at the highest level (literally, Google Maps), how similar the four Par 5s are. All are, at their core, an S-bend-style long. This claim seems absurd to those who’ve, but it’s true. The difference is more than just the course’s shifting environments, but Dye’s rearrangement of the same basic principles. On No. 7, the life-or-death question comes first (carry the dune or lay-up left?). On No. 2, it comes last (Can I carry the marsh? Can I avoid the live oak?). On No. 11, the fairway is pockmarked with pot bunkers. On No. 16, the fairway is anchored by massive waste bunkers. The shape song remains the same on each, but the strategy’s lyrics change drastically. The only thing that remains the same is that the notorious coastal wind is omnipresent...but even that’s prone to change.

What this meant for the Pros in the ‘91 Ryder Cup was a constant shift in mental direction. What this means for the amateur today is, well, the same thing, but more importantly: A course that delivers a refreshing experience on every hole. Many architectural purists may prefer the strategies of Bethpage Black or Pinehurst among public must-plays, and there’s no reason to say they’re “wrong.” But there are many mid-handicappers who simply prefer a course where every hole stands out in their memory. Dye provides.

Date: June 07, 2019

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