by Jason Bruno
Kiawah Island Resort, the Ocean Course and it's clubhouse (above)
is on our very short list of the finest that American Golf has to offer,
but there is so much more here than Pete Dye's masterpiece. The
resort is world class with a vibe that's unique unto itself. Recently
we visited Kiawah and enjoyed all it's splendor along with perfect
Hurricane Matthew made landfall on Kiawah Island, (which sits just
21 miles south of Charleston) in early October, rendering most of the
coastal area without power for well over a week, the resort which
was closed during that time had re-opened just before we arrived
in mid November. Remarkably, not a thing was out of place, a
mammoth clean up effort to say the least - the Kiawah staff had
everything restored to it's usual pristine state.
The Sanctuary Hotel *denotes certain photos in this feature furnished courtesy of Kiawah Island Resort
The Ocean Course is the reason that Kiawah is known as one of
the World's best golf destinations, but the luxurious Sanctuary Hotel
and Spa is the reason why it's now widely known as one of the
best beach resorts in existence. Although it opened in 2004, The
Sanctuary has on old world feel, as if it's been on the island for
over a century. The list of accolades continues to pile up for
this mecca of low country hospitality, and for good reason, the
setting, service and cuisine are impeccable.
Cuisine choices within the Sanctuary include The Ocean Room
(the hotel's signature steakhouse restaurant), Jasmine Porch
which is a casual restaurant featuring regional cuisine, and
Loggerhead Grill which is seasonal outdoor dining (and bar)
located close to pool area.
*The overhead view of The Sanctuary gives you an idea of the
setting - situated between canopies of mature Live Oaks along
the entry and the magnificent shores of the Atlantic, the hotel
offers 255 guest rooms and suites - 10 of which are executive
suites (the largest being the palatial 3000 sq ft Presidential suite).
The standard King guest rooms measure at a spacious 520 sq ft.
(90% of the rooms have ocean views).
Our first night on the property we dined at Jasmine Porch*, which
is a great casual spot to unwind after a full day of activity at the
resort. Jasmine Porch features a smooth low country theme and
specialties like, Fried Green Tomatoes, Shrimp & Grits and She
Crab Bisque (I highly recommend). Make sure you don't pass on
the dessert, especially the banana bread pudding with homemade
praline ice cream.
The Sanctuary Spa* is the perfect escape from fatigue and tension.
The spa has 12 treatment rooms, a sauna, steam room and
whirlpool. Restore balance with one of the spa's massage escape
treatments - choose from the Signature, Citrus, Island Stone, and
the Athletic Recovery massage (preferred by many golfers). We
chose the Signature treatment and can tell you first hand what a
great experience it is to spend part of your day here. Fitness Center
and Salon services are also available at The Sanctuary.
Always an event happening at the resort, The Earl Klugh Jazz festival
was in full flight the week we were at the resort, staged on the lawn
overlooking the ocean at The Sanctuary, is there a better setting for
There are 5 championship courses at the resort with Pete Dye's Ocean
Course being the crown jewel. World famous for the scoring challenge
it provides, the Ocean Course has hosted the '91 Ryder Cup, '07 Senior
PGA, '12 PGA Championship and the upcoming '21 PGA Championship.
Osprey Point, Turtle Point, Cougar Point, and Oak Point round out the
rest of the rotation.
This was the scene on a mid-November morning just after sunrise on
the 1st tee on the Ocean Course. At only 365 yards from the Dye tees,
anything down the left center here leaves a perfect angle with a short
iron approach to a generous sized green.
There may not be a better links stroll available to all golfers anywhere
on the east coast. In fact, with 10 holes along the Atlantic, Dye's Ocean
course has more seaside holes than any other routing in the Northern
Hemisphere (the other 8 holes run parallel, with the ocean always
(Above: an overhead view of the 390 yd par 4 - 3rd hole)*
It was actually Alice Dye's idea to raise the level of every fairway so
the ocean views would be visible on every hole. Although it created
one of the most scenic walks in the game, it also brought the windy
seaside conditions more into play, thus creating a stern test of which
very few layouts can match.
Above: *The view from the 13th tee, what many think is the best tee
shot on the golf course (we concur). Smash driver towards one of
the bunkers down the left side and watch as the easterly ocean
breeze gently influences your shot back towards the middle of the
shortgrass. Pull that off and you're left with a short/mid iron approach.
Note the violet hues of whispering muhly grass that line the tee box,
the perfect accent to this launching pad. Anyone who appreciates
course design has a particular hole that inspires, this one "had me
at hello" when I first put the peg in the turf here in 2011.
A brief account of the daunting final two holes on the Ocean Course and
my thoughts as I played them.
Note the far right pin position here on the mighty 17th, about as
intimidating a par 3 as you'll face anywhere. In the photo above
I'm taking a moment to contemplate my club selection and get
committed to the shot shape I'm intending to play. The safe play
or bail out here is the far left edge of the green directly behind
me, but that's no picnic either - from the left edge of the green
you may have a 100 ft putt. Going over the green leaves you
with a brutally long bunker shot back towards the water, and
short is swimming. Having said that . . .
You didn't come this far to this iconic hole to play a bail out. The
shot played 182 yards to the hole (176 yards to carry the water
hazard). I decided to play a high cut 6 iron, and when it was struck
I knew it was good. In the air it worked it's way right at the flag,
but carried a few yards deep and right of the pin, landing directly
beyond the stick settling about 28 feet past the hole (One less club
and it would have been stiff, but that would have brought the water
into play, no thanks). The birdie putt cozied it's way up to the front
lip of the cup but chose to stay topside (never disappointed with a
3 on that beast, it was on to the home hole).
