HOLE 1: A slight dog leg to the right. Very unique pot bunkering takes place just to the right of the centerline of the fairway. You can stay safe down the left side, or you can play very aggressive over the bunkers on the right-hand side where the fairway pencil-tips in a little bit. Risk/reward.
With a good drive you could be left with a short wedge. If you’re playing safe, then you’re probably going to be hitting a mid- to a long-iron.
The green slopes back to front with a severe runoff in the center right portion. There’s a false front, which might leave you chipping up the green if you’re slightly under club. Long left is the no-go zone and will put you in a bunker with a difficult up and down. The best strategy is to play to the center of the green.
HOLE 2: Gettable par five but definitely some interesting strategy involved. You’re almost always better off laying up as opposed to going for the green in two.
If you actually stand on the left-hand side of the tee box, you can see the green at the end of the lake. If you want to take the green with your second shot, the best line to take off the tee is down the left side of the fairway—despite the big tree and the dunes covered in bakeri grasses! There’s a lot of room to the right, but the further right you go, the longer your layup shot is going to be.
There’s a ravine with a six-foot-wide burn that runs in front of the green, which is protected by an enormous false front. Any ball that doesn’t hit the top of the putting surface will actually roll back into the ravine. Anything short on this green will spin back, so the front pin is probably the most challenging! Back right pin has a backstop if you hit a little bit long.
**This green is patterned after the 16th hole at Turnberry in Scotland where Watson won the 1977 Open,“The Duel in the Sun,” against Jack Nicklaus.
HOLE 3: Blind tee shot. The hole goes straight out and then veers to the right. A strategically placed bunker in the fairway leaves you with a blind shot if you’re stuck behind it. Consider this before you hit the driver, as the bunker can also come into play off the tee! The aggressive play is down the left-hand side. That will give you a clear shot to the green.
Any shot down the left will give you a clear look at the two-tiered green. The front pin is probably going to be the easiest to attack. There’s a mound in the middle of the green that is quite challenging if you’re playing to the back pin. There’s a hidden bunker guarding the front right corner of the green, which you cannot see no matter where you are on the hole!
HOLE 4: There are two routings: Nip and Tuck and Pulpit.
Nip and Tuck | no. 4
Nip and Tuck plays the fairway down the left side. It’s not really a driver hole unless it’s into the wind. Most players are forced to hold back on this one. The fairway pinches in the closer you get to the green. The miss on the left side brings the hazard and severe mounding into play. A miss on the right side makes it impossible to get to the green. Ideally, carry over the right corner of the bunker on the left in order to leave yourself the best angle onto the green. Dig deep and commit to this tee shot.
You can really only see the left half of the green in your approach. The back right is blocked by sand dunes, cordgrass, and bunkering. With a good tee shot down the left side, you’ll at least be able to see the green. You have a bit of back stop if you hit it long. It’s a good-sized green for a short hole. Not too penal. Lower tier on the left, higher tier on the right.
**The mounds in front of this green were redesigned after a trip to Ireland. They are modeled after the 11th hole at Ballybunion.
Pulpit | no. 4
This routing takes you up the right side. Pulpit can be played multiple ways. The fairway does pinch in, but it is possible to hit a driver over the fairway bunker, leaving a shot pitch into the green. Consider hitting short because if you go in that fairway bunker, you’re probably not going to be able to reach the green. The aggressive play is down the left side.
Huge defense slope on the front of the raised green. Any ball that’s short will roll into a valley. Any ball that is left will also roll into a valley, both very difficult up-and-downs. It’s a fairly tricky green. Difficult to read. Putts often appear to be downhill when they’re uphill or appear to break left to right and end up going right to left.
(Par 3, 5th Nip and Tuck plays uphill to the #4 Pulpit green. If you’re playing Pulpit, you play a downhill par 3 from Mount Watson. This hole is only used for the Pulpit routing.)
“All of the land here was a flat tomato field. We moved almost 1 million cubic yards of dirt, and most of that was to create Mount Watson. It’s 45 feet above sea level!” – Charlie Arrington
HOLE 5: Nip and Tuck | no. 5
Notice the huge undulation on the front of the green. It gives you a back stop. It plays five or six yards uphill. Typically downwind, so this is a good scoring hole if you hit a solid tee shot. Anything short leaves you in a severe valley, so picking the correct club is essential.
Pulpit | no. 5
Teeing off from Mount Watson, you nearly have a 360-degree view. It’s a short par 3 down the hill, only 135 yards. Normally it plays into the wind, so the tee shot can be difficult to gauge from this elevation. The left side of the green is guarded by a huge dune. There is a pot bunker long right—virtually impossible to get the ball up and down because the green slopes violently away from you.
