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Kiawah Island golf courses pack star power with designers like Dye, Fazio

By S. Adam Cardais,
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Cougar Point Course
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Gary Player designed, and redesigned, Kiawah Island Golf Resort's Cougar Point course. (Courtesy Kiawah Island Golf Resort)

Kiawah Island, S.C., is a small place that's become one of the southeast's biggest golf destinations. Upshot? You won't have to look hard here to find celebrity-designed golf courses.

This little lowcountry island has a high concentration of golf courses by the big boys of golf architecture, with Pete Dye's revered Ocean Course topping the list. Here's a rundown on Kiawah's brand-name layouts.

Kiawah Island's celebrity-designed golf courses

The Ocean Course: If you're going to play just one Kiawah star design, this is one to hit. That is, if you're ready to face down Pete Dye at his most devilish.

Dye allowed the environment to dictate much of the design here, coming up with a marvel that measures 7,296 yards with a 152 slope rating and was named the nation's most difficult resort golf course by Golf Digest. The magazine also places the Ocean Course among the top 10 U.S. public tracks.

The course has hosted numerous prestigious events, including the World Golf Championships World Cup in 2003, and will be the site of this year's Senior PGA Championship and the 2012 PGA Championship. Just to add to the course's celebrity juju, it starred on the big screen alongside Matt Damon and Will Smith in The Legend of Bagger Vance.

Cougar Point at Kiawah Island Resort: Opened in 1976 and given a thorough revamp 20 years later by original designer Gary Player, Cougar Point now measures 6,887 yards from the championship tees and carries a 134 slope rating, making it accessible to a range of skill levels.

Cougar Point plays along the tidal marsh, providing stunning views of the Kiawah River. Golf Digest gave it 4.5 stars in 2004.

The River Course at Kiawah Island Club: The River Course bears the imprimatur of arguably the most respected architect in the business: Tom Fazio. Measuring 7,039 yards from the tips with a challenging 140 slope rating, it was the first track at the exclusive Kiawah Island Club.

Home to the Kiawah Pro Celebrity Challenge, the course has garnered many accolades. Golf Digest ranked the River Course among the top 5 new U.S. private courses in 1996, and it made No. 38 on GolfWeek's list of the country's top 100 residential tracks.

Cassique at Kiawah Island Club: The links courses of Scotland were Tom Watson's inspiration here. The wind is a major factor here, and a major headache - a circumstance not lost on the former PGA Tour great, who designed Cassique to be played a variety of ways, depending on the wind.

Measuring 6,960 yards, the course is eminently walkable, unfolding over farm fields, maritime forests and marshes where the Kiawah River meets the Atlantic Ocean.

 
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