Featured Golf News
Playing Two of the 'Other' Courses at Kiawah a Real Treat
You are going to hear lots of talk, and rightfully so, about the Ocean Course at Kiawah, S.C., during the next year or so. The Pete Dye layout, which has eight holes nestling up against the beaches and the Atlantic Ocean, is hosting next year's PGA Championship and was the site of the classic "War by the Sea" Ryder Cup back in 1991, as well as the 2007 Senior PGA Championship.
Cougar Point's 17th Hole
This is not a story about the Ocean Course, but rather two of the Kiawah Resort's "other" public-access courses. I had the good fortune to sample them recently and am here to tell you that, while they may not be as fabled or visually spectacular as the Ocean Course, they are very good and worth a play or two when you're in the Charleston, S.C. area.
My buddy, Mark Eucalitto, and I found that out during a recent trip. Cougar Point and Osprey Point were a treat to play and among the best courses that I have traversed in the Low Country area. Like most courses in this special part of the country, where the living is easy and the golfing plentiful, both Cougar Point and Osprey Point offer pretty views of the surrounding lowlands and marshes. Their shot values are typically ocean-side or near-the-ocean in nature, with forced carries over wetlands and other bodies of water, wide, rolling fairways and large undulating greens. Oh yeah, and there are the winds to contend with.
Cougar Point's middle holes on the front nine play along the Kiawah River. Originally named Marsh Point, Cougar Point was redesigned by Gary Player in 1996 and plays 6,875 yards. It features a nice blend of short and long par-4s, risk/reward par-5s, and challenging par-3s. The track's longer par-4s provide plenty of room off the tee with generous fairways so driver is never out of the equation. Open, run-up areas in front of the greens make them reachable for shorter hitters using a wood or long-iron. As on Osprey Point, Cougar Point has plenty of fairway bunkers, or "eye candy," as the resort's affable Public Relations director Mike Vegis likes to call them.
No. 6 at Cougar Point
We discovered that Cougar Point's short par-4s asked us to be very careful in finding specific fairway landing areas with our drives to avoid obstacles and get the best angles ivto the greens. For example, on No. 5, a 410-yard par-4, you want to be to the right to avoid hitting over and around trees. I had about a 180-yard shot in from the left side and was a bit pinned in by overhanging branches of the ample live oaks (Spanish moss dripping off them, of course). Thus, my 5-wood had to be worked a tad right to left and came up short in wetlands that front the peninsula green. A drop and two putts later and turned what could have been a nice par into a double. Ouch.
On the 354-yard seventh and 361-yard eighth, you have to be left off the tee to avoid trees guarding the approach. Number 6, a 180-yard par-3, has a nice view, and we were told that No. 17, a 363-yard par-4, is considered by many to be one of the prettiest and most challenging golf holes on the whole island. And it was that.
Our favorite holes were the 535-yard par-5 third, which has a trap protecting the right side of the landing area and a pond left that runs from the second shot approach landing area all the way to the green. It's a good three-shot hole for all but the longest hitters. I played a trio of solid strokes and walked off with a fairly easy par. And No. 12, which is one heck of a par-3 that plays 223 yards from the tips and has a green on sort of a peninsula. I hit a nice fairway wood and was left with about a 12-foot birdie putt, but I missed. Ouch again.
The 11th Hole at Osprey Point
Osprey Pont is actually one of the better courses I've played in the Charleston area, which, as mentioned above, has a lot of good golf courses although it doesn't get the attention that Myrtle Beach and Hilton Head do. The track is very accessible for recreational players, while still presenting enough challenge to keep you on your toes the entire round. Each of the holes is a separate entity, which imbues Osprey Point with a sense of serenity and peace that is sometimes hard to find at resort courses.
Tom Fazio originally developed Osprey Point as a members-only venue. But since the layout is now part of Kiawah Island Golf Resort, anyone can enjoy it. As usual, Fazio did a good job of using the natural beauty of the area to create Osprey Point, which features four large natural lakes, fingers of saltwater marsh, and dense maritime forests of live oaks, pines, palmettos and magnolias . . . and lots of wildlife. The par-4s here are all interesting and range in length from 340 yards to 461 yards from the championship tees.
Like most courses in the Low Country, Osprey Point features wide fairway landing areas and a few forced carries. From the proper tees, the course poses appropriate challenges for the better golfers and fairness to the high-handicappers, seniors and junior golfers. The course has its challenges, with plenty of hazards to avoid, numerous risk/reward options and doglegs that go both directions, requiring a premium on both accuracy and finesse.
Mark, me and my son-in-law, Brandon Burke, who got a day off from work to join us, had a pleasing round. We played Osprey Point from what would be the "member's tees," around 6,202 yards, which was a smart call the first time on such a course, although one step up brings you to only 6,502 yards.
Marshlands Protect Many Holes at Osprey Point
One of the best holes hit us right away, the 175-yard (back markers) par-3 third. The tee shot is all carry across a wetland to a green that is slightly hidden from view. I stuck a 5-iron to about 15 feet and, yep, missed the putt. Still, it was a pretty sight watching the tee shot soar over the marsh (and alligators) and land softly on the putting surface.
Number 7 is a short par-4, playing only 340 yards from the tips, and two holes later, the 461-yard par-4 ninth smacks you in the face like a hard breeze off the nearby Atlantic Ocean. The ninth demands a well-struck driver and a fairway wood to reach the green. Bogey is not a bad number. I took it and ran.
The 11th is another solid par-3, playing 205 yards from the tips with the tee shot having to carry a pond that runs up to the putting surface. Number 15 is a 170-yard par-3 surrounded by sand, and 18 is a good finisher, playing 552 yards from the back markers and the hole bending to the left and water on that side all the way to the green.
We all shot in the low- to mid-80s at Osprey Point and felt like we scored about what we deserved. It's not a course that will beat you up. But it's also not a pushover and you've got to be accurate on your approach shots because danger usually lurks on one or both sides of the large greens.
The resort also features Turtle Point and Oak Point, which are also popular plays. I'll report on those two tracks down the road.
The green fees are very reasonable at Osprey Point and Cougar Point, especially during the off-peak season when play is slower, the courses still in great shape and the weather fairly mild, especially for a Northerner or Yankee as the native Carolinians good-naturedly call anyone who lives above the Mason-Dixon Line.
And remember, the fabulous city of Charleston, with its Old South history and charm, great restaurants and nightlife, is just a few miles away up Route 17.
For more information about golf at Kiawah Island, visit www.kiawahresort.com.
John Torsiello is an editor/writer living in Connecticut. He has written extensively about all aspects of the golf industry for a number of national and regional publications. He is a regular contributor to "Golf Course Industry," "Lawn and Landscape," "Golfing" and "Fairway Living" magazines as well as various online publications. He has strong, ongoing relationships with industry professionals and has worked closely with course owners, architects, developers, course superintendents and general managers around the country. He has won a number of awards for his writing, including first place from the Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association for a piece that appeared in "Golf Course Industry" magazine.