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It was a bitterly cold and brutally windy day when we rocked up to Kiawah Island 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 this morning.

Bob and Kathleen were gracious hosts, and 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, and

Cougar Point designed by Gary Player

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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.

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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 than 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 eye.....

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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 to see and play , but with the wind, plenty of  water and bunkers in play , and then the difficult beach side holes to finish it was never going to be easy...

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The massive and majestic homes that line the course on the back nine were a significant distraction - 35000 square monsters - worth squillions!

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The Ocean Course is a tough test of golf, and a noted championship course, in a magnificent setting. It was certainly worth coming so far to play. But it is not a course I would play over and over. Good but perhaps not great was my assessment...

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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!

 

Peter Wood

The Travelling Golfer

Jan 2013

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