A Hole-By-Hole Tour of River Course
Your Guide to The Kiawah Island Club River Course
The outstanding 7,119-yard course was designed by the renowned golf course architect Tom Fazio, who made sure that special emphasis was placed on the Island’s breathtaking surroundings. The Kiawah Island Club River Course exemplifies Tom Fazio’s philosophy that “golf courses should reflect the beauty of their environments,”’ as all of the fairways line gorgeous grasslands, picturesque ponds, and Kiawah’s majestic coastal forests.
Welcome to Our First Fairway
The Kiawah Island Club officially opened its first private golf course in 1995, making River Course almost 30 years old! The Kiawah Island Club River Course quickly won over Club Members and received a number of accolades from the national media upon its debut as it has since been regarded as one of the most challenging, yet luxurious golf courses in South Carolina.
The South Carolina Course Rating Panel named it one of the “Top 50 SC Golf Courses” in 2018 while Golf Digest ranked the course on the “1996 Top Five New Private Courses in the Nation”, and Golfweek listed it as one of “America’s Best Top 100 Residential Courses”, among many other acclaimed awards.
Now that you’ve become familiar with its enchanting surroundings and championship status, let’s journey through the 18 holes of Kiawah Island’s first private golf course.
Start by hitting a shot that curves gently to the left in order to situate yourself in the middle of the fairway with a good line to the two-tiered green. The left side is guarded by water and sand. The right side is guarded by a short, steep bunker. The safest bet is to play to the right center of the green.
The widest part of the fairway is the safest play for your tee shot. You will have a long second shot no matter what, but it’s very gettable! The layup is protected by bunkers that jut into the fairway. If you can’t carry the bunkers, stay focused. You’re forced to lay up into a tight area, so choose your club wisely.
This is a very wide but shallow green – typical of a Tom Fazio par 5. Because of the width, you can miss left or right. If you’re coming in with a short approach shot, watch your distance control. The green slopes severely from the back to the front and is separated into three undulating tiers: a high tier on the left side, a slightly lower middle tier, and an even lower tier on the right. Landing in the correct quadrant will leave you a good chance at making the putt.
Fazio Fact: The tunnel on this hole is left over from when the Kuwaitis owned Kiawah Island.
The first of four beautiful par 3s. This hole often plays into the wind, so the length can be difficult. Tee the ball up on the right side of the tee box. There are some overhanging trees on the left-hand side that you must avoid, especially if you hit butter cuts.
The size of the green surface area is quite forgiving. There’s a hollow in the center of the green that funnels balls off to the left. The front portion is raised, the middle portion is low, and the back portion is raised. If the flag is center left, this is definitely a pin to attack. When it’s on the front, missing it short is okay. When the flag is at the back, play from the middle of the green. Missing left will pretty much always leave an uphill chip, so favor this side.
The first of back-to-back par 4s. Be strategic with your tee shot. The most ideal shot shape off this tee box is a draw, as the hole curves slightly left. A good drive will leave a short shot. Bunkers guard the left and right sides. The center of the green is a good play no matter what the pin location is.
This hole is drivable for long hitters! If you have the ability to carry the ball 280 yards, then have some fun and go for it. If you don’t have the length, the safe play is a 220 shot up the left side of the fairway. The hole curves to the left around a water hazard and a waste bunker, so hit a draw to ensure a good line into the green. Be warned, this is one of the most severe greens on the course. There is a very large slope in the middle, so play it safe.
Fazio Fact: This hole has undergone more renovations than any hole on the course. Originally it featured two greens. In 2005 they were merged to become one large green.
This is the shortest hole on the course. It’s difficult to gauge the wind here, so pay attention on the preceding holes. Anything short will end up in a bunker or in the water. Anything long will go into a waste area or a grassy bunker, leaving you an incredibly difficult chip. The entire green slopes toward the water, so if you are going to miss, err to the right. This is a demanding hole. Don’t feel like you’ve lost a shot on the field if you make a bogey.
This is one of the longest par 4s on the course. Our pros recommend hitting with a driver and aiming to the right corner of the left bunker. From there, gently move the ball back to the middle of the fairway.
This green is deep and narrow with a slope in the middle that funnels balls right. This is Fazio at his best! Work the ball from left to right with your approach, so if you miss, you are left with a relatively straightforward pitch back up the slope and a good chance to save par. This is usually the windiest stretch of the golf course, so plan accordingly.
Fazio Fact: This hole was originally routed to be a par 5, but the original plan would have brought down a stand of large oak trees. Fazio made this a par 4 to save the trees!
The direction of the wind will determine the line you take here. Our pros recommend to curve the ball away from the water. Although the hole curves right, do not try to fade the ball off the tee box. If you fade the ball a bit too much, you will end up in the hazard. This second shot is one of the most difficult layups on the golf course, especially when it’s breezy. Again, Fazio is making you think! The ideal position is to lay up to about 110 yards. This will give a straight shot onto the green.
There are three tiers to this very large putting surface: front left, middle lower right, and a back tier. The center of the green is never a bad play.
This is not a long hole and you will usually have a prevailing wind. There is a waste area with bakeri grass and trees on the left and marsh and the Kiawah River on the right. It does not matter if you hit a driver, a hybrid, or a fairway wood -the goal is to hit the center of the fairway. The green is impossible to hold if you’re coming in from the rough.
This green is severely contoured. The left quadrant is raised and surrounded by a half-moon lower tier. If the flag is in front right, take dead aim. Any other pin placement will benefit from a shot more towards the center of the green.
