The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island
12th hole 390 yards; Another50 yardwide fairway greets the golfer but again, it’s best not to miss it. The approach is from a downhill lie and the ball wants to bleed to the right and into the canal that borders the green. Conversely, the humps and hollows around the greenalso ensure that a player who bailsaway fromthe water will face a tricky up and down. The exacting nature of this target makes it the lowest handicap hole on the side.
13th hole, 405 yards; A classic Cape hole that doglegs right along the marsh. The long green is a full 41 paces deep and narrows in the back. Brave is the man who can throw a ball to the back hole locations.Given that thegreen is open in front, a low runner isoften worth considering. This hole can play anywhere from 350 yards to 470 yards while still preserving the angles of play and is a particular favorite of Dye’s.
14thhole, 160 yards; The authors’ favoriteone shot holeon the east coast between the 17th at Seminole and the 17th at Merion. The saying at Rye Golf Club is applicable with this modified version of a Redan: the key shot is the second one!
16th hole, 530 yards; This hole’selasticitycaptures part ofthe course’s appeal. One day, the author hit a driver, three wood, one iron and barely reached the green in regulation. The next day he was over the back with a driver and three wood! In either wind, the hole plays equally well and Dye deserves credit for building such flexibility into many of the holes.Such an example of the ever changing playing conditions is but one reasonwhy courses built near the watermust be consideredsupreme to inland courses.
17th hole, 190 yards; At the Battle of Ypres, Sir John French noted, ‘It slowly dawned on me that they were using heavier artillery than we were.’ Many golfersshare a similar feeling when they stand on the 17th tee.While the author prefers the more original 5th and 14th holes as one shotters, there is no denying that this is the most famous hole on the course.
18th hole, 400 yards; Not many courses can claim two of Dye’s finest finishing holes!Originally, Dye was forced to stay clear of the dune line so he nestled the green forty yards inland among some manufactured dunes. This is the green site where the Langer/Irwin Ryder Cup match famously concluded. In 2002, though, working closely with the Environmental Protection Agency, the Resort and Dye gained permission to move the green site to where Dye had always wanted it: along the main dune line. Though the original green site is no more, both of these finishing holes could be considered among Dye’s best as they are/were both natural and restrained, unlike the Home holes at Whistling Straits, Crooked Stick and Firethorne.
When one couples thechallenging nature of the golf with the glorious ocean side setting, it is hard not to place this course amongst Dye’s very best. The course is chock full of first rate holes and indeed,to the authors at least, the back nine represents Dye’s finestnine holes. However, such was not always the case. In the early years,several of the greens didn’t give the golfer a chance of holding them downwindand the resulting recovery shot wasequally impossible. The course probably hosted the Ryder Cup matches one year prematurely and thus, like Spyglass Hill, the public witnessed the professionals being humbled.Everyone stillrecalls the disintegration of Mark Calcavecchia to this day.
Thus, The Ocean Courseearneda reputation as a brute andlittle more.However, since then,the new owners of Kiawah have worked hand in hand with Pete Dye to soften such over-the-top requirements and to give the thinking golfer a fighting chance. In particular, five acres of turf was brought into grass many of the recovery areas around the greens. Long gone are the days where your ball would roll off the back of the green and into a foot print. Recovery shots are both moremanageable and varied to the point where some critics now consider these green complexes to be Dye’s finest.
Also, a new irrigation system was installed that provides coverage of some of the sandy areas. The Club has the capablity to water such areasand preventthe sandfrom blowing across the fairways and greens during windy conditions. One result is that save for the tough winter of 2001, the course has never been in finer condition.
Much ofDye’s fine-tuning was accomplished between 1994 and 1997 when Kiawah hosted the International Team Championships.When theteam from Scotland won the eventat31 under par, it was evident to allthat the course had becomemore enjoyable to play than in 1991. Colin Montgomerie went so far as to say during the closing ceremonies that ‘In 1991, the course was unplayable, but now it’s grown into one of the world’s finest, if not America’s best resort.’
Nonetheless, too many people today play the course to say they have tackled ‘The Monster.’ This is ridiculous. Like every Dye course, there is a set of tees to accommodate even the modest golfer. And many of the fairways are 50% wider than on more traditional courses. Sure, in a strong wind, the course is a brute but so is Pebble Beach and no onegrouses there. Dye gives the golfer plenty of room to play and only when the golfer stops thinking and starts trying to force shots will he remember those famous wordsfrom the Battle of Ypres.
The Ocean Course doesn’t reveal all her secrets after just a fewrounds. However, if the golfer takes the time to knowit as it exists today, one thing is for certain: you will play a round there that you will remember the rest of your life, long afterall the other pretender courses are distant memories.