One of the real challenges of playing the Top 100 courses in the US is getting the timing right. A large percentage of courses on the list are in locations where the optimal time to play them is between May and October which means that the months of November through April can be very slow when it comes to working on the list. Over the first year or so of the quest a number of mistakes and miscues were made but fortunately I have since learned. One of the lessons learned was to try to save the courses in locales with warmer winters for the months between November and April which is exactly how I ended up in South Carolina in December.
Unfortunately, when I played The Ocean Course back in 2007 I had not yet learned another valuable lesson in Top 100 golf . . . try to play more than one course on any given trip whenever possible. Now it is exactly two years later and I’m back on Kiawah Island. This time I’ll be playing the Kiawah Island Club’s Cassique course.
While looking for a Top 100 course to play in the winter I was fortunate enough to stumble my way into an invite to an event on Kiawah Island. Among other courses that event included a game at the Kiawah Island Club’s Cassique course. While I was on the island I did take the opportunity to make another lap around The Ocean Course as well, but that is another story.
The Cassique course opened in 2000 and is Tom Watson’s debut solo design in North America. As most golfers know Tom Watson’s career is defined by his incredible performances across the pond in the United Kingdom where he won 5 Open Championship titles. In some parts of Cassique layout it would seem that Tom called upon his vast knowledge of British links to create a very similar style here in South Carolina lowcountry. The photo below taken from behind the 4th green shows a bit of the “linksy” feel with its extensive mounding.
I couldn’t write about this course without talking about the Pulpit and Nip Tuck features. Holes 4 through 6 have the unique feature of being able to be setup and played two completely different ways using alternate teeing grounds, split fairways and I believe one extra green. The two setups are referred to as Pulpit and Nip Tuck. Today the course was set up for the Pulpit routing. The two photos below are of the 5th hole on the Pulpit set up that we played as a 150 yard par 3.
And a little closer look at the green.
I should mention at this point that the alternate routings confused the heck out of me. Fortunately we had caddies with us who knew where to go and where to tell us to hit the ball. Without their assistance I may still be out there wandering those three holes. The caddies were great and my caddie Kasey was great fun to spend the day with.
As I mentioned above Tom Watson definitely channeled the spirit of the great links courses of the United Kingdom while designing Cassique. The 6th hole is certainly the most obvious nod to the UK architecture style. This par 5 hole that we played at 520 yards from the Pulpit tees was modeled directly after the 14th hole at Carnoustie known as “The Spectacles”. On this hole (and the original in Scotland) players must decide if they want to hit a longer second shot and carry the spectacle bunkers or if they want to lay up short and have a blind shot into the green. I hit a terrible drive here and had to lay up short. Even after the lay up the green is only a short iron away and is easily able to be reached on the third shot. The photo below is of the spectacle bunkers.
Below is a photo of the 11th green with more mounding and deep bunkers.
Although there are parts of Cassique that have the look and feel of British links that style is not the only one represented on this course. The 12th hole pictured below looks like it could be on any number of great US parkland courses.
Then are there are also has places that feel distinctively South Carolina lowcountry. The photo below is of the 15th green and shows the vast expanse of low lying swampland so closely associated with the area.
The photo below is of the 16th hole which is a par 3 that we played from 170 yards. A fun little hole.
I found The Cassique Course at Kiawah Island Club to be a fun place to play. The alternate routings are certainly unique and something that I’ve never seen before. The various styles throughout the course kept things interesting throughout the round as well. I had a great time playing here and thoroughly enjoyed the course. It’s also worth pointing out that the USGA thinks highly of this course too as they elected to contest their Mid-Amateur championship here in 2009.