“McSwain the Snake” Strikes Late on the Ocean Course at Kiawah

This is the par four third on the Ocean Course. Rory McIlroy's lodged in the baron tree, he took a drop and made par on his way to a PGA title

The par four third on the Ocean Course, Rory McIlroy’s drive lodged in the barren tree directly in front of the green, he took an unplayable lie and made par on his way to a second major title

The hummingbirds, warblers, turtles and alligators love it at Kiawah Island Golf Resort. They’ve been living in the salt marshes and beaches there for years. Mess with the turtles and prepare to battle the 200 soldiers (volunteers) that make up the Kiawah Turtle Patrol. Since 1972, they’ve been talking turtle, protecting nests and recording loggerhead hatchings. Across the resort grounds and in this active South Carolina ecosystem guests regularly see deer, bald eagles or a hawk circling the sky hunting for a snake.

John Haskins, director of golf group sales has mixed feelings about the time he witnessed a snake escape the claws of a dormie hawk on the Ocean Course.

“I had 11 good friends of mine here for a weekend golf trip. We played 36 on Friday and 18 on Saturday in a Ryder Cup-style match, they even put our name on the big leaderboard, it was incredible. I was beating up on my buddy McSwain pretty good, I was up four on No. 14 and in hindsight, I was too relaxed, I lost focus. Next thing I know he rattled off four in-a-row to halve the match. That little snake got away, I should’ve won, I was not happy. However, it’s important to note, my team won the weekend cup. If you look at our group photo, it’s easy to see the winners,” Haskins told us.

In 1991, Fred Couples and Lanny Wadkins both went 3-1 for the U.S. to reclaim the Ryder Cup on Kiawah Island in a battle known as “The War by the Shore.” Haskins joined the group golf sales team 15 years later and had a good seat for the 2007 Senior PGA Championship when Zimbabwe’s Denis Watson outlasted Eduardo Romero and was also there when Rory Milroy won the 2012 PGA Championship by eight shots.

“In 2011, to prepare for the 2012 PGA Championship, several of the guys came in to preview the Ocean Course, it was in major championship condition. It was 7,600 yards, the rough was high and the greens were lightning. Keep in mind that Rory’s eventual winning score would be 13 under. I played the Ocean Course under those conditions, at the time I was an eight handicap and I shot 99,” Haskins added.

More allure is on the way when The PGA Championship returns to Kiawah in 2021, expect rough thicker than Beef’s beard and greens moving faster than Bubba’s pink driver.

Kiawah Island Golf Resort is regularly etched on golf’s Mount Rushmore for top golf resorts with five golf courses from from Dye, Fazio, Nicklaus, Player and Clyde Johnston. The Jack Nicklaus-designed Turtle Point Golf Course will reopen next month following the single largest golf course renovation in the resort’s history.

"McSwain the Snake," far right in the visor

John Haskins, director of golf group sales, fourth to the right; “McSwain the Snake,” far right

For around $1,000 per person, groups of 12 or more can host their own Ryder Cup at Kiawah. The package includes three nights, three rounds (one round on The Ocean Course), a beer and wine reception, breakfast each morning, a red or blue team logo golf shirt for each competitor, the big leaderboard and official scoring courtesy of the Kiawah staff. It’s a chance to channel Fred Couples (or Colin Montgomerie) and experience the Ryder Cup grind.

On the first day, it’s 36 holes with morning and afternoon team sessions. One session will be better ball and the other will be alternate shot. The third and final round will consist of 18-hole singles matches; this is where big time players, make big time plays. This is a time to focus and dig deep… do not take the foot off the gas… remember the lesson of the hawk and the snake.


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