Kiawah Basks in PGA Championship Glow

Ocean Course, Kiawah Island Golf Resort

Pete Dye’s famously difficult Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort. (Image:

(Last updated August 2021.)

South Carolina’s Kiawah Island Golf Resort, home of the famously difficult Ocean Course, is enjoying the high that comes from having hosted the thrilling 2021 PGA Championship, the resort’s second staging of the major tournament in less than a decade.

Just shy of his 51st birthday, Phil Mickelson defeated Father Time (and runners-up Brooks Koepka and Louis Oosthuizen) to claim his second PGA Championship, and sixth major. Mickelson’s victory was a one-for-the-ages bookend to the 2012 tourney, when Rory McIlroy’s four-round score of 275 on what many consider the sternest test of golf in the United States came in at 13-under-par, a record eight strokes better than his nearest challenger.

Designed by Pete Dye, the Ocean Course is the headliner of five courses at a luxurious retreat set on a wind-swept barrier island 24 kilometres south of Charleston. Dye’s course, which offers panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean from all 18 holes, also famously hosted the 1991 Ryder Cup (remembered as the “War by the Shore”) and the 1997 and 2003 World Cups.

2012 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island Golf Resort

Kiawah has twice hosted the PGA Championship on its Ocean Course. (Image:

Depending on how the wind blows, golfers can expect as much as a three-club difference on any hole from one round to the next. The Ocean Course is said to have more sea holes than any other course in the Northern Hemisphere. There are 10 hugging the Atlantic, with the other eight holes running just inland.

After ticking Dye’s Ocean Course off their bucket list, golfers can choose from among the resort’s four other excellent designs:

  • Turtle Point is one of Jack Nicklaus’s earliest designs, featuring narrow fairways, evilly placed water hazards and small greens.
  • Osprey Point is a Tom Fazio design that plays around four large natural lakes and fingers of saltwater marsh.
  • Oak Point is a picturesque Clyde Johnston design built along the banks of the Kiawah River on the site of a former cotton and indigo plantation.
  • Cougar Point is a strategic Gary Player design offering dramatic vistas along the Kiawah River.

Après-golf activities at the resort include kayaking, nature tours, tennis on hard or clay courts, and bicycling around the property’s 4,000 wooded oceanfront hectares.

But many visitors are content to lounge around the Sanctuary Hotel, a sumptuous waterfront hotel and spa opened in 2004. The five-star hotel includes pools, a fitness center, shopping, and more than a dozen restaurants and cafes. Travel + Leisure included the Sanctuary on its 2020 list of the top 15 resorts in the South.

Best of all, each of the 255 rooms is equipped with a porch—and almost all feature sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean.