KIAWAH ISLAND (OCEAN COURSE)
Course Architect: Pete Dye (redesign work in 1997, 2002-03)
Year Opened: 1991
Location: Kiawah Island, South Carolina
Slope: 155. Rating: 79.6
Yardage: 7,629 (Back tees 7,937 yards)
Hole-by-Hole: 1 - Par 4 395 Yds 10 - Par 4 439 Yds
2 - Par 5 543 Yds 11 - Par 5 576 Yds
3 - Par 4 390 Yds 12 - Par 4 466 Yds
4 - Par 4 453 Yds 13 - Par 4 465 Yds
5 - Par 3 207 Yds 14 - Par 3 219 Yds
6 - Par 4 479 Yds 15 - Par 4 468 Yds
7 - Par 5 568 Yds 16 - Par 5 579 Yds
8 - Par 3 197 Yds 17 - Par 3 221 Yds
9 - Par 4 494 Yds 18 - Par 4 470 Yds
Par 36 3,726 Yds Par 36 3,903 Yds
Key Events Held: Ryder Cup Matches (1991),
Shell's Wonderful World of Golf (1996),
World Cup of Golf (1997),
Site of the movie "Legend of Bagger Vance" (2000),
UBS Warburg Cup (2001),
WGC - World Cup (2003),
PGA Club Professional Championship (2005),
Senior PGA Championship (2007),
PGA Championship (2012, 2021).
Awards Won: #1 Golf Course in South Carolina - Golf Digest,
#1 Best State-by-State Public Access Course - Golfweek,
#18 America's Top 100 Modern Courses - Golfweek (2006),
#3 Top 100 You Can Play - Golf Magazine (2006),
#1 Golf Resort in U.S. - Travel + Leisure (2006),
#4 Resort Course in America - Golf Digest,
#9 America's Best Resort Courses - Golfweek (2005),
America's Toughest Resort Course - Golf Digest,
#8 Best Public Course in the U.S. - Golf Digest (2005-06),
5 Stars - Best Places to Play - Golf Digest (2006),
#30 Best Courses for Women - Golf for Women (2005),
#10 Golf Magazine - Top 50 Greatest Courses last 50 years (2009)
Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary.
HISTORY: How does a course get picked to host the Ryder Cup when it's not even
built? Well, you'll have to ask the PGA of America, but that was the case when
in 1988, the Ocean Course was selected as host of the 29th Ryder Cup Matches
With legendary architect Pete Dye in tow and permits finally granted, work
begun in the summer of 1989. Dye, as most are aware, has designed some of the
most famous and infamous courses in the world, such as the TPC at Sawgrass,
Whistling Straits, Blackwolf Run, Harbour Town and Casa de Campo.
Dye had his work cutout for him with just two years to craft an amazing layout
to test the world's best players. Just a few months after the routing began,
Hurricane Hugo put everything on hold. But to his credit and all of the
workers on the project, everyone pitched in to complete this course, as even
PGA officials believed it would not be finished.
Dye's wife Alice played an important part in the design process, as she
suggested that people who play the course should be able to see the Atlantic
Ocean. With that in mind, eight of the inland holes were elevated six feet and
all of the holes bordering the ocean, so that you could enjoy the beautiful
Within one year, the course was ready for seeding, but the naysayers continued
to throw doubt, as even Lanny Wadkins was quoted as saying, "No way will this
course be ready for the Ryder Cup." He of course, was wrong.
The 1991 Ryder Cup was everything Pete Dye had intended. The wind blew and the
players battled to an epic conclusion. Deemed, "The War at the Shore," the
29th Ryder Cup was an incredible competition. Dave Stockton was the captain of
the United States squad, while the European team was led by Bernard Gallacher.
