Golf Course Review: Kiawah Island, Cougar Point (SC)

My wife and I fell in love with Charleston and Kiawah Island, South Carolina during our October 2016 honeymoon, and since then we’ve been in a hurry to get back.

Renting a huge, fabulous home on the marsh side of the island with our friends Tom and Lindley from Atlanta, our days were filled with beaches and swimming, golf, shopping, good food and cocktails. Other than only playing one round of golf, it was perfect!

After playing the Ocean Course and Osprey Point the last time we were in Kiawah Island, I’d been hearing great things about Gary Player’s renovation of his original design, Cougar Point.

The second through fourth and eighteenth hole are all visible from Kiawah Island Parkway – the main drive when entering Kiawah – and I always thought they were part of the River Course which is one of the island’s two private tracks that I was originally supposed to play while there.

My round at the River Course unfortunately fell through, but fortunately for me those amazing golf holes and conditions I thought were of the River Course were actually of Cougar Point. The holes seen from the parkway look so good, too, with big orbital sand traps surrounding the green on two, a continuous teeing area that looks like it runs about a hundred yards long, and the fifth hole past the fourth playing adjacent to the picturesque Kiawah River.

Tom and I were in for a treat at Cougar Point.

The clubhouse at Cougar Point is currently under construction, so operations are being run out of a makeshift building until Spring 2019. The new clubhouse will be very southern in style, and the renderings look beautiful.

The course begins with a handshake: A short, straightaway par four with very little trouble. I put one out there about 265 yards off the first tee, leaving just 70 in and my first three-putt/bogey of the day. We’ll blame that one on rust.

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Hole 1: Par 4 (372/342/330/282/243)

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Hole 1: Par 4 (372/342/330/282/243)

The second hole has a bit more bite: A mid-length par three with a tough green and intimidatingly large sand and water features. This is a hole I’d salivated over playing often while driving along Kiawah Island Parkway. It is a beaut.

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Hole 2: Par 3 (171/158/142/126/100)

The path from two to the third hole is a little confusing – just a heads up – but it’s worth it when you get there.

A sharp dogleg left par five, the third has a wonderful risk/reward finish over water to a tight green that begs players to try for that perfect shot.

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Hole 3: Par 5 (535/517/494/444/413)

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Hole 3: Par 5 (535/517/494/444/413)

Crossing the road to four brings with it that long, continuous teeing area I mentioned earlier. The fourth is a long, challenging par four that plays slightly left to right.

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Hole 4: Par 4 (453/432/398/364/324)

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Hole 4: Par 4 (453/432/398/364/324)

The fifth plays back parallel to the previous hole, bordered on the left by the scenic  Kiawah River marsh.

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Hole 5: Par 4 (410/390/369/336/305)

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Hole 5: Par 4 (410/390/369/336/305)

The peninsula green on five:

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Hole 5: Par 4 (410/390/369/336/305)

Six is the prettiest hole on the entire course, and maybe one of the most beautiful on the entire island. A mid-to-long length par three that stretches to ~ 180 yards from the tips – you have to get a picture from the tips! – the tee shot requires a long carry over the marshland and played straight in to the fan.

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Hole 6: Par 3 (180/167/158/136/98)

The seventh allows players to catch their breath after such a solid and challenging bunch of holes. Just 335 from the first tees in, the tee shot here should leave a well lofted club in to a green that’s fronted on the left side by water.

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Hole 7: Par 4 (354/337/325/307/249)

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Hole 7: Par 4 (354/337/325/307/249)

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Hole 7: Par 4 (354/337/325/307/249)

The eighth is a short par four under 350 yards with a green just off the right side. A tight alley to drive through makes much less than driver seem really good.

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Hole 8: Par 4 (361/339/334/278/218)

A long par five, the finishing hole on the front nine at Cougar Point is a 574-yarder from the tips, or 536 from the first tees in. The tee shot plays over water, stretching and bending slightly toward the left.

