Strain of Sullivan's Island grass makes Kiawah's Ocean Course

Ocean Course at Kiawah (Provided by PGA)

By Scott

KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. - Maintaining a golf course is a tough task as it is. Maintaining a championship caliber golf course, that sits where the Ocean Course sits, an even bigger task.

"He built a golf course right here on a sandbar, if you ever look at Kiawah from the air; we're a narrow strip of beach. Basically, he incorporated a golf course into the dunes" says course superintendent Jeff Stone.

The visionary he speaks of is course designer Pete Dye. Dye's plan of having a world class golf course sitting right on the ocean is not an easy one to maintain with the salt air and conditions it faces on a daily basis.

Of course, Dye had a plan for that as well when in 2003 he decided to use a strain of grass called paspalum a University of Georgia professor found on Sullivan's Island.

"I said Pete, what's it called again? He said paspalum. I said I'd never heard of it" says Stone.

Stone wasn't willing to back down from the challenge, so he went down to Athens, GA to visit the professor, Ron Duncan.

"I walked out and there was a lunar landscape. He said this is the grass we're going to use. I said, you've got to be kidding me. Sure enough, they grew it on the greens and within six weeks we had the course ready for the world cup in 2003, it's been there ever since."

Any idea can be a good idea in a laboratory or growing on Sullivan's Island, but this is a world class golf course and the idea worked to perfection.

"It's pretty much bulletproof; you can take a putt or a bulldozer to it." says Stone.

The Ocean Course's head pro Stephen Youngner says the players couldn't be happier with the surface.

"The fairways, the ball sits tight on the grass. It's a great surface to play on. The greens are spectacular here at the Ocean Course. It thrives in this environment because it's so tolerant to that saltwater that is so prevalent here."

Of course Stone is working from sun up to sun down keeping the course in tip top shape, for the tip top ground of golfers that will be scattered among it in about two weeks.

It was a money idea, cultivated on Sullivan's Island, now keeping one of the toughest tracks in golf, quite green, right near the big blue sea.