A History of Golf Course Improvements at Kiawah

Rory McIlroy holed the winning putt at the 2012 PGA Championship at The Ocean Course and became the first golfer to win a major championship on Seaside friendly paspalum grass. The players universally praised the putting surface and endorsed the decision to convert from Bermuda to paspalum as the right one. He was among the first to experience one of the main improvements to the courses on Kiawah.

The conversion to Paspalum was one of many improvements to Kiawah Island Golf Resort over a 20 year period starting in the mid-1990’s. The total expenditure to improve the player experience, for five golf clubs, including golf course renovations, building new clubhouses and ongoing capital improvements has exceeded $80 million dollars.

Golf-Turtle Point Clubhouse
Turtle Point Clubhouse

The transformation began back in 1996 with Marsh Point, the original golf course built on Kiawah Island in the late 1970’s. The course’s architect, Gary Player, returned for a complete conversion into the sublime Cougar Point. Those changes were followed in 1997 with the construction of the stately Osprey Point clubhouse and the first of four major Pete Dye-led renovations of The Ocean Course.

In 2000, Jack Nicklaus returned to Kiawah for a renovation of Turtle Point. The same year saw the construction of Turtle Point’s antebellum-style clubhouse.

Aerial of Osprey Point No. 9 and No. 1
Aerial of Osprey Point No. 9 and No. 1

In 2002, the resort expanded and renovated the Cougar Point clubhouse followed by a new clubhouse at Oak Point in 2003. The following year, major changes were made to a number of holes on Oak Point, removing a quirky par-4 hole, adding a stunning par-3 hole hitting towards Haulover Creek and converting the first hole into a risk-reward par-5.

In 2014, Osprey Point was closed for the summer for a complete renovation approved by course architect Tom Fazio. It included regrassing tees, fairways and greens with Platinum Paspalum (the same grass used on The Ocean Course), shifting bunkers and renovating a number of fairways for improved drainage and playability.

Oak Point No. 18
Oak Point No. 18

In 2015, the work continued as Oak Point closed for a six-month renovation. This renovation included regrassing the tees, fairways and greens also with Platinum Paspalum, returning the greens and tees back to their original sizes, shaping and recontouring all of the bunkers and some of the fairways. Irrigation was also added to the roughs.

2016 saw extensive work on Turtle Point under the watchful eye of course architect design team, Jack Nicklaus Design. Renovations included rebuilding green complexes, re-grassing the greens, tees and fairways with Platinum Paspalum, rebuilding all bunkers, laser leveling all tee boxes, including the range and reestablishing irrigation throughout the course.

Turtle Point No. 15
Turtle Point No. 15

Finally, Cougar Point closed at the end of November for a 10-month renovation.   The course will be closed from November 28th, 2016 with an opening date scheduled for October 2017. Representatives from Gary Player Design Company have already visited the course and offered design suggestions which will include, regrassing the greens, tees, and fairways with Platinum Paspalum, laser leveling all tee boxes including the practice range, rebuilding all bunkers and updating the irrigation throughout the golf course.

Members and guests have universally praised the renovations to date. This final renovation will complete the golf course conversion to paspalum grass well ahead of the 2021 PGA Championship and secure Kiawah Island Golf Resort’s spot as the top golf destination in the nation and your favorite place to play.