The Itinerant Golfer

The Itinerant Golfer's Take on Kiawah Island Resort (Ocean)


Kiawah Island, South Carolina | Kiawah Island Resort (Ocean)

Architect: Pete Dye
Year: 1991

1 Sanctuary Beach Drive, Kiawah Island, South Carolina 29455
(888) 854-2924

driving range available
motorized golf carts and caddies available
affiliated resort accommodations

PGA Championship - 2012
Ryder Cup - 1991


Back when I started this Top 100 quest, one of the first courses I played was Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course. I didn’t take many photos during that round and it was raining a few years later when I played the course again, so the end result is that I’ve never had many photos of The Ocean Course on this site. With all the excitement for the 2012 PGA Championship I decided that I should make a trip down to South Carolina with my camera and check out the course one more time. I contacted some friends in North and South Carolina to see if they were interested and before I knew it everything was planned.

It was a whirlwind trip that ran just a little less than 24 hours. I left Richmond at 6PM on a Friday and arrived in Charleston just after midnight. We were staying at Matt’s sisters house on James Island and would have to drive about 45 minutes to get to Kiawah Island in the morning. Since we had the first tee time of the day at 7AM we were going to have to wake up pretty early the next day.

As tough as it was to drag ourselves out of bed the next morning, somehow we managed. Not surprisingly, I find it’s usually a bit easier to wake up knowing that I’m about to play a world class golf course. Once we arrived at the course they shuttled our golf clubs to the range while we went inside to settle up with the cash register.

Out on the range we met up with our caddies and then took a ride in a cart over to the first tee. In the interest of having fun and not beating ourselves up too badly we decided to play from the 6,475 yard tees. Once the sprinklers on the 1st tee turned off that was our signal that we were free to go and we started off with the sunrise directly in our eyes.

Hole 1 – 365 yards – Par 4
This hole is a good welcome to Kiawah’s Ocean Course. Down the right side of the hole is one of The Ocean Course’s famous waste bunkers. Players who go right off the tee are going to get a taste of what the course is all about. Please excuse some of these early morning photos. The sun was causing some problems with my camera. Below is a look at the 1st green.
 
Kiawah Island Resort Ocean Course
 
My buddy Spens, who doesn’t play golf, decided to come along for the walk and brought his video camera to see if he could catch some interesting moments. Here is a little video clip of someone who took interest in our match and followed us for a while on the 1st hole.
 

 
Hole 2 – 501 yards – Par 5
Below is a photo taken from the tee box of this hole. I’ve always liked this view. To me it looks like something out of an African savannah rather than South Carolina’s low country. The best line is at the three trees in the distance. If you look closely you can see the stairs leading from the fairway down into the waste bunker that runs along the left side of this hole.
 
Kiawah Island Resort Ocean Course
 
Below is a look at the 2nd green and some of the trouble that lies in front of it.
 
Kiawah Island Resort Ocean Course
 
Hole 3 – 319 yards – Par 4
This short par 4 is a fun little hole. Driver is not going to be a good idea for most players here. Too much distance and its very easy to blow it through the fairway and into the junk. A nice little 200 yard shot here is really all that is necessary.
 
Kiawah Island Resort Ocean Course
 
Depending on where the tee ball ends up the second shot on this hole can be blind with little to no view of the green. The photo below is what my second shot looked like.
 
Kiawah Island Resort Ocean Course
 
Below is a little better view of the green. Missing the green here makes for a very difficult up and down as I found out. The sun is still a bit problematic, but this is the last of the photos where it was really severe.
 
Kiawah Island Resort Ocean Course
 
Hole 4 – 401 yard – Par 4
This hole is one of two par 4s that is over 400 yards from the “Dye” tees that we were playing. The photo below was taken from the tee box and the best plan is to hit it down the middle. Driver may be too much for some players here. This is a hazard that runs across the fairway and bigger hitters may find that their driver will land them in this hazard.
 
