River Club is a Tom Jackson creation that has been delighting – and frustrating – golfers in the Myrtle Beach area since it opened in 1985. Over the years, it has received numerous accolades, including 4.5 Stars from Golf Digest’s “Places to Play”, and having two holes named to the Myrtle Beach Sun News’ 100 Greatest Golf Holes Along the Grand Strand; the 14th and 18th. More on those two holes later.
River Club is located in Pawleys Island, about 20 miles south of Myrtle Beach and exemplifies everything Lowcountry golf is about. Built on the site of a former rice plantation, golfers will encounter pristine wetlands, maritime forests, Spanish moss-draped trees, abundant wildlife, over 100 sand traps and bunkers and lots of water, both natural and manmade. In fact, water comes into play on at least 14 holes. While the course is aesthetically pleasing, it can present a challenge to just about any caliber of golfer.
From the Black Tees, River Club plays 6,677 yards with a course rating of 72.3 and a slope of 134. The White Tees (6,240/70.2/127) provide a great challenge with some allowance to exit the facility with a little bit of dignity. Seniors can choose to play from the Gold Tees (5,807/68.4/120) and Ladies will be tested from the Red Tees (5,084/68.8/122). Pick the tees that best suit your game and you’re likely to really enjoy yourself.
My Favorite: Number 6, Par 5, 477 yards. If you can reach the dogleg off the tee on this par 5 hole, you’ll set up yet another risk/reward opportunity. It will require a drive of at least 255 yards from the White Tees and set up a manageable 223-yard approach over water to a slightly elevated green. Should you choose the three-shot route, beware of the fairway bunkers that dot the left side of the fairway and protect the back of the green.
Members’ Favorite: Number 14, Par 3, 149 yards (White Tees). I’m not surprised the members chose a par 3 as their favorite hole, for some reason a lot of golfers seem to think that par 3 holes are the easiest holes on the course. Number 14 is anything but; it features an island green fronted by four sand traps that catch anything hit short. The green holds the ball quite well, although a back-left pin position can prove to be very trying. There’s no way to get on the green without hitting over the water at some point. Number 14 will test both accuracy and distance control. Par is a good score here
Number 18, Par 5, 493 yards (White Tees). As I mentioned earlier 18th hole was one of two holes named as one of the Grand Strand’s 100 most memorable holes by the Sun News. I spoke with several members of the staff who all gave number 18 the nod as their favorite hole, now I understand why. It’s a par 5 that plays 493 yards from the White Tees and is considered one of the harder holes on the inward nine. My guess is that the water that makes up the entire left side of the fairway has something to do with that. If you can manage to find the thin peninsula of fairway that sticks out just past the fairway bunker, you’ll leave yourself a little over 200 yards to the green; a manageable distance, or at least worth the effort. The way the hole is shaped and the green is set up, you’re most likely going to have to go over the water at some point or another, so it’s well worth the risk. Find the trap off the tee, and your chances of getting on in two diminish greatly, as I found out. The green is set at an odd angle and, if you’re playing Number 18 as a three-shot hole, it’s much wider than it is deep. In any event, par is always a good way to end the round.
Because land is at a premium in this area, there is no formal driving range; pre-round warmup is limited to hitting into nets. However, there is a very large chipping and practice putting green, so no driving range is not a valid excuse for a bad first couple of holes.
The majority of golf holes out here have ample room off the tee, giving you the opportunity to keep it in the fairway. River Club is more about second shots, whether it’s sticking it close to the pin on some of the shorter par 4s or setting up your approach shot on the par 5s. What you see is what you get; there are no hidden surprises such as water hazards, pot bunkers or unexpected rough in an otherwise inviting landing area. Execute your second shot on each hole and you’ll be well rewarded. The greens are receptive and conducive to making putts, but you have to put the ball in the right spot.
With water infringing on so many holes, accuracy and proper club selection is essential to shooting a favorable score as is the ability to hit a variety of shots. If that’s not enough, there’s more than 100 traps to contend with. As a matter of fact, if you can make your way around River Club with the ball you started with and never having to hit out of the sand, you’ve accomplished something – hopefully a low score.
River Club is a proud member of the Waccamaw Golf Trail. For more information or to book your next round, visit the Waccamaw Trail website at http://www.waccamawgolftrail.com/courses/show/river-club.
Golf Life Contributor