The Americans opened up a 3-1 advantage after the morning foursomes led by
veterans Wadkins and Hale Irwin, as they crushed Colin Montgomerie and David
Gilford, 4 & 2. Ryder Cup stalwarts Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal
claimed the only morning point for the Euros. The afternoon four-balls brought
the Europeans within one point, as they captured 2 1/2 points. Once again,
Ballesteros and Olazabal won their match to spearhead the charge. Fred Couples
and Ray Floyd, a captains pick, won for the second time on day one, as they
defeated Nick Faldo and Ian Woosnam, 5 & 3. Day two saw the Americans take a
commanding morning lead winning three of the four matches, as Wadkins and
Irwin won, 4 & 2 over David Feherty and Sam Torrance. Ballesteros and Olazabal
continued their winning ways, capturing the only point for the Euros over
Couples and Floyd. The afternoon four-balls went the way of the Euros, as they
evened the matches at 8-8. Couples and Payne Stewart were the only saving
grace for the U.S., as they halved Ballesteros and Olazabal. After dropping
two early matches to David Feherty and Nick Faldo, the American squad got a
boost from Mark Calcavecchia, or so they thought. Leading 5-up after nine and
4-up with just four holes to play against Montgomerie, Calcavecchia played the
final four holes in eight-over par, including dumping a pair of balls into the
water on 17 to gain a half with Monty. Corey Pavin, Paul Azinger and Chip Beck
followed with wins for the U.S., but Ballesteros and Paul Broadhurst earned
points for the Europeans, who led 13-12 with just three matches remaining. The
Europeans just needed a tie to retain the cup, as they were victorious in 1987
and tied in 1989. Couples and Wadkins came through in the clutch, as both
players posted 3 & 2 wins over future Ryder Cup captains, Torrance and Mark
James respectively. It came down to Irwin vs. Bernhard Langer in the final
match. Dominating most of the match, Irwin led 2-up with just four to play.
After winning the 15th hole, Langer closed to within one and made a great up
and down from the sand on 16 to remain 1-down. On the famous 17th, Irwin
three-jacked from 40-feet, while Langer sank a crucial five-footer to square
the match. Both players missed the green in two on the last. Irwin, playing
first, chipped poorly to 30-feet while Langer, putting from the edge, got
within four-feet of the hole. Irwin, who played the final nine holes in 41,
missed his par putt and was conceded bogey from three feet. Langer, needing to
make to retain the Cup, missed right and the American's reclaimed the trophy.
Ballesteros, consoling his fallen compatriot, "No golfer in the world could
have made that putt."
Shell's Wonderful World of Golf made its only appearance at the Ocean Course,
as Annika Sorenstam battled Dottie Pepper in 1996. Pepper came away with the
win despite a triple-bogey on 18 for a round of 75, compared to Sorenstam's
Dye returned to the Ocean Course in 1997 to make some subtle changes to the
course. Most notably, replacing the turf on the approaches to each of the
greens and adding collection areas around the putting surfaces. All of the
changes were made to challenge the best players and to increase the pace of
Players from around the globe returned to Kiawah Island for the World Cup in
1997, as the duo of Irish duo of Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley claimed
a five-shot win. Competitors who had criticized the Ocean Course in 1991, were
quite complimentary this time around. Colin Montgomerie, who called the course
unplayable during the Ryder Cup commented, "The course has improved over the
last six years. It's grown into a popular, well-respected golf course, one of
the world's finest, if not America's best resort." Montgomerie, who edged
Germany's Alex Cejka for the individual title, teamed with Raymond Russell for
a second-place finish for Scotland. Montgomerie shot rounds of 68-66-66-66,
two clear of Cejka, who shot the course record of 63 in round one. The
American team of Davis Love III and Justin Leonard finished third,
Even Hollywood came calling in 2000, as Robert Redford and company filmed the
movie, "The Legend of Bagger Vance" at the Ocean Course. Will Smith, as the
lead character, helps a down-and-out golfer, Matt Damon, defeat legendary
golfers Walter Hagen and Bobby Jones in an exhibition match. A special hole
was built near the practice range for the movie by Tom Simpson, who was the
shaper for Kiawah's greens for Pete Dye.
