Kiawah Ocean Course--Kiawah, South Carolina                                        

Rankings per the last time I played it in August 2009:
Ranked 4th best public course and 28th best course in US; 48th best in the world (Golf Mag.)
Ranked 18th best modern course and 9th best resort course (Golfweek)                                                                
Ranked 4th best public course and 25th best course in the US (Golf Digest)
Ranked the hardest course in the US (Golf Digest)    
                                                 
I am really unsure where to begin or what to say about The Kiawah Ocean Course.  To sum the course up in a
word, I would choose "perfection"!  I don't think I could more clear or concise.  Pete and Alice Dye surely did a
wonderful job on this course.

I choose the word perfection for a number of reasons.  Not the least of which is the fact that according to the criteria
I use to judge courses, The Kiawah Ocean Course scored a perfect 100!!!  Frankly, I thought long and hard about
this score.  It took about a week of deliberation before I could actually write in that score, but alas I must speak the
truth.

I judge courses using a specific list of criteria.  I weight each of those areas to emphasize the things that I enjoy the
most when playing a golf course.  From the most heavily weighted to the least, those criteria are: beauty, variety,
playability, difficulty, aura, and intangibles.  To be as transparent as possible in regards to the perfect rating I gave
The Ocean Course, I will go over each of these criteria in relation to how I see the course.

Beauty...

The course plays right along the South Carolina beaches of the Atlantic Ocean.  And I mean right on the beach.  
The picture below is taken from the 9th green.  You can see the wind whipping the flag marking the hole, you can
see palm trees, and the waves crashing into the beaches.  

kiawah_ocean_9_green-600x401.png

And frankly not every hole is smack dab right on the beach.  Some holes you can only see the ocean in the
periphery.   But those holes certainly don't lack in beauty.  Check out the tee shot from hole #2.   

kiawah_ocean_2_tee_II-600x401.png

Now take a peak from the tees the PGA Tour players will have to tee it up from in the 2012 PGA Championship.


Stunning....plain and simple.

Variety...

As beautiful as this course is, it might have even more variety.  You will have to work the ball right and left.  You will
have to hit it long and straight.  You will have to horse power some long irons and you will have to be precise as
heck with other irons.  Some of the greens are as big as some of the monsters Mike Strantz designed, while others
are as postage stamp small as the greens at Inverness.  Perhaps, hole #2 (whose tee shot is pictured above) is the
poster-child for the variety inherent at The Ocean Course.  You have to work your tee shot right to left (draw).  
From the gold tees, you must hit the drive 240 yards but not more that 270...so you must have some precision on
that draw shot.  Then for your approach, you have a chance at the green on this par 5.  However, to get there you
must hit a fade about 250ish yards.  Okay, okay...most of us can't pull that off.  So we hit a comfortable iron on the
next shot.  But beware of the marshy creek that crosses the fairway about 125 yards from the center of the green.  
Whether you lay up or power one towards the green, a fade is required after your drawing tee shot.  Oh yeah, the
green is elevated and severely undulating!!!  

Playability...

This might sound weird, given that the course is ranked as the hardest course in the United States by Golf
Digest...but the course is very playable!!!  The wind will be whipping off the ocean, you will be tested on all of your
shots, but if you select the appropriate tees to play from you will be able to play the course and have fun.  In fact, if
you play from the appropriate tees you will be able to really challenge the holes for the risk/reward of biride/double
bogey, par/bogey, or easy bogey's.  I know it sounds weird, but it is true.

For example, here is a picture of the tee shot from the "Dye Tees" on the 13t hole.  See how you can make the tee
shot as long or as short as you want to simply by hitting the ball further and further left and taking the water out of
play?

kiawah_ocean_13_tee-600x401.jpg

Now take a peak from the tees the PGA Tour players will have to tee it up from in the 2012 PGA Championship.

kiawah_ocean_13_pro_tee_ii-600x401.jpg


There is not really any bail out area.  Hit it 230 to make land.  Hit it 250 to make the fairway.  Don't and you are wet.
 Slice it and you are wet.  Hook it and you are in a messy, messy rough area.  And don't forget the wind that will
most likely be right in your face.  Fun, fun, fun!!!

But take a look at the "Dye Tee" picture again.   Different hole.  Very playable.  To carry the water, it is 120.  Now
you can push it and try to get it closer to the green and hit that 250 plus tee shot and have 110 or less into the
green...but your chances of getting wet go WAY up.

Play the right tee and the course is very playable.  Don't and you are in for a long, long day.


Difficulty...

I probably don't even have to expound upon this factor given what I just said in the last paragraph and given how
Golf Digest ranks the course, but it is VERY difficult.  The tee shot will be challenging, approaches will be
challenging, chips will be challenging, and putts will be challenging.  But perhaps the biggest challenge (and thrill) is
the wind.  The wind will blow hard...that is a given.  And The Dye's set the course up to have different holes
experience different challenges from the wind.  Some will require extra "umph" to get through the wind, sometimes
the wind will pull or push your ball off line, and other gusts of wind will actually propel your ball down the fairway.  It
is a unique challenge that must be thought out before you even begin to think about which club is the appropriate
one for the shot at hand.  And that is before you even get to the green. To be quick and concise, the greens are
cool.  Some are big and some are small...I've already said that.  However, some are undulating and some are flat.  
Some are sunken and some are elevated.  I could go on and on, but your game will get tested in every which way
you can think of.  Is it a difficult course?  Hell yeah...but it is so much fun!!!

Aura and Intangibles...

I will lump these two categories together for brevities sake.  Both are off the charts, however.  The course was built
in 1991, so its aura isn't its long and storied history.  Rather its aura is one of fear and anxiety.  As I've mentioned,
Golf Digest ranks it the hardest course in the U.S.  Add in Mark Calcavecchia's disaster in the 1991 Ryder Cup and
Bernhard Langer's FUBAR'd putt in that same Ryder Cup.  For good measure throw in a course rating and slope of
77.2/144 from the tips.  It all adds up to a course that only the bravest of golfers want to tackle.  And to me that
adds up to sky high aura and intangibles ratings.

me on 18 tee at kiawah.JPG