Monday, August 29, 2011

Kiawah Island Club - Cassique

            Kiawah Island is a golf and beach resort located in South Carolina. It is home to 5 championship golf courses designed by Pete Dye, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Fazio, Gary Player and Clyde Johnston. In addition to being home to The Ocean Course, which is ranked #45 in the world, the island also houses two additional, very exclusive golf courses. These two courses are part of the Kiawah Island Club and are the River Course, and Cassique. These two courses aren’t listed on the Kiawah Island website or in any Kiawah Island literature. The courses cannot be stumbled upon while on the island. They are set behind gates within gates and only a hard-to-get membership in the Kiawah Island Club can grant access. Tom Watson designed Cassique, which serves as his first solo design on North America. The course was ranked #85 in Golf Digest’s 2009-2010 America’s 100 Greatest Courses.
            Playing Cassique this past weekend meant that I have now played every course on Kiawah Island. Cassique is my favorite… Ocean Course included. The Kiawah Island Club golfing experience is about as high end as it gets. The course was named after a Kiawah Indian chief who hunted the lands before the British came and settled the Charleston area. The course features a massive clubhouse with one of the most impressive locker rooms that I have personally seen. Golfers from Jack Nicklaus to Tom Watson have lockers in the spacious locker room. Large flat-screen TV play SportsCenter above large couches and tables with the newest golf reading materials. There’s a small bar in one corner with another small bay with cigars and men to clean shoes in another corner. A large table with food, snacks, and drinks sit next to the exit. I only wish I had been able to take a shower in order to make a PowerShower rating!
            The golf course isn’t unreasonably challenging. Instead, Tom Watson did an excellent job of designing 18 very interesting holes that make one hell of a solid course. Watson gave the golfer a choice on the 4th tee that can change the routing of the course. Holes 4-6 can be played in two different ways, one being called Nip & Tuck and the other being called Pulpit. The Pulpit routing brings an extremely impressive par 3 into play (pictured below) with a tee perched on the highest point on Kiawah Island. Had I not been with a member and caddies, the routing options would have been a bit confusing. The par 3 5th is very high on my list of favorite par 3’s that I have played.
The pin is tucked on the left side behind the large hillside on the left.
            The 8th hole is a very challenging short par 4 due in part to a difficult and small green. A back right pin placement is a sucker pin with the back right portion of the green being only a few paces wide. The 9th hole has a massive false front, which makes for a very difficult approach. The large false front reminds me of the 11th hole at Country Club of Charleston (a Seth Raynor design), which is a difficult Redan hole par 3.  
            The 11th hole is a long 550-yard par 5. My very helpful caddie, Brian, said that he thought it was the strongest par 5 in South Carolina. I have played quite a bit of golf in South Carolina, and I would have to agree with him. The hole requires a draw off the tee and a fade for the second shot. Bunkers are placed strategically throughout the challenging hole, but none are placed in unfair positions. It is an extremely enjoyable and tough par 5. The 18th hole at Cassique is a gorgeous dogleg left par 4 that has a large lake short left of the green. I could go on about every single hole on the course. Nearly every single hole remains vivid in my memory - the sign of a great course.

            If given the chance, have a dinner in the Cassique clubhouse. The food was amazing and was served and ordered in a very Southern traditional style. Instead of individual entrees and appetizers being ordered, an assortment of menu items are ordered for the table and everything is passed around and shared by all the diners. It was an interesting take on the 5 star dining experience.

            Kiawah Island is one of my favorite places in the South. The resort golfing experience is completely different from any of the UK courses, but each has its merits, and I always take up any opportunity to visit Kiawah. 

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