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Oak Point at Kiawah Island Golf Resort: A lesser golf course still worth your time

Tim McDonaldBy Tim McDonald,
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Some say Oak Point is their favorite of Kiawah resort's five courses. (Tim McDonald/GolfPublisher.com)

KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. - Oak Point is the stepchild of the Kiawah Island Golf Resort's five excellent golf courses.

Note I didn't say ugly stepchild, or even red-headed stepchild. It would be difficult to build an ugly course in this part of the world, where deer dart through the dense maritime forests of the South Carolina lowcountry and bull gators slither through tidal creeks like primordial nightmares.

First of all, Oak Point isn't on Kiawah Island, like its brethren. It's on Johns Island, just outside the gates of the ritzy resort. Thus, it doesn't get as much resort play as the others.

The resort added Oak Point to its designer collection in 1997, when they bought the course built on the site of a former cotton and indigo plantation, called the Hope Plantation.

Kiawah officials finished a major renovation to the front nine in 2004, in which they abolished completely the third hole, so tight that many complained it was unfair.

They added a par-3 ninth hole that has a view of Haulover Creek and lengthened the par-4 first hole into a par-5.

Also, opinions differ widely on this Clyde Johnston layout. Some feel it is the least of the resort courses, in terms of quality, while others swear it is their favorite.

"I can get on here a lot easier than the other courses," said Robert Jenkins, a local resident.

Accessibility isn't the only trait Oak Point admirers cite. It has that picture-postcard scenery all of the island's golf courses have, and the rolling terrain gives glimpses of the Kiawah River and Haulover Creek.

It's a shot-makers course where you need to hit to certain areas, and the course has a nice mix of interesting holes, like the two closing holes.

"That's why it's my favorite," said starter Jerry Wilson. "It's a thinking man's course."

The 17th, a long par-5, requires a tee shot between a narrow chute of trees. The fairway opens up, but your first shot here is scary. There's a swampy pond left and thick trees right. Your second shot is slightly uphill, and fairway bunkers start about 150 yards out and knobs and knolls pop up the closer you get to the elevated, undulating green, which gives a great view of the surrounding marsh.

No. 18 is a beauty, a mid-length par-4 with a 250-yard carry over the creek from the back tees. Of course, you could get lucky if you hit into the creek at low tide, when it's relatively dry. The well-guarded, bulk-headed green is set out in the marsh, with water short and right and bunkers left.

Oak Point: The Verdict

Johnston added mounding to get more movement at the comparatively flat layout, and the course has plenty of water to keep you occupied. The greens are excellent.

Oak Point has one of the nicer clubhouses of the resort courses, overlooking the 18th green and Haulover Creek. You can sit in the rocking chairs on the porch and sometimes see dolphins swimming up the creek.

There are quite a few homes going up around the perimeter, most likely the result of the Kiawah brand name.

"When I first came out here in '89 there were two houses," Wilson said.

I'd rank the course, 6,701 yards from the championship tees, at the bottom of the resort's five courses, which isn't to say it should be avoided, considering the quality of the other tracks. It is still very much a worthwhile play.

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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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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