(below) The captivating view walking down the last. Note the crane
on the roof of the clubhouse, the staff were replacing the damaged
weathervane (from Hurricane Matthew).
A center cut tee shot on the 439 yd 18th hole left 176 yds to a another
tucked pin, this one was on the left edge of the green. 6 iron again,
but the attempted draw was overcooked and bounced down into a
hollow below the putting surface - leaving an unlikely up and down
from a tight lie to an uphill green with very little green to work with.
The hero shot could bring a big number so I chose to play a conservative
pitch. Contact was mediocre at best, and the result beared that out
as it rolled out 35 ft past the hole. On a day of pretty solid ball striking
where no putts outside of 6 feet dropped, of course the bomb for par
goes in here at the last. The 3-4 finish helped erase the taste of how
I finished on those two holes on our previous spin around the Ocean
Course 5 years ago. Lunch at the Ryder Cup Bar would definitely taste
even better now.
Caddies Robert and Mark were superb, and my playing partners for
the day (Dave from Canada, Dave from West Virginia and Butch from
the midwest were all great company). To read more about my personal
accounts on this journey - go to our "Bruno's Blog" section on the home
*Ryder Cup Bar
There are plenty of reminders of who has played here, like this 1991
Team USA Ryder Cup bag in the pro shop.
Turtle Point (Nicklaus Renovation)
*The gorgeous seaside 15th is a short par 4 sandwiched between the
two best par 3's at Turtle Point.
Having just re-opened before our arrival, the newly renovated Jack
Nicklaus design at Turtle Point was our next stop. Eager to have a go
on the Bear's latest completed project, a better day couldn't be had -
it was a flawless 68 degree fall afternoon on the island. Having sat
down with Mr. Nicklaus in the past discussing many of his thoughts
on modern course design, I was intrigued to see exactly what his
team had accomplished here with the renovation. Here's the rundown:
The 9 month project included new irrigation, redesigning all 18 green
complexes, rebuilding all bunkers, expanding fairway sizes from 20
to 34 acres and laser leveling every tee box (Paspalum replaced
Bermuda turf throughout).
A reverse view of the 15th* really illustrates how well Nicklaus crafted
this design between the hardscape and sea. Don't stray far from the
shortgrass at Turtle Point, this routing requires precision off the tee
to score well (housing boundaries and hazards come into play on many
of the holes at Turtle Point). Holes 14 thru 16 on Turtle Point run along
the Atlantic shoreline, showing off photogenic scenes like this sunrise.
The par 3-16th runs along the same corridor as the 15th, playing 150
yds from the Turtle tees. Nicklaus used the shoreline dunes and mass
plantings to create a buffer and an intimate setting here, but beware,
the wind will wreak havoc with any mis-hit shot.
*The approach to 18th at Turtle Point
The Turtle Point Nicklaus renovation has created fast and firm
conditions that will delight resort guests and test those that compete
in many of South Carolina's most prestigious events. Turtle Point has
hosted many top championships including the Carolina Amateur,
Carolina PGA and the South Carolina Amateur.
Tomasso Italian Restaurant
*Tomasso Italian Restaurant is located within the clubhouse of
the Turtle Point golf course. Top shelf Italian cuisine is prepared
by Chef Brandon Lapp. An authentic Italian family style atmosphere
makes for a very memorable dining experience - staff server Joe
Lapolla is superb, as is the Taglietelle and Chicken Parmigiano.
Tom Fazio's Osprey Point might be the most widely enjoyable course
offering at the resort. Broad fairways and diverse hole designs weave
around lagoons and salt water marshes. Renovated in 2014 by Fazio
himself, Osprey Point now has Paspalum playing surfaces throughout.
(The par 3 - 15th shown above) Every hole at O.P offers a different
challenge. Although here at the 15th the sand and waste areas
are extensive, notice short of the green is open for a run up option.
Fazio believes strongly in designs that give multiple options for all
levels of player. The better player will enjoy working shots around
this eclectic design that rewards proper placement.
*Cherrywood Grill is located in the Osprey Point clubhouse and
is the resort's classic southern barbecue dining experience. The
St.Louis Ribs, Cornbread and Four Cheese Mac are just a few of
their delicious specialties.
Gary Player's Cougar Point (formerly known as Marsh Point) originally
opened in 1976 and was redesigned in 1996 by the Black Knight. In
2017 Cougar Point will undergo a renovation of their own. Stay tuned
for updates and a future review when it reopens.
Clyde Johnston's rolling layout was renovated in 2015, it now also
plays on the firm and fast blades of Paspalum. Acquired by the resort
in 1997, Oak Point filled out the rotation making it 5 championship
courses at Kiawah Resort. An old school classic style design where
strategy is paramount over power.
Kiawah is a quiet beach setting that appears endless, the firm sand
is perfect for a jog, relaxing walk, bike ride or to just chill and enjoy
the sights and sounds of the Atlantic. The resort offers beach chairs,
umbrellas, toys for the kids, bike rental and customized beach nature
tours are also available.
Another great option for lodging at Kiawah Resort are the Villa's
like this one at Turtle Point.
Villas give more of a normal family living arrangement and are great
for those with small children and also for those who prefer to cook
while away. Ranging from 1-4 bedrooms, they include full kitchen,
living room, dining room, family room and breakfast nook.
Just as Jack Neville and Douglas Grant crafted their masterpiece
on the Monterey Peninsula nearly a century ago, perhaps only the
lifelong collaboration of Pete and Alice Dye were meant to have
crafted what we now experience on these magnificent shores of
Today it's more than just a Top 100 golf course, it's quite simply
one the very best travel destinations in America.
For more info on Kiawah Resort: https://www.kiawahresort.com/