News & Opinion

What’s Kiawah’s future as a PGA site?

Bryson DeChambeau at 2021 PGA Championship
Bryson DeChambeau tees off on the 16th hole Thursday during the 1st round of the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island (S.C.) Resort's demanding Ocean Course.

Ocean Course rises to major challenge, but does it deliver in other areas to be part of a PGA Championship rota? Hawk & Purk debate

Hawk & Purk Podcast Hero Article

Longtime golf journalists John Hawkins and Mike Purkey, who co-host the Hawk & Purk podcast on MorningRead.com, also discuss and debate the game’s hottest issues in this weekly commentary.

Given the challenges that Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course present to the world’s best golfers, should it be part of a five- or six-course rota for the PGA Championship, or at the least, a frequent site for future PGAs?

Hawk’s take: Whoa! Not so fast, hombre. Difficult doesn’t always mean deserved, nor is there any reason for the PGA of America to adopt a short list of venues and play them on a regular basis. The move from August to May doesn’t do the rota concept any favors. Bethpage was barely in strong enough condition to host a premium tournament in 2019, when the PGA made its spring debut. Much of the Northeast and Midwest are still growing into their prime seasons at this point on the calendar. Pragmatically speaking, a tight rotation is a silly idea.

As for this year’s host site, it’s a typical Pete Dye design: over-the-top in terms of its punitive nature, a nearly 8,000-yard obstacle course with holes that can become unplayable if the wind blows hard enough, which isn’t unusual. I’m all for testing the big boys to the utmost extreme, but certainly not at the expense of fairness. Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course, much like a supermodel, can be breathtakingly beautiful and bombastically barbaric at the same time.

We already have a major championship that annoys the game’s elite players with its undue pretense. There’s no need for another. Factor in the various shortcomings of Kiawah’s infrastructure – poor vehicle accessibility, lack of local lodging, long shuttle rides for spectators – and the mere notion of playing there twice a decade is a non-starter.

It is pretty. So is the Grand Canyon.

Purk’s take: The fact that the PGA of America came back to Kiawah Island nine years after its first PGA Championship appearance at the Ocean Course makes it plenty evident that it’s more than a worthy major-championship venue.

That answers the first question as to whether the Ocean Course should be a one-off or a regular or even a semi-regular in the PGA’s starting lineup. Now, should Pete Dye’s Lowcountry seaside creation be a part of a PGA Championship? Absolutely. Now that the PGA is in May, the choice of sites can be expanded, including into the Southeast.

Whistling Straits and Valhalla already are two of the spokes of a possible rota, and if you add Quail Hollow, TPC Harding Park and Baltusrol, along with the Ocean Course, you have a foundation of six places in different parts of the country. And that gives the PGA the opportunity to go to places such as Bethpage Black, Hazeltine and a few others once every so often.

Yes, logistically, the 2012 PGA at Kiawah was an unmitigated disaster, from epic traffic problems to spectators being stuck outside standing in lines to board buses in the middle of a thunderstorm. But that’s why you hire people to solve such problems. If the worst issue is that the only hotel choices are in Charleston, S.C., a lot of people would like to have that kind of distress.

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