One of the longest par 4s on the back nine. Hit the ball down the right side of the fairway with a tight draw and you’ll be in the perfect position to attack the pin with your second shot. A fade here will bring the trees on the right into play.
The entire green slopes left to right. It is fairly wide, not too challenging. Our pros recommend favoring the right side if you are going to miss, leaving yourself a relatively easy bunker shot uphill. A miss on the left side requires you to chip downhill from the rough, which is more difficult to control.
This is a short par 4. Do not over club off this tee box. The fairway is too narrow, and the risk/reward is not worth it. The green is wide and shallow. A small pot bunker guards the front middle. You have no choice but to play aggressively into these pins because of the slope in the middle of the green. You must be confident and approach the shot with an aggressive mindset in order to leave your ball on the correct tier to give yourself the best chance at a birdie. Pay attention to the wind and err on the short side.
Fazio Fact: This hole is called “the dry creek”, its bunker modeled after an old, dried-up creek bed. If you hit to the left side of the fairway, there is a concave hollow called the “catcher’s mitt.” This is the ideal landing area to get a clear shot onto the green.
Beautiful par 3. The further right you miss, the longer the shot needs to be to carry the water. If the flag is on the right side of the green, aim just left of it and use the slope. This two-tiered green here has a small back tier and then a much larger front tier. Be aggressive if the flag is at the front. Err to the left side to avoid the water and the bunker at the front of the green. A miss short left is an impossible up and down. A short miss right is fine because you have a lengthy two-putt. And if your shot is long, behind the green is a fairly straightforward up and down.
This is the signature hole on the course! Off the tee box, aim at the bunker in the center of the fairway and hit a slight draw. If you hit the ball more than 250 yards, the bunker on the left will not come into play. Shorter hitters have the option to lay up across the lake or just short of the lake. In this case, favor the right side of the fairway as opposed to the bunker and draw the ball.
Everything short on this green funnels to the water on the right side. If the pin is on the right side, play left of the flag and the ball will funnel down. If the flag is in the back of the green, watch your distance control. Attack the pin at the front of the green.
Before you get to the 14th tee, stop at the comfort station for a snack and a drink. Two good par 4s await you!
Hole 14 beings with a blind tee shot and a dogleg left. The further you hit, the narrower the fairway gets. Draw the ball off the tee if you want to play aggressively. If you prefer to fade the ball, aim just right of the waste area on the left side and work the ball to the largest part of the fairway.
This green has two tiers: upper left and lower right. Bunkers guard the front. Anything that hits in the center of the green will funnel to the right.
Fazio Fact: Fazio wanted to connect holes 14, 15, and 16 so he would have more sand to work with. The sand here is all completely natural to the Island.
Waste bunkers guard both sides of the fairway so you must hit the ball straight here. Our pros suggest taking the straightest club you have in the bag. The approach shot plays ever so slightly downhill, so make sure you deduct a few yards off the actual to get your number.
The green is narrow and long. If the flag is in the center of the green, don’t be afraid to take a little bit less or a little bit more club just to avoid that bunker. Relatively flat green, so no real challenges posed with the putter.
This is a long par 5 but very gettable. If you’re a longer hitter, shape it right to left off the tee box and favor the left side of the fairway. If you miss right here, you will not be able to hit the green in two. The green slopes severely from left to right at the front with a relatively flat back tier. If the flag is on the front, play your approach shot just left of the pin. Utilize the slope to feed the ball to the hole.
Do not be distracted by the beautiful views! It’s one of the most exposed holes on the course, so the wind is going to affect your tee shot more than the previous three. Our pros suggest starting the ball in the right portion of the green and working it back towards the flag. Some players prefer to hit a fade and work the ball off the waste area because the error is to the right side. Stick to your game and play your natural shape. It is a relatively flat green with a small spine rolling through the middle. The front portion slopes right. Make sure you walk 360 degrees around your putt, because a putt from the front to the back will break multiple different ways.
Fazio Fact: You’ll notice the back of the 15th tee here. This can also be played as the back tee for the 17th hole. And it’s arguably a more direct shot!
Home stretch! The average hitter should play a draw on this hole, starting the ball to the right center of the fairway and working it to the left. The longer hitters should favor a left to right – over the tree on the left side and work it to the right. Whatever you do, avoid the tree short left.
Fazio challenges you right to the very last moment. This is an incredibly narrow green guarded by a large bunker on the right and a waste area on the left. If the flag is on the front and your approach is above the hole, be very careful of the speed coming down this hill. If the flag is at the back, do not go long. Play to the center of the green and putt straight up the slope. The miss is short right!
Fazio Fact: Fazio modeled this green after the iconic Tillinghast design – concave with sides that sweep up. The shape is a lot like a potato chip!
Find Your Golf Paradise at Kiawah Island
There is so much to take part in as a golfer on Kiawah Island. With your fellow Club Members, you can enjoy many rounds of golf while appreciating the breathtaking Lowcountry scenery. Together, Kiawah Island Club Members and visitors can also track their progress at the Club’s state-of-the-art Golf Learning Center. Moreover, the on-site training center will assist you in strengthening muscle groups required for improved golf, preparing you for success at the Kiawah Island Club River Course.
The Kiawah Island Club River Course and all its offerings makes it undeniable that Kiawah Island is a golfer’s paradise. For more information on the golfing lifestyle at Kiawah Island, simply click the button below. We’d be more than happy to answer any questions you may have.