KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. — Golf and South Carolina’s coastline have been synonymous for more than four decades.
On the northern end of the coast you’ll find Myrtle Beach, which caters to golfers with an array of courses, restaurants and other attractions.
On the southern end is Hilton Head Island, home to the state’s regular PGA Tour stop at Harbour Town Golf Links.
But it’s in the middle – specifically, Kiawah Island – where the action will be this week in the Palmetto State. The iconic Ocean Course is playing host to the 94th PGA Championship, the first of golf’s four annual major tournaments to be contested in South Carolina.
The Ocean Course came to prominence as the location for the 1991 Ryder Cup Matches. Known as the “War by the Shore,” the Pete Dye-designed golf course wreaked havoc on the best players in the world. The PGA Senior championship was held at the course in 2007.
That’s not a bad pedigree considering Kiawah’s relatively late start (mid-1970s) as a resort.
The island was originally populated by the Kiawah Indians. During the American Revolution, Charleston mayor Arnoldus Vanderhorst II built his first house on the island. That one didn’t survive the war, but the second plantation house, circa 1801, still exists.
While the Ocean Course might be Kiawah’s main star, there are plenty of other worthy attractions on the barrier island. Four other courses – Turtle Point, designed by Jack Nicklaus; Osprey Point (Tom Fazio); Cougar Point (Gary Player); and Oak Point (Clyde Johnston) – blend the beauty of the South Carolina Lowcountry and the nearby Atlantic Ocean into memorable layouts.
The Ocean Course is as difficult as it is beautiful. Dye has returned several times in the past two decades, and he has made several changes by shifting tee boxes and reworking green complexes.
The most dramatic change might be at the par-3 14th hole, which was lengthened 15 yards to make it a 243-yard par-3.
The tee box also was elevated, giving players a spectacular view of the five-hole finishing stretch that runs parallel to the Atlantic.
Because of the compact nature of the course, PGA organizers will limit the number of spectators each day.
“The Ocean Course and Kiawah Island has to be different, because we can’t fit 45,000 to 50,000 people on this golf course,” said Brett Sterba, the tournament director. “We’re going to limit this event. Our spectator count is between 27,000 and 30,000 people per day.”
Another change involves hospitality locations for the spectators.
“Instead of putting it off to the side of a hole, we put all the hospitality on the golf course,” Sterba said. “It’s on the 18th hole, 17th green and 16th green. It is literally overlooking golf.”