It was a bitterly cold and brutally windy day when we rocked up to play Kiawah Island.
We were late for our tee time, and yet to meet our hosts for the day.
Our clubs had missed the flight to Charleston the night before, and delayed our journey to Kiawah in the morning.
Bob and Kathleen were gracious hosts, so not wanting to hold them up any further we basically arrived and headed to the first tee - stiff and sore from the long flight and chilled to the bone with the brisk sea breeze...
Pete & Alice Dye designed the Ocean Course, which opened in 1991- one of 5 courses in the Kiawah Island Resort.
The other courses are:
- Turtle Point designed by Jack Nicklaus
- Osprey Point designed by Tom Fazio
- Oak Point designed by Clyde Johnston
- Cougar Point designed by Gary Player
The Ocean course is the jewel in a pretty impressive crown, though - and has now hosted a number of international events including the The Ryder Cup in 1991, and the 2012 US PGA championship.
And Bagger Vance was filmed here!
It is known as a brutal test of golf.
In fact with a slope rating of 153, and course rating of 79.7 (the highest in the country?), The Ocean Course can be regarded as the toughest course in the USA.
Our hosts determined that given the conditions we should play of one of the mid length tees - certainly on some holes the back pegs were a long way back...
Early holes twisted and rolled between marshland and Silky Oaks giving an entirely different type of golf experience to anything I had experienced previously.
It was most enjoyable and not unplayable despite the wind.
I did however never quite get comfortable - the set up of the holes did not feel "right" to my eye.
I imagine Pete Dye has done this deliberately , setting up his angles and bunkering etc to trick the punters..
One of the first things I noticed was the grass on the greens - Paspalum, I was told.
A special strain developed to cope with the salt water - it looked strange, partly dormant as we were entering their winter months.
Certainly this is a strain of paspalum unlike any I have seen before - and relatively fine leaved.
But it putted well - which is all that mattered.
I felt the back nine was more straightforward but with the wind, plenty of water and bunkers in play, and the difficult beach side holes to finish it was never going to be easy...
Notable holes inlcude:
- hole 5, a clever par 3 with a diagonal carry over a sandy wasteland
- hole 10, a beautiful short par 4, with marshland and water right- it is the start of a delightful run of hole through to hole 13
- hole 13, another short par 4 through the lowlands (see pic mid page)
- hole 16, a strong par 5 right on the beach
- hole 17, a striking par 3 over water (see pic top of page)
The massive/ majestic homes that line the course on the back nine were also a significant distraction - 35000 square monsters - worth squillions!
The Ocean Course is a tough test of golf, and a noted championship course, in a magnificent setting. There are sea views from everywhere!
It was certainly worth coming so far to play.
But it is not a course I would play over and over. It was designed for matchplay rather than strokeplay and can really beat you up in the wind
Good but perhaps not great was my assessment...
Kiawah Island Resort is located 33 miles from Charleston airport in South Carolina, 110 miles from Hilton Head (Harbour Town), 119 miles from Myrtle Beach, 159 miles from Augusta Georgia, and 246miles from Pinehurst, Nth Carolina.
There is no shortage of quality golf in this part of the world!
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