Beauty, Playability Define River Club

March 29, 2011

River Club golf course in Pawleys Island - southern end of the Myrtle Beach golf areaIn the mid-1980s Myrtle Beach was still an emerging golf destination and the idea of the South Strand had yet to take hold. When River Club opened in 1985, it was the second golf course in Pawleys Island but it immediately embodied the characteristics now associated with the area.

The soaring live oak trees draped in Spanish moss, lowcountry beauty and abundance of charm brought River Club to the forefront of the Myrtle Beach golf market. Within three years, three more courses opened in Pawleys Island the reputation of the South Strand and Myrtle Beach as a whole was on the rise.

Nestled on land that used to call a thriving rice plantation home, River Club is now surrounded by an assortment of Top 100 layouts that attract a significant portion of the media attention, but savvy golfers know River Club remains one of the Myrtle Beach area’s best.

The landscaping is pristine and conditions are outstanding, complementing a course that is as enjoyable to play as it is ascetically pleasing.

At the heart of River Club’s playability is a design that is straight-forward and yet very creative. Tom Jackson’s design gives players a fresh challenge on each hole. There is a nice blend of doglegs left and right, and holes short and long.

River Club isn’t overly long, playing 6,677 yards from the tips and 6,240 yards from the white tees, but it offers plenty of challenges. Two of the four par 5s – No. 6 and No. 18 – are potentially reachable in two, which forces players to make the types of decisions that could decide a match.

Generally speaking the fairways at River Club are expansive, encouraging players to hit driver. The course has water on 15 of 18 holes, but you have ample leeway to avoid it off the tee.

“We have generous fairways; it’s not tricked-up; what you see is what you get,” Christa Bodensteiner, River Club’s head pro, said. “It’s a straight-forward golf course and the trouble is around the greens.”

To accentuate Bodensteiner’s point, every green on the course is flanked by bunkers and water is a factor on most of them. But the greens are above average in size, giving mid to high handicappers a fair chance to get on while challenging more skilled golfers to hit the right part of the green.

The green that most players hit in regulation is the fourth. The short par 4 – 352 from the tips, 339 from the white tees – is River Club’s easiest hole. It’s a dogleg right and barring disaster off the tee, players will have a short iron in hand, making it a birdie hole.

River Club is also home to a couple holes regarded as among the Myrtle Beach area’s finest. The 14th and 18th holes were ranked among the Grand Strand’s 100 best by The Sun News, and players will remember them long after they’ve returned home.

The island green, par 3 14th is always a favorite, but here is a vote for the No. 18. The dogleg left is short enough to be reached in two, but the risk is substantial – players must carry water twice and reach the green on the fly.

The risk-reward choice is an ideal way to end a match, and the view of the green, surrounded on two sides by a lake, is spectacular. The 18th hole is one that helps keep players coming back.

One piece of advice: choose the right set of tees. River Club plays “only” 6,677 yards from the tips but the challenge is substantial because sand and water that aren’t typically in play from the white tees becomes a factor.

Verdict: The straight-forward nature of the design makes it equally enjoyable for newcomers and veterans. The abundant live oaks and native wildlife contribute to the ambiance at River Club, but the golf has always been and remains the primary draw.

River Club, a 4.5-star layout, according to Golf Digest, makes for an outstanding day on the course.