The Ocean Course played host to the inaugural UBS Warburg Cup in 2001, an
event featuring players 40 and over in a Ryder Cup-style format. Arnold Palmer
captained the United States squad, while Gary Player led the Rest of the World
team. The U.S. squad edged the Rest of the World, 12 1/2 to 11 1/2. Trailing
7-5 after the first two days, the Americans rallied to captured 7 1/2 points
out of the 12 singles matches for the win. Palmer opened the final day with a
2 & 1 win over Player, but it was the final two matches that decided the
outcome, as Mark Calcavecchia defeated Ian Woosnam, 1-up and Larry Nelson
knocked off Frank Nobilo, 3 & 2. Player regarded the Ocean Course as "One of
the top-10 courses I've ever played."
More changes came in 2002 and '03, as Dye returned to revamp the course.
Adjustments to the second and fourth holes and moving the 18th green closer to
the Atlantic highlighted the alterations. Dye also created new tees on seven
holes and resurfaced each green in 2003.
The World Cup returned for the 49th staging of the team event, as South
Africans, Trevor Immelman and Rory Sabbatini cruised to a four-shot win over
Paul Casey and Justin Rose of England. The U.S. squad paired Justin Leonard
with Jim Furyk, but the Americans finished tied for fifth. The South African
duo held a seven-shot cushion heading into the final round and despite a one-
over 73, they were able to win the fifth World Cup title for their country.
In 2005, the PGA Club Professional Championship came to Kiawah Island and the
Ocean Course held its own, as no player finished 72 holes under par. When all
was said and done, Mike Small, the University of Illinois golf coach, defeated
Travis Long by three shots for the title. Small opened with rounds of 73-76
and stood five shots off the lead, but a third-round best of 71, the only
round of the day under par, vaulted Small to within two of the lead. On
Sunday, Small was one of just four players to break 70, as he shot 69 for a
one-over-par total of 289, the highest winning score in the history of the
event. To say the course played difficult would be an understatement, as the
field averaged 77.214 for the week and a whopping three shots over par on the
back nine alone. Seven of the holes on the final nine ranked in the top-10 as
the hardest for the week.
REVIEW: One of only two par fours on the course under 400 yards, albeit just
five yards short of that figure, the first hole is a dandy opener. Playing
fairly straight, the key is avoiding the sandy waste area down the entire
right side, which boasts several tall trees. Left of the landing area is no
bargain either, so three-metal off the tee is your best play. Just a short
iron remains to a fairly simple green, guarded short and right by sand and
water. Approach the left side of the putting surface to set up your best shot
at birdie, as the green is only 27 paces deep.
Although just 543 yards from the tips, the second hole is a very demanding par
five. There are three distinct landing areas. First, the tee shot on this
dogleg left must find the wide fairway. Cutting the corner can set up a play
to go for the green, but this is extremely risky. The second shot is either to
an 80-yard long strip of fairway or going for the green or attempting to reach
the third landing zone, short of the putting surface. All three zones are
surrounded by sand, waste area and marsh, so pinpoint accuracy is key. The
green is long, but very narrow as it sits above the fairway. Any shot just
offline will roll back down into a collection area. As you can read, not a
simple par five.
The last par four under 400 yards, the third is a dogleg left with a 190-yard
carry over marsh from the back buttons. The fairway is quite wide, so avoid
the sand and scrub left, as you will be blocked by trees towards the green.
Just a wedge should remain to an elevated green devoid of sand. The putting
surface is just 26 yards wide and very narrow with the wet stuff long and
left. Club selection is critical in your efforts to make birdie.
One of the most difficult driving holes on the course, the fourth is a rugged
453-yard par four with three devilish pot bunkers down the right side of the
landing area. The fairway runs out at 295 yards, so the big hitters must use
three-metal off the tee. The entire hole is surrounded by marsh, so any ball
off line is gone. A long iron or fairway metal will remain to a green with
subtle undulations. The putting surface is guarded by two traps right, so err
left if you have any doubts. Making par here is a great score.
The first par three, the fifth features the longest green on the course at 49
yards deep. To complicate things, the putting surface is divided by a huge
ridge, so depending upon pin placement and wind, the correct club off the tee
must be chosen. Sand down the entire left side can spell doom for an errant
shot, especially with a back-left flag.
