No. 1 originally had the pond crossing the fairway in front of the green connecting to the water on No. 2. So, the second shot was over the water to an elevated green with a severe slope into the pond. If a player hit anywhere short of the green, the ball would roll back into the pond making it an extremely difficult starting hole. Player eliminated the water and lowered the entire green complex. Now, it’s a hole that doesn’t beat up the player right off the start. Player added the fairway bunkers to put more of a premium on accuracy. The one on the left is reachable from the tee for most players. The bunker on the right is reachable by only the longest hitters, allowing more room for error for the shorter hitters. The smart play is to hit a 3-wood off the tee then have a short- to mid-iron into the green.
As the hole nearest the Resort’s front gate, this is the hole that first catches the eye of resort guests and sparks their interest in playing. The original No. 2 was a relatively easy, unimpressive par-3. Player lowered the green complex and added the bulkheading. People who come through the gate who’ve played Marsh Point in the past will immediately realize that Cougar Point is a totally different golf course than Marsh Point. The most interesting pin placement is in front. This brings both the water and bunkering into play. The smart play is to play past the pin onto the slope and try to spin the ball back to the hole. Too far, however, and players are faced with a tough putt down the hill.
3rd Hole Par 3
Originally, No. 3 was two holes — a short par-4 and a par-3. When extra land was acquired on the marsh, Player stretched it into a par-5. It has a significant risk/reward aspect to it for the better player where it’s reachable in two but any shot offline will be wet or in one of the multitude of bunkers. For players lying up, there is much more room than there appears from the tee-shot landing areas. Once again, though, even a lay-up shot is risk/reward where players bite off as much as they dare to get the shortest approach shot into this green.
After three relatively easy holes, the course becomes much more difficult as it moves out to its signature stretch of holes along the Kiawah River marshes. Player added about 50 yards to No. 4, a hole that generally plays into the wind. Since it’s such a long par-4, the fairway is huge. The key is that even though it’s a dogleg right, it’s best to stay on the left side of the fairway. The ideal target line is at the fairway bunkers that only the biggest hitters can reach. From the left side of the fairway, players can run the ball up onto the green. Too far to the right and the angle becomes tougher, and the bunker on the right becomes a factor.
This hole was substantially changed in 1996. Player pushed the tee back as far as he could, adding about 60-70 yards to the hole. The pond on the right used to be closer to the tee and a finger of it came out into the fairway. Player filled the finger in the fairway and extended the pond further down the right side to place more of a premium on accuracy for the longer hitters. On the left, the grass used to run down into the marsh. He also bulkheaded the fairway all the way down the left side, shifting the tilt of the ground away from the marsh and back into the fairway. This, in essence, made the fairway substantially wider. Ideally, players want to keep to the right side of the fairway to get the best angle into the green, as trees guard the left. of the fairway to get the best angle into the green, as trees guard the left.
As Marsh Point, this hole was unbelievably difficult. The green was only about 10-yards deep and steeply sloped into the marsh in almost every direction. Player bulkheaded around the green and greatly increased its size. The green is now over 15-yards across giving players a much better chance of holding the green. Plus, he added a back bulkheaded tee box near No. 5 green.
No. 7 was a very weak hole at Marsh Point; so, Player lowered the green and moved it back and to the left. He also added the pond to the left of the green. This is a target-golf hole where players need to keep the ball left to give them room to clear the trees. Long-ball hitters can try to hit it far enough to get past the trees at the turn of the dogleg, but they must be careful not to hit through the fairway. On approach shots, players need to watch the treetops to catch phantom winds they won’t feel on the fairway that can greatly affect short-iron shots. No. 7 is a truly esthetically pleasing hole.
The green at No. 8 used to be aptly described as “screwy.” It was U-shaped with lots of undulations. Nobody liked it. To make it more playable the green was reshaped, greatly increasing playability. Player added another tee box to lengthen the hole. Keep the driver in the bag on this hole where position is everything. Too far right and players must hit over a large oak guarding the green.
To add to what was an anemic landing area, Player filled in some of the pond on the right. He also softened the slope into the pond to make it less likely to bounce down into the water. Around the 150-yard marker, he also filled in a section of the pond that blindly jutted out into the fairway. A new tee box was added, tacking on another 50 yards to the hole.
