- One Sanctuary Beach Drive, Kiawah Island, South Carolina, 29455, USA
- Kiawah Island
- 1 800 576 1570
Kiawah Island is a golf resort I’m excited to visit. This huge development lies on a bridge-connected island just south of Charleston on South Carolina’s golden coastline. It became famous in the world of golf after hosting several major tournaments. There are five championship golf courses to play, each with unique challenges, designed by five of the biggest names in golf architecture.
The Ocean Course is the most prestigious, having been the site of the 2012 PGA Championship, which saw Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy raise up the Wanamaker Trophy. It was here that Bernhard Langer missed a crucial six-foot putt resulting in Europe handing back the Ryder Cup to the US in 1991, and the golf course where Irishmen Pádraig Harrington and Paul McGinley claimed the World Cup of Golf in 1997. It will be the site of the 2021 PGA Championship as well.
Indiana native Peter Dye and his wife Alice designed the Ocean Course in 1991, and it is known for being one of the toughest golf courses in the United States due to constant winds that blow over the layout as well as the fast greens and multitude of bunkers. There are views of the Atlantic Ocean along every hole here. The Ocean Course ranked No. 44 in Golf Digest’s list of the World’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses – 2016-17.
Jack Nicklaus’ Turtle Point Course features three impressive oceanfront holes. The layout was renovated under the Golden Bear’s recommendations in 2016, adjusting greens, re-grassing fairways and tees with salt-tolerant Paspalum and rebuilding sand traps. Garry Player’s Cougar Point (redesigned in 1996 and set for renovation in 2017) has gorgeous views of the Kiawah River, a constant presence on the front nine. It provided locations for the famous golf movie The Legend of Bagger Vance starring Will Smith and Matt Damon. There is a mix of risk-and-reward par fives, par fours that will test you for distance and accuracy off the tee, plus tricky par threes.
Osprey Point was created by Tom Fazio, and his layout winds its way through saltwater marshes, lagoons and forests. You might see the odd alligator sunning itself on the banks of a water hazard here. With generous landing areas off the tee, most out-of-play areas on the left and few forced carries, this is a friendlier course for the high-handicapper. Across the river on Johns Island, you can play Oak Point, a course designed by Carolina native Clyde Johnston that was renovated in 2015 with Paspalum grass. Carts are available for afternoon tee times on all courses.
The mountain to climb here is the Ocean Course. The windy conditions, bunkering, and slick greens and distance from the tips will mean you’ll have to be in fine form to keep the score card respectable. The pro’s tips: employ a caddie and listen to the expert. “Pete Dye is a master of making the player look the wrong way. On the tee box, many of the holes look like there’s no place to land your drive but when you reach the fairway, you’ll see it’s 40-50 yards wide. Your caddie will know where to hit it.”
When to play: Year-round.
Par: All courses par 72.
Slope / Rating / Yardage
The Ocean Course: 144 / 77.3 / 7356 yards or 6726 meters
Turtle Point: 14 / 73.8 / 7061 yards or 6457 meters
Cougar Point: 137 / 73.3 / 6875 yards or 6286 meters
Osprey Point: 135 / 72.8 / 6902 yards or 6311 meters
Oak Point: 130 / 71.9 / 6701 yards or 6127 meters
The pro says:
“Don’t go for the miracle shot. If you hit it in the dunes, take your medicine and get it back into play. Miracle shots are extremely rare on The Ocean Course and more often mean you’ll be reaching into your bag for your next ball.”– Brian Gerard, Director of Golf, Kiawah Island Golf Resort
The resort experience:
Kiawah Island is about 45 minutes’ drive from the historic and beautiful Charleston, South Carolina. As well as being a special destination for golfers, Kiawah Island doubles as a tennis resort. It has two tennis centers, each with 12 courts and has also been ranked the No. 1 tennis resort nine times since 2016 by TennisResortsOnline.com. With plenty of calories burnt between golf and tennis it’s a good thing that Kiawah Island has 18 dining outlets to choose from, of varying price-point and specialty.
When it comes to accommodation, you can retire to The Sanctuary, a 255-room, five-star/AAA Five Diamond oceanfront hotel. That or choose one of the 450 luxury villas (one- to four-bedroom) or one of the 90 private homes to rent (three- to five-bedroom). With the warm South Carolina climate, I’m glad The Sanctuary has two outdoor pools and an indoor pool with Hyrdo Toning Fitness Classes. But you may just want to chill out on the highly-rated beach out front – just ask the concierge for a chair and umbrella.
Among the many plaudits Kiawah Island has earned: No 2 – Best American Beach Resort by Conde Nast Traveler in 2014 and No. 4 – Top Golf Resort in the World, by Andrew Harper Travel Readers’ Choice in 2013.
Dine and wine:
All the culinary options you could hope to find at one resort are here. I’m interested to see what a T-bone from a AAA Four Diamond/Forbes Four Star steakhouse tastes like. I’ll find out in The Ocean Room at the Sanctuary. Otherwise I could choose Tomasso for Italian, the Cherrywood BBW and Ale House, Southern Kitchen for some authentic southern cooking, the Atlantic Room for Seafood, or the Ryder Cup Bar for some pub ‘grub’. The list goes on.
It is five-star luxury from the Stand Guestroom (520 square feet, 48 square meters) up. Even this basic option, with its light, classic interiors and elegant furniture, has a king-size bed, a balcony with ocean views, a five-fixture bathroom (including dual vanities, marble shower and deep bath tub), televisions and DVD/CD players. The Presidential Suite has 3000 square feet (279 square meters) and includes a marble-tiled foyer, dining room and two balconies.
The resort’s coastal position means that there are plenty of activities to enjoy on the water at the beach or in the marshland that wraps around the island. You can surf, kayak, mountain bike, fish or paddleboard. You can also choose to go boating or take a nature excursion. It’s hard to ignore the 24 tennis courts at the resort either. When you are exhausted, retire to the Kiawah Island Spa, which has been rated as one of the best in the United States by Travel + Leisure and Conde Nast Traveler. I think I’ll get a Body Rescue and Citrus Head-To-Toe Massage.