1 Sanctuary Beach Drive,
South Carolina 29455,
- +1 843 768 2121
21 miles S of Charleston
Welcome book in advance
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. What a man!
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 US PGA Championship. Measuring a formidable 7,676 yards in its tournament livery, 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.
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.
The clubhouse and changing rooms are immaculate, but at this point you can’t wait to get out and see the course. Only a few days before Christmas and the sun shining, it was easy to understand why golf in South Carolina is revered by anyone who has visited this wonderful golfing State. On the short buggy ride to the first tee, you are struck by the spectacular landscape, which although as close to the sea as can be, with in many ways a links feel, it has a landscape that is entirely different from the traditional British and Irish classics. Sandy wasteland areas, unusual trees and bushes, a variety of wildlife, all make the experience an unfamiliar one for the British visitor.
This is a unique stretch of land that has 9 holes on either side of the Club House laid out in a figure of eight, so half the holes on each 9 can be played with the wind and 9 against, with the shore line only metres away at all points on the course. All players are encouraged to take a caddy, and it makes a big difference to the enjoyment of the round, as the line off the tee is not always apparent, while the greens are quick and not easy to read. Another difference with a UK links is the presence of water, particularly on the Back 9. Whilst I hear what other reviewers have said about 17 being slightly unnatural, it didn’t feel that way to me.
This is very much a unique course, and is not trying to be similar to any other. The alligator snoozing by the edge of the 17th was a reminder that this was not your average links! There is no weak hole as such; the Back 9 is a slightly different challenge due to the water that comes in on a number of holes, but the overall experience is fantastic. The round raced by and you starting wishing you could play again the moment you arrived on the 18th tee, but playing the course is as stimulating experience as is imaginable. Importantly, the bar is excellent with a panoramic view down the coastline! Conversation will undoubtedly turn to just how good the course is and where it ranks in your top ten favorites. On a beautiful South Carolina day, you will not want to leave! It’s a must play, and a must play again!!