Course Rater Confidential: The most exciting stretches and best holes of the Ocean Course

GOLF’s Top 100 course panelists are among the most respected and well-traveled course evaluators in the game. They’re also keen to share their opinions. In this series, we’ll unlock their unvarnished views on all questions course-related. Check out GOLF’s latest Top 100 Courses in the World, Top 100 Courses in the U.S., and Top 100 Courses You Can Play. Meet all of our Top 100 panelists here.

In Part 1 of this week’s Course Rater Confidential, we discussed Pete Dye’s body of work and what he did to make the Ocean Course shine. Now, we’ll dig deeper into the course. Is there a stretch you’re especially excited to watch at this week’s PGA Championship? Any that you expect to be pivotal in the competition?

Brian Curley, has played 65 of the World Top 100: I really like the opening stretch — one of the best in golf with the strong, double-dogleg par-5 2nd, par-4 3rd with a perched greensite and a long 4th along the interior marsh. Not the ocean holes but a great opening with a very vibrant look of contrasting colors.

Will Davenport, has played 38 of the World Top 100: Of course Nos. 14-18 along the ocean get all the attention, but I think Nos. 10-13, if there is the prevailing left-to-right wind off the ocean, present an extremely stiff test. If any player has a tendency to let the ball bleed right, I wish them luck getting through this stretch unbruised. I expect to see at least one unfortunate collapse on 12 and 13.

Ran Morrissett, GOLF’s Architecture Editor: The stretch from Nos. 11-14 is an absolute favorite. Watching the pros try and force the action on the par-5 11th will be highly entertaining as its perched green offers ample defense. Will the PGA set up the 12th as a drivable par-4 one day? Stay tuned. The 13th, with its classic diagonal tee ball, plays great in both wind directions. Then, the holes change direction at 14 and the pros are asked to tackle the day’s single-most demanding shot before they can draw a bead on the wind’s effect. I don’t know another nine in the world with two harder one-shot holes than 14 and 17 on the Ocean Course.

The long par-3 17th hole of the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort.

Gary Kellner/PGA of America via Getty Images

What’s your favorite hole on the Ocean Course, and why?

Matt Gibb, has played 45 of World Top 100: The 17th. It’s quite simply one of the most difficult par-3s on the planet. There is no bailout area — it’s do or die. I’d say it’s rare for me to choose a difficult hole as my favorite, but it’s a hole that creates a ton of drama. And if there is one hole that sums up the Ocean Course, it’s 17.

Curley: I think the 2nd might be the best hole on the course and, while doing initial routings, it was probably the one hole that was set from the beginning and never changed as we looked at options. Very natural double-dogleg par-5 that begs the player to attack angles.

Morrissett: If I was to come up with Dye’s all-time eclectic best 18, Nos. 2, 3, 11 and 13 would all be on it. Dye liked switchback holes like 2 where he asks the elite player to move the ball both ways. Can you draw it off the tee and then handle a 220-yard fade to reach — and hold — the angled, raised green in two shots? It’s a timeless question and technology only makes the hole more exciting.

Davenport: It’s 14 for me. What a magnificent-looking hole, with the most gradually dramatic green complex on the course (in my opinion). Exposed to the wind and ocean, this will be the hole that I am most excited to watch.

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