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Kiawah Island's golf courses astound with their natural beauty

By S. Adam Cardais,
Ocean Course at Kiawah Island - No.12
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Set amid coastal beauty even Pete Dye didn't deign to tamper with, the Ocean Course may be Kiawah Island's most scenic play. (Courtesy Kiawah Island Golf Resort)

Golfing Kiawah Island, S.C., for the first time you encounter a landscape that hasn't changed that much since the Kiawah Indians arrived here more than 500 years ago. Osprey and egrets still inhabit the shallow tidal waters, and alligators still prowl the marshes.

Indeed, golf courses on Kiawah Island are some of the most scenic in the country, thanks to the high value developers here have placed on the island's natural surroundings, forsaking commercial temptations in favor of preservation.

The stand-out example is The Ocean Course, built on a site so beautiful even the great Pete Dye resisted doing much tampering. But there are plenty of other examples as well.

Kiawah Island's most beautiful golf courses

The Ocean Course: Dye must have known he had a good thing going when he started work on the Ocean Course. The natural beauty of this coastal property dictated much of his masterful design.

"No golf course in the world has ever improved on nature, but this one comes closer than most," says TravelGolf.com National Golf Editor Tim McDonald. "The way Dye did that was to let the location's natural beauty remain in its simplest state."

McDonald isn't the only one awed by this track. The Ocean Course has received numerous accolades over the years, including a place in Golf Digest's list of the top 10 public golf courses in the nation. Measuring 7,296 yards with a daunting 152 slope rating, the course was also featured in the feature film The Legend of Bagger Vance.

Osprey Point: This Tom Fazio design features four natural lakes, fingers of saltwater marsh and forests filled with oaks, pines, palmettos and magnolias. Adding to the scenery are the alligators that like to sun themselves on its open spaces.

At 6,871 yards with a slope rating of 137, Osprey Point isn't exactly a leisurely stroll on a spring day, but its wide-open landing areas give it a reputation for playability.

The River Course at Kiawah Island Club: Another Fazio effort, the River Course unfolds over a mile and a half of terrain along the Kiawah River. The first course at the exclusive Kiawah Island Club, it opened with a splash in the mid-'90s, placing among Golf Digest top five new private courses.

The 7,039-yard track also reached No. 38 on GolfWeek's roster of America's Top 100 Residential Courses. It is home to the Kiawah Pro Celebrity Challenge.

Cougar Point at Kiawah Island Resort: Playing along the tidal marsh, Cougar Point boasts picturesque views of the Kiawah River, perhaps one of the reasons Golf Digest gave it 4.5 stars in 2004.

At nearly 7,000 yards from the tips with a 134 slope rating, this Gary Player design is no pushover, but it's no punisher either. You don't have to be a scratch golfer to enjoy a round here.

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