Category: Kiawah Island

August 10, 2012

Kiawah's Ocean Course is a links pretender

Posted at 12:50 PM by Joe Passov

The Ocean Course's reputation as the meanest, most penal resort layout in the U.S. has been tough to shake, but the reality is that architect Pete Dye has twice softened his design in the past 20 years to where it's unquestionably great, not just difficult. But with soft, rain-soaked summer conditions and little breeze, the game's best proved -- at least for one day -- that it really isn't that tough, either.

Thursday's conditions glaringly exposed Kiawah's Ocean Course for what it is: "An American-style course on links-like land," as Tom Weiskopf called it when it opened. With 10 holes skirting the Atlantic, grass -- and scrub -- topped coastal dunes and wildly sloping greens, it sure looks like the real thing. However, closer scrutiny shows Weiskopf was right. Most of the greens are so severely elevated that an aerial approach is the only practical one, unlike genuine links courses, and the use of sticky paspalum grass as the playing surface of choice further limits imaginative ground game options. Toss in the soft conditions and what you wind up with is a great course, but not a links course.

I was aghast when Ian Baker-Finch -- a former Open champion no less -- stated on Thursday's telecast how beautiful the paspalum looked, that the rains had really helped green it up. Boo! Give me a side of brown, firm and fast with my seaside golf every time. As Golf Channel analyst and Golf Magazine columnist Brandel Chamblee noted in summing up play on Thursday, "Funny things happen on a soft golf course." Indeed. I hope the wind dries out Kiawah's Ocean course this weekend. Then the shotmakers, thinkers and masters of controlling trajectory will rule. Turn off the water-brown is beautiful! Tell me I'm wrong.

(Credit: Fred Vuich/SI)

November 10, 2010

Ask Travelin' Joe: Charleston and Palm Springs

Posted at 1:25 PM by Joe Passov

If you want to ask Travelin' Joe a question, e-mail him at

Dear Joe,
I've got a meeting to attend in Charleston and have time for one round. I'm a modest 19 handicap, so I think I'll pass on Kiawah's Ocean Course, but it would be great to play along the water somewhere.
Doug Schoenstein, Parma, Ohio

To the north, my pick is Wild Dunes Resort's Links course ($120-$145; 843-886-2180, in Isle of Palms, an early Tom Fazio design that celebrates its 30th anniversary this fall. Its par-5 closer along the Atlantic has been restored, returning the course to "must-play" status.

Down south at Kiawah Island Resort, the Jack Nicklaus-designed Turtle Point ($180-$224; 843-266-4050, sports a stretch of holes (14-16) where you can hit a beachcomber if you yank a shot.

Hi Joe,
My husband and I are looking for a golf trip for our 10th anniversary. We have played in Charleston, S.C.; Scottsdale, Ariz.; and Ponte Vedra, Fla., and we'd like to try Palm Springs, Calif. We're both 20-handicap golfers and would like to play some medium-difficulty courses with possibly one "big name" layout in the mix. Recommendations?
Heather Smith, Philadelphia, Penn.

Make your trophy course La Quinta's Mountain ($59-$189; 760-564-7610, In typical Pete Dye fashion, it can play as tough as old beef jerky, but choose the proper tees and this is pure fun, particularly the unforgettable stretch of 14 through 16 that hugs the mountain.

Another track worth your time is the Celebrity at Indian Wells Golf Resort ($65-$165; 760-346-4653,

For a great value, try Escena ($40-$85; 760-778-2737,, a wide, scenic, five-year-old layout from Nicklaus Design that's near the Palm Springs Airport.

The ultimate golfer's holiday gift? How about tournament trip to southwest Ireland, my favorite international golf destination? Sign up for the Great Irish Links Challenge (, the first edition of which takes place May 22-25, 2011. A field of 600 golfers will compete at three venues: Ballybunion, Lahinch and Doonbeg, which rank among the greatest links courses on the planet. Three rounds, with a title at stake. Now that's a stocking stuffer!

Ask Travelin' Joe

Our traveling correspondent has been where you're going. Heading out of town on vacation? Business trip? Travelin' Joe can suggest the best places for you to tee it up. If you want to ask Travelin' Joe a question, e-mail him at


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