The Ocean Course-Kiawah Island

Simply put this is Dante’s Inferno above ground.  Pete Dye has tried and succeeded in producing the most diabolical compilation of golf holes he could conceive with the sole purpose being to humiliate the pros and mere mortals alike.  It is safe to say that this course is truly unfair, almost unplayable, and just not alot of fun.  It would be better to buy the 1991 Ryder Cup tape on video and enjoy the train wrecks from the comfort of your own home.

Not so much a real test of golf-it is more like an inquisition-meant to break your spirit and mind and  bring you to your knees.  It amply achieves all of this by the fifth tee.  You will notice by the time you are done that all the people in front of you and behind you are trudging slowly like lemmings through the waste areas, head down, shoulders slumped, resigned to their sentence in this demonic golf hell.  This is not an experience for the faint of heart.

The course is routed in an S-hook shape which means the first four and last five holes are in the same wind direction and the middle nine are in the opposite direction.  The problem here is that if the middle nine are all upwind you will need a medvac helicopter by the fourteenth tee.  Since the entire track is totally exposed to the ocean you will get ferocious winds on days that are calm back at the condo.  Determining required distance and club selection are a major problem all day long.  You can get real tired of hitting your 3-wood 175 into the prevailing breeze.

Pete and Alice pulled out all the stops on this one.  You have your massive waste areas like TPC Sawgrass, your signature Dye railroad ties hardening the edges of the hazards, and Alice even raised the fairways on the inland leg of holes adjacent to the ocean to make sure you get the full brunt of the wind effect all day.  Much like his other “made to humiliate the pros” tracks at Sawgrass and PGA West, this one is pure punitive target golf.  Every tee shot or shot at a green is a forced carry or to a confined arrangement that has a penalty shot or an impossible recovery tied to your lack of success.  Some of the adjacent waste areas run the entire length of the hole-and most are from five to eight feet below the playing area-making your extrication from same seriously problematic.  Nothing is “kept” here-it is all raw and natural-that presents a beautiful esthetic background to enjoy if you were not in such physical and emotional agony.

Stunning beauty of the long awaited finish at 18 (

I have great respect for Pete Dye as an innovative designer who successfully broke the mold of his predecessors Robert Trent Jones and Dick Wilson of designing long, boring heroic courses.  But Pete might have slipped over the edge on this one.  There are interesting tactical elements with risk/reward decisions attached but the ever presence of stiff Atlantic breezes make it far too punitive to enjoy.  As a result, it seems to me that he ended up with a course that is nothing but a scenic and perverse marketing ploy meant to attract the “grip it and rip it” crowd in the golf demographic.

Kiawah Island, South Carolina

Architect: Pete Dye (1991)

Tee                 Par     Rating     Slope    Yardage
Tournament    72       77.2        144       7356
Ocean            72       73.6        138       6779
Dye                72       72           134       6475

(Click here to review Ocean Course hole-by-hole descriptions)

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