A South Carolina Mulligan: The Ocean Course, Kiawah Island near Charleston, SC. Nov 2023
The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island in South Carolina is the 4th ranked “top” publicly accessible golf course. While there are five 18-hole courses at Kiawah Island Resort, the Ocean Course is the headliner and designed by architect Pete Dye, opened in 1991, and hosted the 1991 Ryder Cup, otherwise known as the “War by the Shore.” It also hosted the 2012 PGA Championship, won by Rory McIlroy, and the 2021 PGA Championship won by Phil Mickelson.
After a very long and beautiful drive on roads with tree-archways and lined with multi-million-
dollar homes, you arrive at the east end of the island to the Ocean Course. The clubhouse and a statue of Pete Dye are very welcoming, and the back of the clubhouse is an end to end white picket fenced porch, with stunning views of the ocean and hole 18.
This is a very, very, very pricey round and in our humble opinion, based on the courses we have played around the world so far, was over-priced by a few hundred dollars – but golf experiences are our thing - so we sucked it up and shelled out the moolah!
The course is in spectacular condition, and that is probably because it’s a walking only course. Caddies are available and recommended with no extra charge from the golf course. They will carry 2 bags and the expectation is a $120 or more per person gratuity. We really lucked out with our Caddy, Sean – who was a local, a great golfer himself (mentioning hitting in the 70s most recently) and overall, a super nice guy who helped us feel really comfortable and have a great round, despite our playing! This was not one of our best rounds, but we have a wonderful time, nevertheless.
There are 5 sets of Tees with the Tips being 7,800 yards. This is a very forward-friendly Links
course. The front and back 9 holes are on separate sides and you are driven to the 1st and 10th holes in a very organized and timely manner. The front half is mostly Marsh with so much beauty and lined with tons of tall grasses, trees and be on the lookout for Alligators, we “ran” past a few ourselves!
Walking paths are made mostly of sand. There are no blacktop driving
paths and no signage – so the natural beauty really stands out. In a very unusual design, every bit of sand (and there was plenty) is considered a waste bunker, whether it was a traditional bunker or not, you can ground your club and there is no raking needed!
There are a lot of natural areas made up of extremely thick shrubs and grasses and therefore, if you hit your ball in those spaces, it’s very difficult to find – needless to say – we lost a bunch of balls. The back 9 is mostly near the Ocean with holes 14-18 having the best views and photo ops!
We played with a father-son duo. Parker was 10 years old (in 2023) and already hitting them
extremely straight and consistent! We hope to see him on the PGA tour in less than 10 years,
when we can say, “hey, we played with that kid on the Ocean Course at Kiawah!”.
It's such a beautiful setting that you won't want the round to end. Depending on the time of year, you may be able to do a 2nd same-day round for a discounted rate. We also recommend enjoying some food and beverage at the restaurant overlooking the ocean and golf course and soak in more of the views and atmosphere!