If you haven't gotten the message after the first five holes, the sixth will
surely clue you in. At this hole is when you decide wether you have picked the
right tees to play from. Stretching to as much as 479 yards and usually into a
breeze, the sixth requires a mighty blast off the tee just to reach the
fairway. Even with a successful shot, a long iron or fairway metal will remain
to a long, undulating putting surface. As with all the holes on the Ocean
Course, a sandy waste area surrounds the entire hole, so club yourself wisely.
The par five seventh is reachable if you're able to cut the corner of the
dogleg right. Having written that, you must avoid the sandy waste area down
the right to have any shot, as it sticks out like a sore thumb into the
fairway. The hole then narrows all the way to the green, with sand dunes left
and gnarly scrub right. The putting surface is pretty easy and should yield a
birdie or two.
It might not seem like a break, but the par-three eighth could be construed
as such because the green is accessible and fairly wide, accepting most shots
easily. The putting surface does slope from the center to the back and the
green is surrounded by waste area, front, right and behind, so be careful. The
more I think about it, you better pay attention to this one or you'll make
double-bogey in a heartbeat.
Despite its length, the ninth is one of the easier driving holes on the
course. A wide fairway on this dogleg left should be a simple task. The
difficulty remains with the length, at a whopping 494 yards from the back
marker. A long iron or fairway metal might be needed to attack the green,
however, any shot left will end up in the sand while approaches right will
feed away from the putting surface. The back-to-front sloping green is quite
slick and requires a deft touch. What a ride, and you're only at the midpoint.
A long walk or modest cart ride is needed to reach the 10th tee after
completing the front nine. The 10th is an intimidating hole, however, don't be
fearful, as the landing area off the tee is open to the left. The key is not
to miss your tee shot to the right, as a long waste area will gobble up any
and all miss-hits. The huge wall will force you to layup well short of the
green. A good drive will set up a short iron to a putting surface that is long
and narrow. Deep of the green is jail, so play towards the center of the
green, especially when the pin is back and left.
Yet another three-shot par five, the 11th winds left, right and left, like a
snake in the grass. Missing the fairway to the right off the tee will, just
like No. 10, spell trouble and force a premature layup. The proper play is
left fairway off the tee, medium or long iron for your second shot and wedge
to the green. This will set up a birdie chance and take all the danger out of
the mix. The elevated putting surface has severe drops, but it will hold your
approach. Look for birdie, but par is just fine.
Probably the widest fairway on the course, the 12th can be had, but only if
you land in the short grass. Danger lurks right, as a canal runs the gambit
through the green. You certainly won't fare better missing left, as sand dunes
and scrub await. Your approach to the green plays slightly downhill to a
putting surface that runs away towards the rear. Let your second shot run to
the flag, otherwise bogey or worse could ruin your round.
One of the most picturesque and difficult holes on the course, the 13th is a
great par four. Water crosses in front of the tee box and then wanders down
the entire right side of the fairway past the green. A solid tee shot must
favor the left side of the landing area to set up any realistic chance of
getting home, however, stay clear of the two pot bunkers. A long iron or
hybrid could be the call for your second shot, but beware because the green is
long with bunkers and dunes left and water right.
As you begin your trek home, the 14th offers an outstanding view of the
Atlantic Ocean. Another par three over 200 yards, this gem features an
elevated green with a diabolical sandy waste area to the right (trust me
on this) and severe dropoffs right and deep. The green is very large and
undulating, making a two-putt extremely difficult. Missing the putting surface
will certainly test your short game, and your mind.
With the wind at your back, hopefully, and the ocean to the right, the 15th
requires a 200-yard carry over the dunes to just reach the fairway. Left-
center is the call off the tee, however any shot missing the short grass will
be deep in sand and difficult to recover from. A mid-iron should remain to a
fairly small green, just 30 paces deep. The putting surface is not to tricky,
so any shot near the center could result in birdie.