To make the hole fairer, Player dug the pond back toward the tees and filled in by the landing area and added the fairway bunkers. The trouble before was that short hitters would hit the ball to the left of the water and the slope would draw the ball right into it. The changes made it possible for players to hit past the water (but still catch poorly hit shots). Most players aim for the target bunker on the left side of the fairway (out of range of all but the longest hitters). Bolder players will aim over the right bunker near the water to try to cut off distance for their second shot to the elevated green.
This hole is one of the few that didn’t need much change from its Marsh Point days. The only change was that the fairway bunker was moved back and another bunker short right of the green was added making it more difficult for players going for the green in two to bounce it on. This is one of the most photographed greens on the Island with a wide array of bunkering and stately oaks framing the hole. It was also one of the holes used in the filming of “The Legend of Bagger Vance.” In the movie’s opening scene Jack Lemmon hits his tee shot on this hole then walk off the tee down the fairway to the left rough. It was Jack Lemmon’s final movie.
The green was lowered about 6 feet and the tees were raised about 6 feet so there was a 12-foot elevation difference. This meant players were no longer hitting to an elevated green. Additionally, the tee box was lengthened to allow more teeing options. Shots hit short and right can bound off the mounding onto the green. Hit long here and players are wet.
During its Marsh Point days, bunkers used to be right in the middle of the landing area. The first thing Player did was move the bunkers to the left rough giving players less of an opportunity to be punished for hitting a good drive. The green was also substantially changed. It used to be just a narrow sliver. Player made it much wider, giving a multitude of options for challenging pin placements. Once again, a ball in the fairway is a must here. Hit a 3-wood off the tee and have an easy mid- to short-iron into the green.
There used to be a tree on the front-left of the green that essentially made this a “dogleg par-3.” In 2005, the tree was removed making this a much fairer hole. There is still plenty of challenge, though, especially with a left pin placement. There’s a bailout area to the right of the green that makes an up and down fairly easy.
The water used to cross the fairway right in the long-hitter’s landing area (or moderate hitters playing from the white tees). Many of the shorter-hitting women couldn’t hit their drives far enough to set up a second shot that would clear the water. So, they had to lay-up, turning the hole essentially into a par-6 for them. Then when players got up toward the green, there was a third clump of oaks on the right that sat in between the two current oaks. They effectively provided an impenetrable wall between the fairway and the green. Filling in that water-crossing and removing that cluster of oaks made this a much fairer, but still challenging, hole where the better players can risk going for the green in two over the water. Those laying up need to hit enough club to get past the oaks for a clear shot at the green on their 3rd.
Players hit out of a shoot of oak trees to a narrow landing area guarded by bunkers on the left and trees on the right. With the deep bunker guarding the front left, a back left pin placement makes for a very challenging long par-4.
Probably the most scenic hole on the course, water plays down the entire right side. No. 17 was a par-3 when it was Marsh Point. As Cougar Point, this short par-4 gives a player a myriad of playing options. They can play it safe with an iron to the left of the tree leaving a mid-iron to the undulating green. They can hit a 3-wood over the tree leaving a wedge or 9-iron to the green. Or, big hitters can hit over the water and fairway bunkers leaving a short chip/pitch to the well-bunkered green. Beware of hitting through the fairway, though. The green complex area was actually a house lot when it was Marsh Point. The hole was originally a par-4, was changed to a par-3 and was returned to being a par-4 when Player renovated in 1997.
As Marsh Point, No. 18 was only about 345 yards. But it was one of the most difficult 345 yards you’d ever want to play. The pond on the right went almost all the way down to the cart path and connected to a pond across Kiawah Beach Drive by the tennis courts. The fairway sloped severely into the pond collecting any ball that went near it. So, players had to hit over water off their tee shot, with better players hitting 3-4 irons off the tee. A little left or right meant finding the water. Then players had to hit over water again to reach the green. In 1996, Player pulled the pond back and added the bulkheaded pond on the left near the green. All in all, it’s a much fairer hole with a green that can drive players nuts. If the pin is in the middle, balls will funnel down to it. However, if players are chipping from the right, good luck in keeping their balls from stopping before they find the water.