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Cougar Point Golf Course at Kiawah Island: Real estate unlocks great views

Tim McDonaldBy Tim McDonald,
Cougar Point Golf Course at Kiawah Island resort - hole 2
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A view of the second hole at Cougar Point Golf Course at Kiawah Island resort. (Tim McDonald/WorldGolf.com)

The Gary Player-designed Cougar Point Golf Course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort has been re-designed in recent years to give golfers more access to its varried terrain.

KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. - It's often said by architectural critics that the best and most artistic golf courses are built before the crass, commercial question of real estate rears its ugly head.

In the case of Cougar Point, one of the Kiawah Island Golf Resort's five outstanding courses, it was the latter that made the course better.

Cougar Point was originally built as a par-65 executive course, designed by Gary Player. But a real estate broker complained that he couldn't sell lots around an executive course, particularly on such an exclusive setting as Kiawah Island.

So, in their infinite wisdom, Kiawah officials added three holes. They just happened to be the best three holes, in terms of scenery, on the course.

The three new holes are in the middle of the front nine and open on to views of the Kiawah River. These three holes make up one of the best views on the entire island. Take the wife and kids there, even if they're just along for the ride.

"It's a pretty golf course and it's best virtue, from an aesthetic viewpoint, are those holes that play along the Kiawah River," said Cougar Point Head Professional Ric Ferguson. "Especially at high tide, it really sets off the marsh grasses, the water and the skyline in the background."

They weren't through though. The original Player design was very penal, especially for a course that caters to resort guests. The greens were very small, the fairways had steep slopes to the surrounding water hazards and there were difficult forced carries.

Player was called back in 1996 for a re-design to soften it up.

"That was one of the things they really strived for in the re-design," Ferguson said. "Now, there are no forced carries from the mid tees, and there's run-ups to just about every green."

Cougar can still test the pros and low handicappers from the back tees, where the hazards come more into play.

Cougar Point Golf Course at Kiawah Island: The verdict

Cougar Point is still no pushover, even from the middle or forward tees. It has more bunkering than the resort's other courses, with the obvious exception of the Kiawah Ocean course, and the playing corridors are very narrow in some areas.

"It can be a very tight golf course," Ferguson said. "We host men's and women's college tournaments and I hear from them how tight this golf course is."

A strong point to the layout is the variety of holes, something you don't always get with resort courses.

"There's a lot of movement to the holes," Ferguson said. "They're not all straightaway or doglegs to the right or left. What I think makes the golf course so fun is the variety in the movement. It's not going to beat you up too much, but it's going to give you a variety of shot. There's a lot of looks to the course."

Cougar Point was recently voted "Golf course of the year" by the South Carolina Golf Course Owners Association."

Originally named Marsh Point, it's 6,875 yards from the back tees.

Kiawah Island stay and play

The Sanctuary, the resort hotel at Kiawah, is one of the most genteel settings imaginable, for anyone other than the wealthy, aristocratic gentry. The hotel itself can only be described as splendid, a five-diamond winner in 2007.

This isn't one of those mammoth, gaudy oceanfront hotels you may find in, say Myrtle Beach. It's a mansion really, with wide, elegant staircases, beautiful oak floors and, almost always, views of the Atlantic Ocean which it fronts.

The hotel has 255 rooms, with the smallest of the "King" rooms 520 square feet, all comfortably furnished with four-poster beds, and all the amenities you would expect from a resort consistently ranked one of the best in the country. There's a luxury spa, of course, as well as a variety of outdoor activities for the family.

There are also beachfront rental homes with private docks and luxury villas.

The service at Kiawah is as good or better than any golf resort where I've ever stayed.

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Cougar Point Golf Course at Kiawah Island resort - front nineCougar Point Golf Course at Kiawah Island resort

Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.

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