The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island
South Carolina, United States of America

Third hole, 390/320 yards; Yet another example of why Dye was the modern master of holes under 400 yards. The fairway itself is plenty wide but as befits a hole of this length, the small 3,920 square foot green may be the course’s most elusive target. The plateau green is relatively flat, which means that it offers little help in stopping the player’s approach shot vis-à-vis a standard green that tilts from back to front. On calm days, if the flag is front left, the golfer should opt to play his tee shot wide right. If the hole location is back right, the better angle is from the left side of the fairway and at a generous fifty yards in width, the fairway provides these very options. Of course, with time, the golfer may also conclude that hitting for the middle of the green and putting out to the various hole locations is the prudent move!

Why aren’t more green complexes built like this?! Even in no wind and a tame putting surface, the player has his hands full.

The putting surface is the least of your worries.

Fourth hole, 455/400 yards; Once too awkward to be considered great, Dye improved it in 2003 when he was granted the ability to enlarge the fairway to the left. The golfer now has a realistic chance of seeking a good angle of approach. Still, the right to left crosswind complicates the approach into this left to right angled green. As the aerial below suggests, what an appealing yet challenging canvas with which to work! Tucked into the base of a dune, the green site is one of the most natural on the course.

This aerial shows the desire for drawing the tee ball left off the central bunkers and then fading the approach into the angled green. Asking the golfer to shape the ball both ways on one hole was a favorite Dye design ploy.

Fifth hole, 190/165 yards; The variety of the green complexes at The Ocean Course is already evident: the convoluted second green, the flat perched knob at three, the angled front left to back right fourth that nestles into the dunescape, and now the large right front to back left diagonal green here. Similar in configuration to the seventeenth at Pebble Beach, this hour-glass shaped green is divided by a ridge in the middle. The difference in a front right hole location and a back left one is as many as four clubs on this 55 yard deep green.

This 1990 photograph shows just how fragile the course was to wind events and how plantings were used to stabilize the sandy environs.

Plenty of short grass and safety off to the right but the more accomplished player needs to flirt with the hazard to achieve a desirable result. Photograph courtesy of the PGA of America.

Greens like this one lend The Ocean Course great flexibility in its day-to-day set-up. On consecutive days in 2006, the author hit a 8 iron to a downwind front hole location and a 19 degree hybrid the next morning to a back hole location when the hole was into a club wind. That’s a 6 club difference in the span of 18 hours with the hole equally engaging – though completely different – under both circumstances.

Sixth hole, 455/345 yards; A microcosm for the entire course, this S shaped fairway provides all sorts of possibilities and playing angles depending on the day. Absent is anything linear or harsh to the eye with the end result being a hole of great adaptability.

As seen from behind, this front hole location is best attacked from the left portion of the fairway. Move the hole back and left, and the golfer needs to play to the outside of the fairway with his tee ball. Photo courtesy of the PGA of America.

Seventh hole, 530/495 yards; A proper dogleg, the golfer is tempted to gain an advantage by successfully challenging the hazard on the inside of the dogleg. In this case, his reward is a crack at the green in two. Of course, Dye defends par at the green, which possesses a neat lower right quadrant. Lost in the shuffle is likely to be an appreciation of the distinctive XXX trees that lend the hole such a handsome backdrop.

The 7th green seems innocuous this far back and it readily accepts a running approach that scoots onto the green front left. Meanwhile, looks can be deceiving as we see below as …

… the green’s right front is much more elevated from its surrounds than the golfer can discern back in the fairway.

Eighth hole, 195/165 yards; The Reverse Redan characteristics of its green make the eighth one of the course’s sleeper holes. Just short on this built-up green and the approach rolls back to the green’s base. Carry into the middle of the green and the approach will often track toward the back hole locations, encouraged as it is by the high left front to lower back right step in the green. This green is joined by the seventh, thirteenth and fourteenth putting surfaces for having a lower back quadrant and the player talented enough to flatten out his shots can use such contours to his advantage.

The point can’t be stressed enough how the golfer is encased in nature throughout the round. Wetlands give way to dunes and then the ocean left of the 8th tee.

Though seemingly straightforward, the 8th isn’t. The golfer sees the four foot bank that leads up to the putting surface which in turn is angled and steps down and to the right.

Long is no good; Note the “Danger Alligator” sign!

Ninth hole, 465/405 yards; The ninth is a sharp dogleg left, which again dispels the knock that a ‘figure 8’ routing means a long slog in one direction. Refinements took place in 2003 and in particular, the golfer now sees the flag from the tee, wooing him left and perhaps into taking too ambitious a line off the tee.

This fierce bunker complex admirably defends the inside of the dogleg’s integrity. Its vertical walls almost guarantee the addition of one stroke.

Tenth hole, 440/370 yards; The back nine is a series of arresting holes that are made exceptional by the never ending use of interesting angles. At the tenth, a daunting sand pit must be carried from the tee to gain the best angle into the green, which is open front right.

The golfer willing to make the long carry right is amply rewarded with an ideal angle into the green.

Paspalum has proven to the ideal playing surface for the South Carolina climate. The greens feature fine contours with nothing overwrought or contrived. Other modern courses rely heavily on green speeds to keep the best players at bay; there is no such need for that at The Ocean Course, a testament to how well balanced the overall test is.

Eleventh hole, 560/505 yards; An easy way to lend a three shotter teeth is an elevated green site. Should the player gets off track on one of his first two shots, the target becomes increasingly difficult to hit with anything other than a short iron. Additionally, the tiger who is trying to reach in two has his hands full as well. Such is the case here, and some of the thickest sea grasses surround the left and back of the green, so the miss is short and/or right. A great swing hole where anything from a 3 to an 8 is possible. Look for this half par hole to play a key role in determining the 2021 PGA Champion.

As we saw at the last hole, when Dye built fairways up to provide views of the ocean, that also meant that he could build fairway bunkers down, which we again encounter here off the 11th tee.

Though reachable in two, good luck holding the knob green with anything other than a short iron.

A fine place to play one’s third shot is from the right half of the fairway where the golfer is afforded the best view of the putting surface.

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