FX Excursions

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Place South Carolina’s Kiawah Island Golf Resort High on Your Must-Play List

by Dale Leatherman

Apr 28, 2021


April/May 2021

Kiawah Island offers golfers the opportunity to play five championship courses, each one a unique design from five of the world’s leading architects,” said Brian Gerard, director of golf, Kiawah Island Golf Resort. “Among them is Pete Dye’s internationally renowned master- piece, The Ocean Course, which features the most seaside holes in North America. The venue for this year’s PGA Championship (May 17–23), it also hosted the famous 1991 Ryder Cup and the 2012 PGA Championship. The resort offers an abundance of diverse accommodations (including The Sanctuary, a Forbes 5-Star beachfront hotel), 10 miles of beach, more than a dozen restaurants and an array of other recreational programs, all of which make Kiawah Island Golf Resort a unique golf destination.”

Life moves at a leisurely pace on Kiawah, a balmy Lowcountry barrier island. It would be a travesty to play the resort’s golf courses as a marathon. Instead, treat the experience like a five-course dinner, savoring the nuances of each one before moving on to the next.

(7,356 yards, par 72, 144/77.3)
With its vast waste areas, wetlands, elevated greens and pot bunkers fringed with shaggy grasses, this is an extraordinary test of golf and a feast for the eyes. As often happened with the Dyes, a suggestion from Alice became a game- changer. When Pete raised the course level to give every hole an ocean view, the east-west track became exposed to wind off the ocean that often proves penal. Club choices can vary as much as eight clubs, so your caddy quickly becomes your best friend. There are many signature-worthy holes, including the 221-yard, par-3 Hole 17. Water wraps the front and right side of the green, and two pot bunkers guard the left side of the two-tiered target.


(6,814 yards, par 72, 134/72.7)

Located on the other end of the resort from the windswept Ocean Course, the Gary Player-designed Cougar Point is still subject to wind but with less ferocity. Rather than ocean views, the layout is scenic because of its interaction with the Kiawah River and marshland. There are several encounters with the river and lakes, but wetlands can prove the biggest challenge. The fourth hole, handicapped No. 1, is threatened by marsh along the right. The 458-yard, par 4 doglegs right and plays into the wind, with bunkers positioned in the crook of the fairway. The 11th hole of Player’s 2017 redesign featured in The Legend of Bagger Vance.

(6,911 yards, par 72, 134/73.0)
A 2016 Jack Nicklaus renovation planted Turtle Point in salt-resistant paspalum grass, now on all five courses. The layout flirts with the ocean on three holes, starting with No. 14. The downwind, 171-yard par 3 has a tricky ball-gathering depression in the center of the green. Hole 15, a 375-yard par 4, poses two choices: Approach from the left to a green that slopes away or stay right and attempt a partial blind shot over a dune. The next hole, a 177-yard par 3, is subject to wind off the ocean, sometimes requiring a leap- of-faith seaward shot in hopes the wind will bring it back on target.

(6,902 yards, par 72, 135/72.8)
Though it never engages the ocean, Osprey Point encounters water at almost every turn. Tom Fazio’s redesign features generous fairways and greens, but those gifts are offset by a plethora of lakes and ponds. This is especially true on the ninth hole, a 461-yard par 4 ranked the most difficult. The danger lies in the drive, a daunting water carry which must be precisely placed. The focal point is a bunker centered in the landing area. Aiming left of it chances a bounce into water bordering the fairway. Going right of the bunker leaves a longer approach shot, but the green is large and open to run-ups.

(6,701 yards, par 72, 130/71.9)
Clyde Johnston’s design is the only resort course located inland on the west side of the Kiawah River. Considered the easiest of the five layouts, it still offers a respectable shot-making test that involves the river, Haulover Creek or other bodies of water on 17 holes. What could possibly go wrong? Accented throughout with ancient oaks, the course ends with a picture-perfect hole. Visible from the elevated back tee of the 406-yard par 4 is a panorama of the river and creek. There’s a water carry off this tee, but the bigger threat is the marshy area in front of the green and wrapping around the right side.


Kiawah Island Golf Resort is located 21 miles from Charleston, South Carolina, and Charleston International Airport, serving daily non- stop flights from 26 U.S. cities.


FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.


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