Test Your Game: The Most Challenging Kiawah Golf Courses, Ranked
From Pros to Novices, Everyone Loves Golf on Kiawah Island
Whether you’re new to the game, or have been playing for years, golfers of all skill levels enjoy the courses on Kiawah Island. From undulating greens and water hazards, to deep-tiered bunkers and oceanic winds, each Kiawah Island course provides a challenge all its own that attracts lovers of the game from near and far.
If you’re looking to test your game, there’s no better place to do it than here. Take a look at the rankings below of Kiawah’s seven private and public golf courses — 1 being the most challenging and 7 being the least — to determine which you will play next.
The below rankings are based on each course’s professional ratings, as each course is designed to be played from the professional tees. However, all Kiawah Island courses offer multiple tees to cater to varying degrees of difficulty for players of all skill sets.
1. Ocean Course
72 Par | 7,676 Yards | 77.3 Rating | 144 Slope
Consistently ranked in the Top 20 of America’s Toughest Golf Courses by Golf Digest, the Ocean Course is undeniably the toughest course to beat on Kiawah Island. Designed by the late Pete Dye specifically for the 1991 Ryder Cup, this links-style course fully embodies the diabolical nature of Dye’s designs.
In typical Dye fashion, spotting a landing area off the tee is not only challenging, but in some cases impossible. While it boasts wide fairways, the lack of foresight makes this course seem more difficult than it is — unless you play it on a windy day.
With 10 holes situated next to the Atlantic Ocean, and the other eight nearby, there is little protection from the wind. Hole 17 in particular is known to test golfers skills, as well as their patience, with a green that is fully vulnerable to the elements and surrounded by water. Prepare to lose a ball, or a few.
Albeit challenging, the Ocean Course offers some of the most exquisite views on the Island. While playing, you’ll notice the ocean vistas at every turn. Stick around until sunset for a view you won’t soon forget.
The Ocean Course will be hosting golf legends once again for the 2021 PGA Championship. Learn more here.
2. River Course
72 Par | 7,039 Yards | 75.6 Rating | 148 Slope
At number two on our list stands the River Course. Open only to Kiawah Island Club Members, the River Course is not only a challenge to play, but also a beautiful course. Designed by Tom Fazio, the course winds through the surrounding landscape and along the river, and proves to be quite demanding off the tee.
As if the tree-lined fairways don’t make this course enough of a challenge, its undulating greens, forced carries, and deep bunkers are sure to put you to the test. Like many other Fazio designs, great risk comes with great reward on this private Kiawah Island course — and the pros know it, too. Known for its many challenges, beautiful scenery, and overall spectacular play, the River Course will host the USGA Four-Ball in 2023, following its initial debut in 2009 for the U.S. Mid-Amatuer Championship.
3. Cassique Course
72 Par | 7,015 Yards | 74.5 Rating | 142 Slope
Like the River Course, Cassique is exclusively played by Kiawah Island Club Members (one of the many benefits of becoming a Club Member) and will be a part of the 2023 USGA Four-Ball as well. This links-style course was designed by Tom Watson in 2000 and is greatly reminiscent of his favorite holes in Scotland, giving Cassique a unique layout, especially for a coastal course.
Tree-lined with deep tiered and sod-layers bunkers, this course provides a challenge all its own. However, that’s not what makes this course so distinctive. Cassique Course is the only course on the Island with zero homes on the front nine. While you’ll find a few homes on the back nine — and only on one side of the course we might add — Cassique allows you to fully immerse yourself into the surrounding nature. While the front nine looks and feels like a British Isles links course, the back nine has a more lowcountry feel. It’s truly the best of both worlds.
4. Turtle Point
72 Par | 7,061 Yards | 73 Rating | 141 Slope
Designed by Jack Nicklaus in 1981, the Turtle Point Course recently underwent a nine-month renovation. With fresh Paspalum grass, rebuilt bunkers, laser-leveled tee boxes, and upgraded irrigation, this course offers a high caliber golfing experience.
Located in the middle of the Island, Turtle Point shares boundaries with the members-only River Course. Several holes sit adjacent to the Atlantic, providing unbeatable views and a challenging game thanks to the ocean’s breeze. One tip to keep in mind when playing at this course — if you are able to hit a fade, it favors that shot more than a draw!
5. Osprey Point
72 Par | 6,932 Yards | 73.3 Rating | 135 Slope
Originally, the Osprey Point Golf Course was only accessible to Kiawah Club Members, but has since been opened to the public. In 2014, the entire course was renovated by Tom Fazio, which was the third Kiawah course he had a role in designing. The transformation turned Osprey Point into the championship-level course it’s known as today.
According to players, the biggest draw to Osprey Point are the memorable holes surrounded by the Island’s natural beauty. With a well-designed layout and immaculate greens, this course is a local favorite. The natural lagoons and marshes dotted along the fairways makes this the best course for wildlife sightings. Keep an eye out for the American Alligators native to the area.
6. Cougar Point
72 Par | 6,814 Yards | 72.7 Rating | 134 Slope
When travelling to Kiawah, Cougar Point is the first golf course you reach once you get to the Island. This course is beloved for its great playing holes that were designed to be inherently unique from one another. In particular, you will find two holes situated along the Kiawah River that lend long fairways with challenging terrain.
In addition, the new Cougar Point Clubhouse was recently finished. From its architecture to its landscaping, this gathering space is Southern luxury at its finest. Inside, visitors can find dining options such as The Players’ Pub, and a full-service pro shop that carries the best golf brands to help you elevate your game. Plus, a new hotel will also be added to complement the course and clubhouse and accommodate guests wishing to stay at Cougar Point.
7. Oak Point
72 Par | 6,701 Yards | 71.9 Rating | 130 Slope
The last course on the list is Oak Point, known as the shotmaker’s course. This highly-rated course is the perfect blend of Scottish Links and South Carolina’s Lowcountry. Almost every hole is surrounded by maritime forest that frames the fairways for a picturesque view.
On this course you will find five par 3s, along with five par 5s, that favor a thinking approach over raw power. Designed by Clyde Johnston in 1989, this course totes a fun layout surrounded by beautiful homes that showcase the local architecture.
Golf Course Properties on Kiawah Island
Living on a golf course is one of the best ways to enjoy what Kiawah Island has to offer. If you have always dreamed of living on a golf course, Kiawah has seven world-class options to choose from. View our listings of available homes built along these courses below.