Rivers Edge underwent a No-Till conversion to the greens, allowing the course to reopen less than two months after the paspalum was installed.
The results of the No-Till conversion and the performance of the paspalum greens has been very good. The paspalum is thriving and green speeds are improving on a daily basis, leaving golfers smiling.
“It’s gone very well,” head pro Rick Ferrell said of the conversion. “Paspalum is a warm weather grass that thrives on heat and humidity and does well with salty irrigation. It’s grown in very well.”
Rivers Edge has done very well since its opening in 1999. The marsh holes will always be the course’s calling card – the par 5 ninth is one of the Grand Strand’s most talked about holes – but the quality of the “other” 11 holes is what helped make Rivers Edge a Top 100 layout.
“It’s just a great golf course,” Ferrell said. “There’s not a weak hole on the course and I think that is pretty much the consensus.”
Another thing there is a consensus about is the need to bring a few extra balls to Rivers Edge. The marsh can swallow balls as fast as Joey Chestnut eats hot dogs, but the loss of balls often has more to do with person holding the club than the course.
The marsh looms on seven holes and because of its beauty and expansive nature, it’s impossible not to notice, intimidating some players. The fairways at Rivers Edge are ample, though rough often comes in the form of sawgrass and saltwater.
“A lot of people come in and say, ‘I hear you have to have a lot of golf balls at Rivers Edge,’ and you certainly can (lose a few),” Ferrell said. “I don’t think there is any question the fairways here are fairly generous. The 18th fairway is 80 or 90 yards wide. Number nine is the same way – it’s 70-80 yards.”
Rivers Edge isn’t extremely long – it measures 6,909 yards from the tips and has tees that play 6,440 and 6,033 yards – so there is no need for players to overextend themselves with the driver. For players that aren’t seduced by the marsh there is plenty of green grass to hit.
The greens at Rivers Edge are large but by no means gigantic. There aren’t huge undulations in the Rivers Edge greens. The breaks are more subtle and the key to a good round with the flat-stick is speed.
Rivers Edge has, arguably, the Grand Strand’s most attractive par 3s. The fifth, eighth, and 15th all play along the marsh, featuring different, but equally pleasing, views.
The fifth, which plays 143 yards from the tips, is the course’s first marsh hole and it offers a panoramic view of the Shallotte River from an elevated tee box. It’s a spectacular glimpse at what lies ahead. From a strictly golf perspective, it’s the easiest hole on the front nine but shouldn’t be taken for granted. If the wind is blowing off the marsh, No. 5 becomes much trickier.
The eighth also plays from an elevated tee box and gets at least one vote as the course’s most scenic hole. The marsh and Shallotte River are crystal clear from a tee box 200 yards from the green and a boat slip adds to the charm. A bunker on the left can be a factor, but the eighth green is a large one.
Number 12 is the only par 3 that doesn’t play along the marsh, but it’s not an afterthought. An uphill tee shot from 178 yards into a well bunkered green challenges players and makes par a good score.
The final par 3, No. 15, is the longest (200 yards from the tips) and most difficult of the bunch, requiring a carry over the marsh. It’s also the perfect introduction to the course’s spectacular finishing stretch.
Rivers Edge has a collection of par 3s that are easy to remember and almost impossible not to enjoy.
The par 4s range in length from 460 to 331 yards, providing a variety of challenges.
The opening hole is outstanding, a 425-yard, dogleg left that gives players a feel for what is to come. Bunkers are on both sides of the hole and a creek dissects the fairway but there is ample landing room and a large green is receptive to quality shots.
According to the scorecard, No. 6, the longest par 4 at 460 yards, is the most difficult hole on the front nine. Also a dogleg left, it takes two very good shots to get on in regulation. Only two of the par 4s, 16 and 18, plays along the marsh. Sixteen is relatively short at 412 yards from the back tees, but the fairway is narrow. Find the middle of the fairway and a green that is 35 yards deep awaits.
The 18th is a perfect finish. A wide fairway encourages players to take a rip off the tee and a stadium style green awaits at the end of the 390-yard hole. With the clubhouse just uphill from the green, it makes for a gratifying conclusion.
The par 4s comprise eight of River Edge’s 11 interior holes. The course’s takeaway memories, understandably, revolve around the marsh but from a strictly golf perspective, the interior par 4s are outstanding. A course doesn’t earn a Top 100 ranking based solely on appearance, and the design and playability of the par 4s is one of Rivers Edge’s major strengths.
Two of the four par 5s play along the marsh and both are picturesque.
The ninth hole at Rivers Edge is among the most talked about on the beach. It plays 570 yards from the tips and the marsh never strays from the left side of the hole. Attempting to reach and hold the narrow green in two is among the Grand Strand’s most challenging shots.
Realistically, if a player is going for the green in two, the best play is to aim for the greenside bunker and try to get up-and-down for birdie. The smart approach is to clear the marsh on the second shot and leave a comfortable wedge, because the third shot, no matter the distance, isn’t a gimme.
The ninth green – located on a peninsula in marsh – can appear as skinny as a runway model, though it’s 48 yards deep. This is a hole you won’t forget.
The first par 5 is the 550-yard third hole. It’s a three-shot hole because marshland is reachable off the tee and a creek plays along the left side of the green, though there is bailout room to the right.
The 11th doesn’t feature the Shallotte River marsh but a large fresh water lake provides scenery and requires golfers to hit into a peninsula green. A waste bunker runs along the left side of the fairway and is a factor off the tee. The lake squeezes the fairway on the second shot, requiring precision.
The 11th is the most difficult hole on the back nine, but Arnie gives players a chance at birdie (or better) on the par 5 17th.
Number 17 is 40 yards shorter than any other par 5, playing just 490 yards from the tips. The marsh is on the right but there is plenty of room on the left and players can take a big rip. With a good drive the green is reachable in two from every set of tees, but the river impinges on the front of the green so don’t come up short.
The Verdict: Rivers Edge has earned its Top 100 designation and the 4.5 stars Golf Digest awarded it. There is a reasonable argument to be made that it’s the area’s most scenic course. While No. 9 is the most talked about hole, you will remember No. 8, No. 17, No. 18 and several others long after you leave the premises.
The transition to new paspalum greens has been extremely smooth. The greens look good, play good and should be a long term boon for players and the course.