Another shot at birdie, the 16th is a strong par five, stretching 579 yards
from the back tee. Water to the left of the tee box necessitates a big blast
if you play down the left, however the smart shot is right-fairway to take
advantage of the slope that traverses down towards the hole. Sling a fairway
metal down the right for your second and you'll get home in two. The
difficulty here is the dunes right and the massive trap left. The putting
surface is miniscule at 29 paces and is slightly elevated from the fairway.
This hole can be had, but only with pinpoint accuracy.
One of the greatest par threes in golf, although Mark Calcavecchia might
disagree, the 17th is all about carry and club selection. Very intimidating
off the tee, especially from all the way back. Water encompasses the entire
right side of the hole, so bail out left if you must and try to make par the
old fashioned way. Two deep traps guard the left side and the green is a
massive 46 steps deep (that's 10,000 square feet). Depending upon the weather,
you could hit five iron or five wood on this great hole. During the 2005 PGA
Club Professional Championship, the 17th played as the most difficult hole
during the event with a scoring average of 3.586.
Your final hole on the Ocean Course completes a back nine that measures 3,903
yards! At 470 yards from the tips, this awesome par four needs a tee shot to
favor the right side to set up the best angle to the green. In 2002, Pete Dye
moved the green complex 25 yards to the right and closer to the Atlantic
Ocean. The second handicap hole on the course just got harder. A myriad of
deep bunkers guard the landing zone, so accuracy and strength are needed here.
The second shot will require a long iron or hybrid to reach the undulating
putting surface. Any shot left will be trapped and any shot right, well, the
OVERALL: Not only does the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island make you scratch your
head in wonder and anxiety, but it also makes you want to come back and tackle
the beast again. This course is, by far, the hardest resort course in the
United States, but it's also one of the greatest.
The Ocean Course requires every club in your bag, not to mention great
imagination. It reminds me of Pine Valley, where if you miss the fairway
you're doomed, but if you find safe haven in the short grass, you're rewarded.
Variety is what makes this course great. Doglegs right and left, straight
holes, bail out rights and lefts, and flat, undulating and heavily contoured
Let's start off with the amenities. A $20 million, 24,000-square foot
clubhouse is expected to be finished in the spring of 2007, complete with all
the trimmings and situated above the 18th green. It will included a locker
room big enough to accommodate 164 players, a 1,700-square foot pro shop and a
The practice facility is one of the largest I've ever seen with enough range
balls to make Vijay Singh's hands bleed and plenty of space to work on every
aspect of your game.
Next up is the staff. The personnel at the Ocean Course is a perfect example
of Southern hospitality. From the shuttle bus drivers to the bag handlers to
the staff in the pro shop and to the marvelous caddies, the people at Kiawah
Island take a back seat to no one.
Finally, the course. It comes as no surprise that the Ocean Course is ranked
in the top 100 in the United States and has been called America's Toughest
Resort Course by Golf Digest. This is golf the way it was meant to be played,
against the elements and nature. The conditioning of the fairways and greens
are amazing while the look and lines of the course are brilliant.
Since day one, Pete Dye and the people at Kiawah Island have spared no expense
to make this one of the greatest courses in the world and they have succeeded.
With its length, most people would consider the Ocean Course as a single-digit
player's dream, however all golfers can play this course -- made evident by
the five different sets of tees and the course ranging from as little as 5,327
Although there is plenty of sand on the course, there are only six bunkers,
with the remaining sand part of "transition areas." Feel free to ground your
club and take plenty of practice swings, you'll need them.
The course is a tale of two different, but equally challenging, nines. Winding
through marsh and environmentally-sensitive areas, the opening nine is laid
out on the eastern-most tip of Kiawah Island. The closing nine moves through
sand dunes, sea oats and wire grasses with the final five holes running along
side the Atlantic Ocean.
A course like this comes along once in a lifetime, each hole unique. If you
haven't been to Ireland and Scotland, this is the next best thing...or better.
The Ocean Course is a supreme test of skill and courage. Pick the right set of
tees, grab a caddie, listen to his advice and enjoy the time of your life.