Stage your personal War by the Shore at Kiawah resort
By Mitch Marcus
After spending several days at Kiawah Island Golf Resort and playing three of its five courses, I can rightfully say it is a golfer’s paradise. It is remarkably beautiful and happy place; even the occasional double bogey won’t sour your mood.
Kiawah is a barrier island, located about 25 miles southwest of Charleston, S.C. There is also plenty of doings to keep non-golfing spouses busy, including shopping at the Freshfields Village mall, relaxing on the beach, exploring the island by bicycle and more.
But I was there to golf!
My first round was at Turtle Point. Our foursome agreed the course was in pristine condition, having undergone a nine-month renovation overseen by Jack Nicklaus and his architectural team. Renovations included refurbishing green complexes, re-grassing the greens, tees and fairways with paspalum, a salt–tolerant strain also used on the resort’s Ocean Course, Osprey Point and Oak Point. Turtle Point has rated as high as 48th on Golf Digest’s 100 Greatest Public Courses, and has hosted the Carolinas Amateur, the Carolinas PGA, the South Carolina Amateur and the 1990 PGA Cup matches.
Three oceanfront holes (14-16) are the highlights, but the entire course is sufficiently challenging for even the best golfers. There are six sets of tees, allowing for higher handicappers to enjoy the course at a playable length, while the way-back Tournament Tees at nearly 7000 yards would provide a test for anyone, especially considering the ever-present wind and the small greens. The 14th is an uphill par 3, with a beautiful ocean vista as a backdrop. Playing straight into the wind, as we did, was probably a three-club difference. The next two windswept holes border the ocean. I was ecstatic to go bogey, par, par.
The famous – or infamous – Ocean Course was the next test. This Pete Dye design is only the fourth course to have hosted each of the PGA of America’s major championships, It also hosted the 1991 Ryder Cup: The War by the Shore. The wind is always blowing, with no prevailing direction. From one day to the next, a player might experience an eight-club differential on any given shot. The course has been rated as high as the No. 4 public and No 25 best courses in the United States.
Again, the six tee boxes allow for play at every level. One of my playing partners, Tony from Texas, played the tournament tees at 7,356 yards. The rest of us played two sets of tees forward, a respectable 6,475 yards. Watching Tony break 80 from the back tees with the wind howling was the most impressive round of golf I have ever witnessed firsthand.
My highlight was birdieing the 501-yard 2nd hole, a beautiful par 5, by sinking a pretty lengthy double-breaking putt. Pure luck. A 2 on the par-3 5th hole gave me two birdies on the first five holes. After that, it was all downhill, though, as a 12-handicap, I was happy to break 90.
A round at Osprey Point followed. This Tom Fazio designed course was totally renovated in 2014. Also in pristine condition, this course winds through low-country forests, lagoons and saltwater marshes. With the wind a bit more relaxed, and playing the par-72 course at a leisurely 6200 yards, it was a welcome respite from the two previous demanding rounds. It was playable and pleasing to the eye, as long as you don’t mind a few alligators sharing your golf course.
Paradise found at Kiawah Island Golf Resort.