Although the Ocean Course at the Kiawah Island Resort is now celebrated for its extensive number of coastal holes, it wasn’t the first course on the island to bring golfers to the foot of the Atlantic Ocean. That distinction belongs to Turtle Point, a Jack Nicklaus design that opened as the resort’s second course during 1981.
The most famous holes occur during the stretch of Nos. 14-16. Two par threes sandwich the trio, facing in opposite directions so players experience the island’s notorious winds from different angles. In between is a short par four that takes advantage of the dunes to create a potential blind shot for those who avoid trouble off the tee. The inland holes rely on ponds to enforce the risk-reward strategy, an approach later emulated by Tom Fazio at the resort’s Osprey Point course.
Nicklaus returned to the course during 2016 to carry out an extensive renovation, which included replacing all the fairways with paspalum, a sticky, salt-tolerant turf option that first came to prominence at the Ocean Course.
Played Turtle on a recent trip to Kiawah and it didn’t disappoint in the slightest. Nicklaus himself said that the goal behind this course was to make the player think, and this course is full of thought provoking holes and thought provoking shots. The 6th is a bear, two legs over water. 13/14/15 fronting the ocean are magnificent. Trees are everywhere with overhanging branches, forcing tough shots. Just a wonderful course.
It's not uncommon for multi-course facilities to have a layout meant to move players around that satisfies the basic golf itch. That's what Turtle Point provides. The Ocean Course is the marquee layout but candidly many people should not even contemplate a round there unless they have some golf game of note and then play the appropriate tees.
I returned to the course during this year's PGA Championship and concur with the comments made by Zachary and Brian.
Most people will enjoy what Turtle Point provides -- but those who are cognizant of more endearing architecture that lingers after the round concludes will wonder why something more thought provoking could not have been created here.
M. James Ward
Turtle Point is a Nicklaus design and surprisingly the first hole leans left! Favor the right side off the tee. The first par 5 is S shaped and reachable by the big boys. A water carry off the tee, left will give you better options, but be wary of the left fairway bunker in the landing area. Water also comes into play greenside, so choose wisely. A good risk reward hole. The 3rd hole is a straight away par four withput any bunkers. However, the water hazard on the left does come into play off the tee and certainly on the approach to this two-tiered green. The first par three is forgettable. The fifth is a straight away par five. There is water left off the tee, but three average shots and you will be putting for birdie, no idea how this is rated the 7th toughest hole. The par 4 6th is about positioning. You may want to layup, if not be right of center off the tee. The narrow green extends out into the left water hazard leaving an approach that requires precision. Needless to say, I doubled. The 7th is a Florida par three, all carry. The 8th is the number one handicap hole and deservedly so. It is long and leans right. The 9th is a good par four dogleg left. Aim at the fairway bunker this green is also protected by water left.
The back starts with a straightaway reachable par five. There are fairway bunkers on both sides in the landing area. If you are playing it as a 3 shotter, favor the right on your second. This should provide you with a green light attack angle and take the left greenside bunkers out of play. The 11th is a good hole, where you need to hit two good shots to make par. Dogleg right, favor the left side off the tee. The approach is to a green that sits on a bulkhead over the water hazard. The 12th is a tough long par four. Fairway bunker right and the green is elevated, so take an extra club. The 13th is a par 5 that is rated the 10th toughest. Do not see how. From the tips it is 530 with one of the tightest landing areas on the course. If you nut it and decide to go for it you will need to carry the water hazard and bunker, probably a 230 carry. For the rest of us, we still to need carry the water hazard, but an average iron will suffice. This will leave us with a wedge over the mogul in front of the green. The 14th is on the ocean and is a short par three with a small green. The short 15th parallels the ocean. Left is best off the tee to take the right greenside bunker out of play. The 16th is about judging the wind. Not long, but the wind just keeps pushing the ball right. After the first three guys missed the green right, I hit a knockdown and missed the green right, also. The short 17th is the rated the easiest on the course. Favor the left off the tee to set up your attack wedge. The 18th is a long strong finishing hole. Water down the left and fairway bunkers right. The approach is another water carry to a perched green.
A pedestrian course that I would not pay to play again.
I call this one the red-headed stepchild of the group. But, hey when you're in a group with the Ocean Course being the runt of the litter isn't a bad thing. The greens and fairways are maintained well. The design however seems a bit lacking. I would say this is defiantly the easiest of the bunch. A solid course in general just though to rate highly based on the quality of golf in the area. Would I play here again? No, I it isn't a bad course, but it just didn't suit my tastes. Lots of good golf around the area.
I choose Turtle Point as one of my add on Kiawah rounds due to the seafront holes. Overall, somewhat disappointing. The inland holes were generally non-descript and the ocean holes were really really tight. Crammed up against housing.
This course was the only resort course at Kiawah that I didn’t play on my recent trip there, but I walked a few holes and was familiar enough with it from previous rounds that I’ll submit a review.
The highlight of Turtle Point is the three holes along the ocean, framed by dunes on one side and housing on the other. #14 and #16 are mid-length par threes heading opposite directions along the beach – #16 is quasi-redan – and #15 is a mid-length par four that links the two of them, highlighted by a humpbacked green. Other than that, the course is bland resort golf with mostly unmemorable holes (outside of difficult par four finishers on each side) and doesn’t have the bolder bunkering and greens of Osprey Point or even Cougar Point, the third resort course on the island which is not ranked on this site.
All told, like Osprey Point (which I prefer to play slightly more) and Cougar Point (which I prefer to play slightly less, but played recently due to Turtle Point's unavailability), Turtle Point is worth playing if you’re staying on Kiawah Island, but not really worth traveling to play by itself.
Played August 23, 1993, September 3, 1994, & June 27, 1999