Kiawah Island is south of Charleston about 45 minutes. It’s a resort and real estate development which contains five golf courses, the most famous of which is the Pete & Alice Dye designed Ocean Course. The course was developed specifically to host the 1991 “War on the Shore” Ryder Cup, which the US squeaked by 14 1/2-13 1/2 after Bernhard Langer missed a 6 footer on the 18th for a tie and to retain the Cup. The Ocean course was also the venue for the 2007 Senior PGA Championship, s well as the 2012 PGA Championship.
It’s a scenic setting without homes or development along the layout with ten of the holes right on the Ocean so the wind is always a factor. The course is one of the highest slope and course ratings in the US at 144 slope and 73.2 course rating from the tips at 7,356 yards, with four shorter tees.
Alice Dye had the idea to “lift” the design off the beach to provide better views from the golf course to the Atlantic, effectively increasing the wind’s impact on the layout. It’s not in the class of true links courses though, the fairways are not hard, fast and firm, the greens fronted by bunkering along with mounding which deflects balls on approach. While the fairways are generous, there’s continued forced carries over marshes and wetlands, waste bunkers throughout, the greens, raised and on the small side.
While it’s somewhat tame on the rare calm day from the appropriate tees for your personal game, all bets are off when the wind’s up. Accordingly, The Ocean Course at Kiawah was dubbed Looney Dunes after the Ryder Cup, and playing to 7,610 yards from the tournament tees, with a 155 slope and 79.6 course rating it’s the toughest golf course in America.