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Hole 9: Par 5 (574/536/517/458/410)

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Hole 9: Par 5 (574/536/517/458/410)

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Hole 9: Par 5 (574/536/517/458/410)

The back nine at Kiawah Island, Cougar Point begins with a long par four. Shortening this dogleg right over water will require a big fly to carry the corner sand trap, so position here toward the left is key.

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Hole 10: Par 4 (496/419/390/356/286)

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Hole 10: Par 4 (496/419/390/356/286)

The eleventh is a short par five with an incredibly interesting green complex: Seven sand traps litter the green surround, which looks fairly benign up-close though the bunkers play games with the golfer’s depth perception from any distance out.

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Hole 11: Par 5 (496/480/475/458/378)

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Hole 11: Par 5 (496/480/475/458/378)

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Hole 11: Par 5 (496/480/475/458/378)

The twelfth is a beast of a par three, tipping out at 223 yards or 201 from the first tees in. Teeming with alligators, water lines the entire left side and wraps around the back of this massive green.

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Hole 12: Par 3 (223/201/183/150/126)

A mid-length par four, the thirteenth is just over 350 yards from the first tees in and is one of the narrower tree-lined fairways on the course.

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Hole 13: Par 4 (408/388/354/315/281)

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Hole 13: Par 4 (408/388/354/315/281)

The fourteenth is a short par three at just 164 from the first tees in – 174 from the tips. A huge sand trap fronts the green here, while the right side of the green is wide open.

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Hole 14: Par 3 (174/164/154/141/123)

The fifteenth is a strong, three-shot par five tipping out around 540 yards. A large pond occupies the right side and needs to be carried on the second shot, while water on the left side mostly does not come in to play. This is a beautiful looking golf hole, and a great challenge.

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Hole 15: Par 5 (542/511/503/479/411)

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Hole 15: Par 5 (542/511/503/479/411)

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Hole 15: Par 5 (542/511/503/479/411)

Less than driver is the smart play on sixteen, with border bunkers on the left side and a massive oak tree on the right.

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Hole 16: Par 4 (401/382/370/328/286)

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Hole 16: Par 4 (401/382/370/328/286)

A potentially drivable par four from the middle tees, the seventeenth is a gorgeous golf hole that will punish anything errant. I hit a 307-yard bomb off the tee and bogeyed the hole from off of wood chips, for example.

This is one of the prettiest holes on a golf course that is fraught with great views.

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Hole 17: Par 4 (363/352/328/300/260)

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Hole 17: Par 4 (363/352/328/300/260)

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My view after a 307-yard drive through the fairway on 17

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Hole 17: Par 4 (363/352/328/300/260)

A demanding finishing hole, the green on eighteen is absolutely diabolical. Water hazards abound off the tee (a short carry) and on the second shot (lining the left side of the approach zone and running alongside the putting surface) – there’s a hole lot of trouble players can get in to on eighteen.

This is a wonderful green complex, built up beautifully above the pond and leaving little to no room for error.

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Hole 18: Par 4 (415/388/373/346/265)

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Hole 18: Par 4 (415/388/373/346/265)

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Hole 18: Par 4 (415/388/373/346/265)

Everyone obviously knows the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, but the question most ask is what other courses to play while there. My answer is that both of the others I’ve played (Osprey Point and Cougar Point) were terrific, but if I had to choose between them I’d probably choose Cougar Point.

The conditions were flawless, I thought there was excellent shot value and a lot of gorgeous views. The holes along the Kiawah River on the front nine were especially special.

Kiawah Island always leaves me wanting more, and the experience at Cougar Point is no exception in that it’s left me excited to get back again for more fantastic golf in South Carolina’s Lowcountry.

 

Course Wrap-Up:
Location: Kiawah Island, SC
Yardage: Tournament-6875, Cougar-6503, Player-6212
Slope/Rating: Tournament-138/74.0, Cougar-127/71.6, Player-123/69.8
Par: 72
Weekend Rates: $232, including cart

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