Kiawah Island Club – Cassique Review

Graylyn LoomisCourse Reviews3 Comments

Many people know that Kiawah Island is home to 5 resort golf courses, including the famous Ocean Course. Fewer know that there is a private club on the island – the Kiawah Island Club – that has two additional golf courses, a beach club, a large sports center, and will soon have a sporting club. You could spend a week on the island and never run into any of these amenities. They are subtle, luxurious, and typically set behind additional sets of security gates. The two golf courses at the Kiawah Island Club are Cassique and the River Course, and I’ve been fortunate enough to play them both.

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When writing these reviews, I pick and choose which holes to highlight. I tend to leave out lesser holes and focus only on the strongest. It is always a positive sign when I struggle to find weak holes to cut, and, as you’ll notice from the size of this review, that is exactly what happened with Cassique. The design balances the challenge of a championship golf course with the fun qualities present at a members’ course. My latest day at Cassique was in mid-January, and while we watched news about snow, ice, and freezing rain in the Northeast, we debated whether to wear shorts or pants during our round. It is worth keeping in mind while looking at these photos that the bermuda grass on the course is dormant mid-January.
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Cassique was designed by Tom Watson in 2000, making it his first solo design in the United States. Watson designed Cassique as a links-style golf course, and the links feel is certainly prevalent in areas of the course. The course was built on completely flat land, creating a tall design task for Watson and his team. The two nines have different feels, with a relatively open front nine and a heavily wooded back nine. The variety of holes and overall fun of the course makes it my favorite of any course on the island – including the Ocean Course. Cassique shakes off the “resort” feel found elsewhere on the island and embraces the premium service and top notch golf expected from a world-class club. Cassique has also been ranked in Golf Digest‘s America’s 100 Greatest Courses in the past. The course also hosted the 2009 US Mid-Amateur Championship.

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Hole #1 – 385 yards
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The first hole at Cassique is a dogleg right with a sloping green. Despite our round being in the middle of winter, the greens were firm, fast, and challenging.

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Hole #2 – 515 yards

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The par 5 2nd hole requires a long drive if you have any hopes of reaching the green. A Scottish-style burn lurks in front of the green further dissuading golfers from attempting to reach the green in two. This is the first of many links-style points seen on the course.

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Hole #3 – 425 yards
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The 3rd is a particularly tough hole if you have never seen the course before. The hole is a dogleg right, with this photo taken from 150 yards out. Aim down the left side of the fairway to provide the best angle into the protected green. Thankfully the club has a healthy caddie program, something dying at other clubs, to guide newcomers and members around the course.

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Nip N’ Tuck / PulpitIMG_8875

Watson designed Cassique to have two possible routings. This is initially confusing, because each routing introduces a different set of two holes. The split begins on the 4th tee, where you can hit down the left fairway for Nip N’ Tuck or aim down the right fairway for Pulpit. A different scorecard is used for each routing.

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Hole #4 – 355 yardsIMG_8879 IMG_8881

The Pulpit routing is down the right hand fairway in the top photo (over the golf bag in the photo). The massive false front on this green is a precursor to another found later in the round. The green is also very long, so make sure to get the yardage to the pin – not just the middle of the green.

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Hole #5 – 145 yardsIMG_8887

The par 3 in this Pulpit routing is one of my favorite short par 3s that I have played. The tee box is raised and exposed, allowing wind to drastically affect club choice. The pin can be tucked behind the lefthand bunker on this green, creating some really fun blind shots.

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Hole #6 – 520 yardsIMG_8891 IMG_8893

Keen golfers will immediately recognize the Spectacle bunkers on this hole and link it to the 14th hole at Carnoustie Golf Links. Big hitters can carry the Spectacles in two shots, and anything short of them is left with a blind shot into the very large green.

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Hole #8 – 315 yardsIMG_8899 IMG_8903

The tee shown in the photo above is the championship tee, cutting directly across the marsh. The carry is shorter from the forward tees. Once the narrow fairway has been hit, the approach to the green requires touch and distance control. This is a great short par 4.

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Hole #9 – 410 yardsIMG_8909 IMG_8912

 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 nearby Country Club of Charleston (a Seth Raynor design), which is a difficult Redan hole par 3.  Anything short of this green leaves a very difficult up-and-down.

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Hole #10 – 390 yardsIMG_8913 IMG_8914

A large area to the left of this fairway isn’t visible from the tee, but provides the best angle to attack the green. The putting surface has a large false front, with a handful of bunkers guarding the entrance to the green – another links style feature.

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Hole #11 – 555 yardsIMG_8916 IMG_8919 The 11th hole is a long 550-yard par 5. During my first round at the course years ago, my very helpful caddie 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 design requires a draw off the tee, and fade back into the sloping green.

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Hole #13 – 155 yards
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This fun par 3 features another sloping green and great view.

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Hole #15 – 520 yardsIMG_8932 IMG_8937

It is difficult to pick a line off this tee box, and even tougher to see the line in the top photo (I suggest clicking on the photo to enlarge it). Bigger hitters can carry the left hand fairway bunkers, but tee shots can be played to either side of those bunkers on this par 5.

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Hole #16 – 170 yardsIMG_8940

At this point in the round you have just passed the “comfort station” which provides complimentary drinks and sliders to all golfers. The sliders have a secret sauce, which is apparently famous among the members. The par 3 has a two tiered green and waste area style bunker guarding the right edge. The views of the marsh (right of this hole) in this nook of the course are stunning.

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Hole #17 – 385 yardsIMG_8947 IMG_8949

This is another hole where picking your line can be difficult. Click on the upper photo to enlarge it, and the cluster of people are the perfect line off the tee. The green can just be made out in the far right section of the photo. Another waste area style bunker guards the right edge of this green.

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Hole #18 – 415 yardsIMG_8951 IMG_8956

The 18th is a great finishing hole. Tee shots flirting with the right edge of this fairway provide the best angle into the green. A lake is present on the left side of the hole for the final 150 yards, running all the way up to the green. The deep putting surface has severe undulations, creating stressful situations knowing members are watching from the clubhouse.

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Everything about the Kiawah Island Club is premium. From the “welcome to the club” greeting upon walking in the door, to the hot or cold hand and face towel offered to you after the round, you are looked after well while on the property. The beautiful clubhouse has one of the best lockerooms that you will find in South Carolina (until you head over to the River Course), and the food in the Cassique clubhouse is second to none. If it sounds like I am lathering on the compliments, you’ll understand that I have never had anything but great experiences at Cassique. This latest round on a warm sunny day in mid-January merely cemented my love for the place. 

3 Comments on “Kiawah Island Club – Cassique Review”

  1. Fortunate to have played Cassique several times when my parents were social members of the Kiawah Island Club. Great and fun golf course.

  2. Graylyn,

    Yes, played the River Course many many times once it was built. Before that wore out Turtle Point and what’s now known as Oak Point.

    Very tough to pick between Cassique and River as both are so good with a variety of holes, scenery, etc.

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