A hole-by-hole look at the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, site of the 103rd PGA Championship to be played May 20-23:
No. 1, 396 yards, par 4: A gentle start to the championship, though it features one of the narrowest fairways on the golf course, with a waste area to the right and thick dune grass on the left. A good drive will leave a short iron to a green tucked in a natural dune area. This should yield plenty of birdies.
No. 2, 557 yards, par 5: This will be another good scoring opportunity, depending on the wind. Players look out toward the rolling surf in the Atlantic from the tee box, even though it is the farthest point from the ocean on the course. Players will have to decide how much marsh to take on with their drive, but they should be able to get home in two. The elevated green is set between two sand ridges. Into the wind, however, this becomes a three-shot hole.
No. 3, 390 yards, par 4: The shortest par 4 can be deceptive. The tee essentially is a small island, and players drive over a marsh to what looks to be a wide fairway. To get the best angle, though, the tee shot should favor a plateau on the left side of the fairway. That allows the best view of the green, which is elevated similarly to the fairway plateau and is guarded by the “Rory” tree. Rory McIlroy’s tee shot was stuck in a limb in the third round. After a drop, he still made par. The original tree was removed in 2015 due to disease and replaced two years ago.
No. 4, 484 yards, par 4: This is considered the toughest hole on the outward nine and is 26 yards longer than in 2012. The landing area for the tee shot is generous. Depending on the wind, the second shot to a large green can be played with nearly every club in the bag, from a hybrid to an 8-iron. Against the wind, players might choose to bail out left of the green and try to save par from an extended collar area.
No. 5, 207 yards, par 3: The course turns back to the west at this point. With the Stono River Inlet and Folly Beach to their backs, plays will hit to a green in the shape of an hourglass, running away from them diagonally to the right. A large waste area from tee-to-green ends with a steep face that cuts into the middle of the hourglass. The key is to find the right section of the green or face a long and difficult two-putt.
No. 6, 490 yards, par 4: The fairway is framed by three wind-pruned live oak trees. Players should take aim at the center oak with a slight draw to eliminate problems from a waste area and a small pond to the left. The green is open at the front, but protected on both sides by more sand. The safe shot is center of his narrow, deep green.
No. 7, 579 yards, par 4: Depending on the wind, players will have to decide whether to carry a natural dune area that creeps into the fairway from the right, or simply play left of it. The fairway was tightened in 2019, making the aggressive line to the right more difficult. The green should be reachable in two by most players, with a slightly elevated green that is open in the front.
No. 8, 197 yards, par 3: This par 3 gets more difficult the farther back the hole location is on the green. The elevated green is framed by tall live oaks just off the front left corner, and the green gets narrower as it extends away from the players. Any shot missing long or right will likely find the sand. Expect to see players attack the flag in the front and play it safe when it’s in the back.
No. 9, 514 yards, par 4: This is more about length than direction with a long par 4 and a wide fairway that slopes down from the right. The green is open in the front, but a variety of collection areas and swales and waste areas to the left and right will make for a difficult up-and-down.
No. 10, 447 yards, par 4: A tee shot down the left-center to the crest of the fairway sets up an approach to a green that is set below them in the dunes. Players will face a large waste area to the left front of the green, and a deeper, steep-faced waste area to the back.
No. 11, 593 yards, par 5: This likely will play as a three-shot hole except for when the wind is at the back. Off the tee, players should avoid deep waste areas down the right side of the fairway. Unless the big hitters can get home in two, it’s better to lay back from the green to avoid the large waste area left of the green. The elevated green is relatively flat, sitting atop a dune ridge and guarded by more waste area in the front. The risk might be too great if players can get there in two.
No. 12, 484 yards, par 4: This hole is 72 yards longer than in 2012. Players go from the widest fairway to the narrowest approach. Less club might be used off the tee to avoid a downhill lie for the second shot. The green is closely guarded on the right by a canal, with dunes and thick native grasses framing the left and rear. The green is open at the front, with a rolling collar area providing some room if the approach misses to the left.
No. 13, 497 yards, par 4: The canal down the right side comes into play on the tee shots and continues all the way to the hole. Players must decide how far down the canal they can carry their tee shots. The approach to the green is open, though it is protected by two deep waste areas on the left.
No. 14, 238 yards, par 3: The course turns back to the east and plays directly along the beach, the start of five dramatic finishing holes. The green is elevated and very exposed to the wind, and any miss will leave a severe uphill chip to try to save par. A deep and dangerous waste area borders the left of the green. The back portion of the green is hidden from the tee, and the green slopes from front to back, making this hole play more difficult with the wind.
No. 15, 466 yards, par 4: A straightforward hole, though the tee shot must find the fairway for an approach to a green that runs diagonally away to the right. Waste areas are left and back of this small green, which is set in a natural dune area.
No. 16, 581 yards, par 5: Players will have to carry the tee shot over a pond to reach a fairway with the higher shelf on the right side. A long, shallow waste bunker guards the second shot on the right, with a deeper waste bunker down the left side of a green that is perched high on a dune ridge. This should be an easy birdie opportunity when the wind is at the players’ back.
No. 17, 223 yards, par 3: The target appears narrow, fiercely guarded by water short and to the right, with two deep waste areas to the left. The object is simply to find the green, which so many players couldn’t do on the final day of the 1991 Ryder Cup. The green is 44 yards deep, but due to the shape and angle, there’s only about 15 yards on which to land the ball.
No. 18, 505 yards, par 4: With the Atlantic on the right, the best tee shot will hug the right side of the fairway. Longer hitters might get an advantage if they carry the crest of the hill and reach the lower level of the fairway, giving them a shorter approach. The elevated green is open from the right and runs away to the back left. Into the wind, most players won’t be able to reach the lower level of the fairway and will face an approach over 200 yards to the narrow, protected green.