**The inspiration for this green was the “Dell Hole” at Lahinch.
HOLE 6: Another gettable par 5 with a good tee shot. If you are going for the green, you have to carry over the spectacle bunkers—visually intimidating from the fairway. It’s a split fairway from the tee. Although there is room on the left side, it’s not actually worthwhile to take an aggressive line because of all the pot bunkers that are in play. The best line off the tee box is slightly right of those bunkers. That’ll give you a good angle for your second shot. If you can’t carry those bunkers, then laying up is definitely the play as they will almost always lead to a bogey.
Spectacle Bunkers: About 60 yards away from the green. It’s an awkward bunker shot, awkward distance, and a lot of height is required to clear the big wall of the bunker.
**These bunkers are patterned after the 14th hole at Carnoustie in Scotland where Watson won his first British Open.
The green is guarded by a big bunker on the left and a small pot bunker on the right. Very interesting contouring here. The front of the green will let the ball run down to the center. The backstop makes this a fairly forgiving green for a long par 5.
**This backstop was added after the original shaping and inspired by the 17th hole at Yeamans Hall.
HOLE 7: You tee off right in front of a pond and overlook an expanse of marshland. This is a two-tiered green—very small tier at the back of the green. Playing to the center of this green is generally always the play no matter where the flag is. There’s no point in being too aggressive. Three is a good score on this hole. The green is surrounded by bunkers, two bunkers on the left side and one on the right. So don’t bite off more than you can chew. Anything on the green will give you 40 feet, 50 feet max—a relatively small target for a long hole.
HOLE 8: Probably the hardest par 4 on the course. It’s short at just a little over 300 yards. Definitely a risk-reward hole! A longer hitter could potentially go for the green, but if it’s a miss, you’re going to have an extremely difficult chip shot. Most people hit a long iron or a fairway wood to the center of the fairway. You have to hit over the marsh no matter what tee box you choose to play, so get yourself ready. The further left you go, the further you have to hit the ball and the tighter the fairway gets. Intimidating tee shot. You see a lot of bailouts to the right.
The green is approximately 30 feet deep on the back right. So your distance control has to be incredibly accurate. A long shot in makes it virtually impossible to hold the ball on the smallest green on the course. If you walk away from this hole with par, you feel like you’ve made a birdie.
**Watson patterned this green after the 6th hole at Ballybunion in Ireland.
HOLE 9: A large oak tree blocks the right side of the fairway, so you feel like you’re forced to hit down the left. But there’s actually more room down the right than you think! Although the tee pushes you left, take an aggressive line and hit a fade back to right center of the fairway. The rolling fairway always makes for a challenging lie, so be prepared to adjust your setup.
Not much room for error with the approach shot. Good pot bunkering surrounds a green with one of the largest false fronts in America. The way Tom Watson designed the hole was to actually hit a punch shot into the bank and have the bank take all the speed off and pop the ball onto the hill. You could try your best to fly the ball to the top. Any ball that’s short of the slope or that has any spin will eventually end up down at the bottom of the hill.
**This green was inspired by the 9th green at Ballybunion, although the false front is much more exaggerated here.
HOLE 10: Intriguing par 4—there’s a lot more room than it looks like. It’s a semi-blind tee shot where you can only see the right side of the fairway. But the play is actually down the left! That will give you a view of the green, whereas playing the right will not. It’s daunting but there is a lot more room than it looks like from the tee box. Aim down the right side and hit a nice draw to the left side of the fairway. The fairway pinches in, so if it’s downwind, it’s not necessarily a driver hole. Watch out for the pot bunkering in the mounding on the right of the fairway.
**The idea here was to deceive the golfer on the ideal tee shot direction—similar to the 11th hole at Oakland Hills in Detroit.
The green is surrounded by three sod-stacked pot bunkers and one larger regular bunker on the right-hand side. Anything short is going to end up with a tricky shot. The smartest play, no matter where the flag is on this green, is to just play to the center because the green isn’t very deep.
HOLE 11: Pretty demanding tee shot. This is the longest hole on the golf course at close to 600 yards from the tips. It kinks a bit to the left and then curves back to the right. Trees guard the left side of the fairway, but that’s where you need to hit. The further right you go, the longer the second shot. If you want to get to the green in two, you have to take an aggressive line down the left and carry the ball 290–300 yards over a bunker. If not, play safe down the center of the fairway.
The layup shot is guarded by a bunker on the left side of the fairway,about 150 yards away from the green. Other than that it is fairly straightforward. This three-tiered green is one of the most challenging on the course. Watch the subtle false front on the right side and the bunker on the left. There’s a redan in the middle of the green that often swallows balls and funnels them off the left-hand side. The back right tier is by far the smallest and most difficult to attack. Any shot slightly left could potentially end up in a hazard.