Kiawah Island Resort Ocean Course
 
There are some tough fairway bunkers on this hole that can make reaching the green very difficult as Brian found out in the video below.
 

 
Below is a photo of the green taken from just before the hazard.
 
Kiawah Island Resort Ocean Course
 
Hole 5 – 177 yards – Par 4
The first par 3 on the course is a medium length affair with a very large bunker that must be carried to reach the putting surface. The bunker on the right side of the green makes it difficult to bail out on this hole. Its best to hit the green.
 
Kiawah Island Resort Ocean Course
 
The photo below was taken from on the green. Note the bunker behind the flag. With this hole location this is not a good place to be. For the 2012 PGA Championship I have to think they will have a hole location one day that will bring this bunker into play.
 
Kiawah Island Resort Ocean Course
 
Hole 6 – 345 yards – Par 4
This shortish par 4 offers two options off the tee. Big hitters can take a line straight at the green and carry the waste bunker or shorter hitters can play to the right of the bunker and have a longer approach shot into the green.
 
Kiawah Island Resort Ocean Course
 
Here is a look at the 6th green.
 
Kiawah Island Resort Ocean Course
 
Even the holes without the ocean as a backdrop can be very pretty with the native grass and palmetto trees. I like the photo below that was taken from just to the right of the green looking back towards the ocean.
 
Kiawah Island Resort Ocean Course
 
Hole 7 – 493 yards – Par 5
This par 5 hole turns to the right and can be very reachable for longer hitters. A drive up the middle with a little fade on it will work just right for the tee ball here.
 
Kiawah Island Resort Ocean Course
 
Below is a view of the approach shot into the green after a layup for the second shot.
 
Kiawah Island Resort Ocean Course
 
The photo below was taken from the green looking back out towards the ocean.
 
Kiawah Island Resort Ocean Course
 
Hole 8 – 166 yards – Par 3
This par 3 plays plays to a pushed up green that can reject balls into the surrounding bunkers if they do not quite find the putting surface. Its not an easy up and down from any of these bunkers.
 
Kiawah Island Resort Ocean Course
 
Hole 9 – 406 yards – Par 4
This hole is a strong par 4 that requires two good shots. The hole doglegs left and the best line from the tee is to flirt with the bunker and hit it down the left side of the fairway.
 
Kiawah Island Resort Ocean Course
 
This video below shows the trouble that Rob was in off the tee. Hitting the ball off line at The Ocean Course can cause for some tough recoveries. I have no idea how they even found this ball.
 

 
As can be seen in the photo below the fairway bunkers here are no joke.
 
Kiawah Island Resort Ocean Course
 
Hole 10 – 360 yards – Par 4
After a cart ride from the 9th green back to the halfway hut we walked over the the 10th tee. The photo below was taken from the tee box. Its a good idea to avoid the right side of this hole as there is a waste bunker that runs all the way down the length of the fairway.
 
Kiawah Island Resort Ocean Course
 
I should have taken my own advice. Here is a clip of me hitting out the waste bunker. It was tough to get decent stance with this lie.
 

 
Below is a look at the 10th green. Note the grandstands beginning to be put in place on the course for the 2012 PGA Championship.
 
Kiawah Island Resort Ocean Course
 
Hole 11 – 506 yards – Par 5
This hole is a shortish par 5 from the Dye tees we were playing. Again, there is a waste bunker down the right hand side that needs to be avoided.
 
Kiawah Island Resort Ocean Course
 
The bunkers and mounding around this green can be problematic for players who go for the green in two and don’t quite get it all the way there. Not an easy shot out of a bunker that is 20-30 yards out from the green.
 
Kiawah Island Resort Ocean Course
 
The Ocean Course has a great natural feel to it. There are no paved cart paths and no housing directly on the course. It feels like the course was literally carved out of the sand dunes.
 
Kiawah Island Resort Ocean Course
 
Hole 12 – 412 yards – Par 4
This healthy par 4 has a very generous fairway which encourages a big swing with a driver from the tee box.
 
