How to conquer a tough venue like Kiawah Island, according to experts

The Ocean Course is one of the most difficult tracks in the world.

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Welcome to GOLF’s Top 100 Teacher roundtable, where some of the best instructors in the business answer the game’s most perplexing questions. The goal? To help your game and lower your scores ASAP.

If you’ve been following the PGA Championship this week, you’ve probably heard ad nauseam just how hard the Ocean Course at Kiawah plays. With a slope rating of 155, it’s quite a meaty course, but the pros have had (relative) ease so far. But don’t be fooled — the Ocean Course is a brutal test for most golfers.

If you’re up to the challenge of the Ocean Course, you, too can tee it up where the pros play. As a public course, it’s open to all. However if you do trek to the South Carolina Lowcountry, be prepared for a difficult test.

Even if you don’t plan to play at Kiawah, it’s always good to know how to conquer an impossible course. For help with that, we asked some GOLF Top 100 Teachers. Here’s what they had to say.

1. Stock up on golf balls

Should the wind not play a factor round when you come out to play, then you might consider playing sort of conservatively. But courses like the Ocean Course are still extremely difficult in no wind. However, if the wind and conditions kick in, then why not create a lasting memory for yourself by going for broke? You might lose a few golf balls out of your bag, but odds are you will have one tremendous shot that you will remember forever.

-Joe Hallett, Vanderbilt Legends Club, Franklin, Tenn.

2. Don’t add your score until the end

Before you tee off ask the pros in the shop, or caddies, what tee box you should play from, and follow their advice as Goal 1 should be to enjoy the challenge.

Start the day with the mindset of embracing and enjoying the challenge and only add up the score at the end. Fill out the scorecard after the round while sipping a beer in the clubhouse!

For the golfers who are a little more serious, I suggest using Google Earth or a GPS app to map out where the widest landing zones are on the course for your driver distance. Then, follow that plan all day long so you can add up a low round on a tough course at the end. Once that’s all done, have another beer.

-Tim Cooke, Golf Learning Center at Sea Pines Resort, Hilton Head Island, S.C.

3. Pick the correct tees

The Ocean Course at Kiawah is one of the most challenging courses I’ve ever played. It’s long, can be very windy, and punishes poor shots. That being said, I think every golfer should play it. I would recommend playing tees appropriate for your level of play and maybe even play it up on some holes (haha!). Go into the round with the mindset that it’s going to be fun but very difficult. Take a caddie and have them help you with where to play your shot, or, even better, bring your favorite Top 100 Teacher, and we can help you manage your game around the course.

-Kevin Sprecher, Sleepy Hollow C.C., Scarborough, N.Y.

4. Manage your expectations

At the outset, resist the urge to keep a total score and set a maximum for each hole — I would suggest not worse than triple bogey. Relish the challenge of playing a number of holes in a row well, not all 18 (and don’t be afraid to pick up to stop the bleeding).

Stick with a “go to” tee shot so you can at least start more holes consistently and don’t compound errors. If you get out of position, get the ball back in play. If you choose to play a lot of risky shots, be prepared to be snake bitten. Often.

Finally, reframe your expectations and appreciate the test, the difficulty and the inevitable hardship — which should be aided by not keeping a total score.

-Jeff Leishman, Dye Preserve, Jupiter, Fla.

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Zephyr Melton is an assistant editor for where he spends his days blogging, producing and editing. Prior to joining the team at, he attended the University of Texas followed by stops with Team USA, the Green Bay Packers and the PGA Tour. He assists on all things instruction and covers amateur and women’s golf.