HOLE 12: Short par 4. You can be as aggressive as you want. The right side gives you the best look into the green. The more left you go, the more room there is, but hitting left brings trees into play with your approach shot. This is a strategy hole—it’s more about positioning than hitting it as far as you can for a short club in. A bunker and trees guard the right side if you miss the fairway.
The green is two-tiered. There is a slope that runs from front left to the back right, so it’s kind of diagonally portioned. Back left is the most challenging because anything long left runs down into a small valley and some nasty rough. When the flag is on the left-hand side just play for the center of the green. The easiest pin is front right because you have a backstop to spin it in to.
**The ridge that runs through the green was added from Tom’s description of the 13th at Cypress Point.
A phenomenal par 3! Marsh and water to the left and beyond the green. Three-tiered green: front, back left, and back right. There are three bunkers on the left-hand side and then a waste area long and left. A high spine divides all the quadrants up, so hitting it to the center of the green is not always your best option. The right side of the green funnels balls off the putting surface. You must try to attack the pin no matter where it is, because finding yourself on the incorrect tier will make for a very challenging two putt.
**Missing this green in the short right hollow is a chipper’s nightmare—regardless of pin location!
HOLE 14: Relatively long par 4. The fairway is wide, about 220 off the tee box, and then it starts to get narrower the further you hit it. So again, risk/reward. You can’t see the green from the tee, so use the pines in the background as your goalpost to hit through. There’s mounding down the right side and a waste area to the left. This is the first time on the course where the tree line really pinches the visuals in, and you feel that you have to hit the ball very straight. Once you make the walk up to the fairway and clear the first major mound, you’re greeted with the most spectacular view of the marsh. You can hear the ocean roaring in the distance! You hit slightly downhill towards the green here.
The green is long and thin and separated by a spine in the middle. The back left is really tough because the green funnels away from you, so fire at it unless your distance control is really good. You can be the most aggressive when the pin is on the front because anything slightly long will spin off the slope down to the hole.
**This green surface is reminiscent of a potato chip, with a severe roll off on the back left.
HOLE 15: Par 5. Signature hole on the course! The fairway is split with bunkering, so you have to go left or right. The majority of players hit down the left because it sets you up for a better layup shot. If you’re a long hitter, aim just right of the bunkers and hit it as hard as you can. This is a totally player-dependent hole. People who fade the ball usually play down the right, and people who draw the ball play down the left.
Your second shot is guarded by the hell bunker, which sits about 50 yards short of the green. It is huge. The height of the face makes it challenging to clear the lip. The layup shot must ensure that you carry the small pot bunker, which is about 145 yards away from the green. Carry that and stay left for a clean line onto the green.
The green is long and incredibly narrow. Two slopes separate three tiers: back, front, and middle right. The back right tier is like a tabletop—it’s tiny. The length of the green runs slightly left to right, so you need to be coming in on the left in order to have a straight shot up the green. The middle portion of the green is the widest. Waste areas and bunkers surround the green, which requires a very accurate shot onto the putting surface.
**This hole was inspired by the 14th at St. Andrews. There are so many ways to play it. The famous “hell bunker” in Scotland has a ten-foot face. The Cassique version is only about five-feet high, but it’s right in front of the green, so it’s a bit more in play.
HOLE 16: Time to knuckle down and dig deep as three challenging holes bring your round to a close. From this tee box you can actually see Mount Watson across the Kiawah River—it’s so beautiful that it’s distracting. There are waste areas up the right side of the hole. On the left side there are two big valleys and one small pot bunker. So it’s a challenging tee shot, but the green surface is actually pretty big. The smart play on this hole is to hit to the center of the green, which will leave you a relatively straightforward two putt for your par.
**The waste bunker short and right was a nod to Pete Dye. It also seemed a natural way to blend the hole into the adjacent marsh.
HOLE 17: The is a cape hole—the fairway curves severely to the right around the marsh. You have to play out to the left and then play your way around the marsh to the green. If you can hit 300 yards, then you have the option to take a direct route to the green. The risk/reward is there! But the obvious safe play is a fairway wood down the left side. The further you go left, the longer your approach shot is going to be. Be strategic with your tee shot because this will determine how close you can hit your second shot. This is a narrow green. There is a waste area down the right-hand side and severe sloping on the left side.
HOLE 18: Demanding tee shot here. There are two tiers in the fairway—lower left side and upper right side. The smart play is a draw off the right side of the fairway. This will leave you the best line in.
There is a large lake in front of, and to the left, of the green. The entire putting surface slopes towards the water. You have to be careful with the spin on the ball in your approach shot. You can use the contouring of the greens, but you run the risk of gathering too much speed and ending up in the hazard. The green has a small tier right of center, which makes for a pretty tricky pin on a shelf. The tournament pin is always back left, and everything funnels down towards the water, so the putting is challenging.