Kiawah Island Resort Ocean Course
 
The green here allows for a shot to be run onto the putting surface. Today the flag is in the middle but the when its on the right the marsh is brought into play much more.
 
Kiawah Island Resort Ocean Course
 
Hole 13 – 364 yards – Par 4
The tee shot here requires a carry over the marsh where the player has an opportunity to bite of as much as they would like to try and shorten the hole. Already a fairly short hole the safe line is to hit a shot out towards the bunkers on the far side of the fairway which still leaves a short iron into the green.
 
Kiawah Island Resort Ocean Course
 
It’s nice to have a short iron in hand when approaching this green as the putting surface is not overly large and the canal on the right side of the green can easily be brought into play by a mishit shot.
 
Kiawah Island Resort Ocean Course
 
Here is a closer look at the green. This is another hole where the ball can be bounced along the ground to reach the putting surface. One member of our group demonstrated this by using a putter to knock his ball to 3 feet from 80 yards out.
 
Kiawah Island Resort Ocean Course
 
Hole 14 – 161 yards – Par 3
This tricky one shot hole requires a good shot from the tee to make par. Note that the grass wall in the bunker is new in the last few years. See the photo below from my original post for the old look. Over the years the course has been “softened” for resort play. When I first visited the course back in 2007 I felt like it was quite a bit more wooly and rough around the edges than it is now.
 
Kiawah Island Resort Ocean Course
 
Here is a short video clip from the tee box showing how close the ocean is to the course on the back 9.
 

 
Hole 15 – 381 yards – Par 4
This par 4 is a fairly straight forward hole. A good drive down the middle is a great idea here.
 
Kiawah Island Resort Ocean Course
 
The green here is surrounded by trouble. Note the waste bunker on the left and the native grass on the right.
 
Kiawah Island Resort Ocean Course
 
Here is a closer look at the green.
 
Kiawah Island Resort Ocean Course
 
Hole 16 – 540 yards – Par 5
This is a three shot hole for most amateurs. To set up a good second shot the line to take from the tee is down the right side of the fairway.
 
Kiawah Island Resort Ocean Course
 
Below is a look into the green on this hole. As is the theme at The Ocean Course there are several bunkers that will catch poor shots and cause problems. The bunker on the right in the photo below got my second shot and left me with my dreaded long bunker shot.
 
Kiawah Island Resort Ocean Course
 
Hole 17 – 182 yards – Par 3
A tough par 3 late in the round is sure to come into play at the 2012 PGA Championship in a couple of weeks. With the right hole locations and needing to make birdie I’m sure we’ll see some balls rinsed here when the pros come to town. For us hacks, going for the middle of the green is the best play.
 
Kiawah Island Resort Ocean Course
 
Hole 18 – 396 yards – Par 4
The finishing hole here is no pushover and requires well executed shots to avoid ending with a disaster. The hole doglegs to the right and the shortest path home is to fly the tee ball along the right side of the fairway being sure to avoid the bunkers.
 
Kiawah Island Resort Ocean Course
 
To the left of the green is a pretty nasty waste bunker.
 
Kiawah Island Resort Ocean Course
 
Here is another look from over in the waste bunker.
 
Kiawah Island Resort Ocean Course
 
Once we holed out on the 18th we loaded our clubs into the car and hit the road back to Richmond. On the way home we had to take a slight detour through West Ashely in Charleston for a visit to my all time favorite BBQ restaurant, Bessinger’s. If you’re ever in Charleston I highly recommend checking it out. It was a long 24 hours but well worth it.

I’ve played The Ocean Course three times now and I’ve really enjoyed it every time. I think we may have played from two short of tees this time around as there was no wind and most of the trouble we encountered was self induced player error. I’ll be interested to see how the pros do during the PGA Championship in a few weeks if the wind doesn’t show up. Of course they’ll be playing from 7,356 yards which will likely bring a lot of trouble into play that wasn’t an issue for us from the 6,475 tees. Wind or no wind its certainly going to be fun to watch!