The MBAGCOA evaluates Golf Course of the Year nominees on four criteria: exceptional quality of the golf course, exceptional quality of the ownership and management, outstanding contribution to the community, and significant contribution to the game. By virtue of winning the award, River Oaks became a candidate for state and potentially national honors.
Less than a decade ago it was hard to imagine River Oaks, a 27-hole facility, earning the award. The course was languishing under an old management company, but in 2009, led by managing partner Dan Gray, ownership reclaimed control of the course and implemented a plan to restore River Oaks.
Over the last six years, River Oaks has installed new cart paths, renovated bunkers throughout the property, installed a new putting green, removed 4,000 pine trees to improve conditioning and playability, rebuilt the irrigation system, and became the first Grand Strand layout to install Champion Bermuda grass greens, among other enhancements.
“It’s the culmination of all this work,” Scott Taylor, the general manager at River Oaks, said of the award. “It’s validation for the work we’ve done, and it’s huge for us moving forward. We have a grand vision for River Oaks’ (future).”
The work at River Oaks is hardly complete. The Fox and Otter nines have been completely rebuilt and the Bear course is undergoing a gradual transformation. Management is also enclosing the clubhouse patio, a development that will certainly enhance the after-golf experience for players.
River Oaks is also very active in the community, hosting 18 charity golf tournaments and donating rounds to many others over the past year. The course has also hosted PGA Junior Golf League events, the Hurricane Junior Golf Tour, the National Junior Golf Tour, and the Myrtle Beach Junior Golf Foundation, helping develop the game’s next generation of players.
River Oaks succeeds the Moorland Course at Legends Resort as the MBAGCOA Course of the Year. The National Golf Course Owners Association implemented the award in 1996 and the MBAGCOA has since nominated courses from the Myrtle Beach area. Past Myrtle Beach golf courses that won this award include Moorland Course at Legends Course (2014), Dye Club (2013), Dunes Club (2012), Founders Club (2011), Sandpiper Bay (2010) Shaftesbury Glen (2009), Grande Dunes (2008), Wachesaw Plantation East (2007), Burning Ridge (2006), TPC of Myrtle Beach (2005), Indian Wells Golf Club (2004), World Tour Golf Links (2003), Wild Wing Plantation (2002), Blackmoor (2001), Tradition Golf Club (2000), Bay Tree Golf Plantation (1999), Arrowhead Country Club (1998) and Myrtle Beach National’s King’s North (1996). Five of the Myrtle Beach regional winners – Burning Ridge, TPC, Wild Wing, Tradition, Arrowhead and King’s North – also captured the state award. World Tour was named as the national “Golf Course of the Year.”