Myrtle Beach has plenty of straight and narrow golf courses where that big driver in your golf bag won't see much action. Not so at River Club golf course.
Located in the same complex off Highway 17 as the tight, classic Litchfield Country Club golf course, the Tom Jackson-designed track at River Club is a big hitter's dream. Let it rip on most holes here: Fairways are plenty roomy, and at a cozy 6,677 yards from the championship tees, River Club will leave you shooting plenty of wedges and short irons to the green.
Ah, but those greens. Don't get too cocky as you flex your muscles: Approach shots, no matter the distance, demand respect as many of the golf courses' greens are well guarded.
"Where you have to be accurate is on your shot into the green," said Christa Bodensteiner, River Club's head professional. "We have over 100 bunkers, and there's water on 15 holes. A whole lot of hazards lie around the green. You have to be hitting your irons pretty accurately here."
You get a good sense of what you're in for on No. 1. The narrow green is protected in front by a pond, and with bunkers on the other three sides there's no negotiating around it. Your ball will have to get airborne.
That's the pattern through the golf course. The plentiful water in play is generally far from the fairways but lurks in wait near the greens.
The par 5 sixth is another representative hole. At less than 500 yards and the water a good 20 yards off the fairway, it's bombs away from the tee. But an intrusive pond cuts in front of the green, so going for it in two is risky. Even if you lay up, the finesse wedge over the pond isn't for the timid either.
There are more standouts on the back nine. The par-3 14th plays 156 yards over water to an island green. The dogleg-right 15th might be the most difficult par 4 approach, especially when the pin is tucked in front, steps from water.
But the most fun comes on No. 18, a risk-reward par 5 that's one of the finest finishers on the Grand Strand.
From the 18th tee, you must decide whether to play it safe straight down the fairway and cover all 518 yards, or go left over 220 to 240 yards of water. If you successfully cut the corner, you'll have just 170 to 190 yards to the green, which is protected by the same pond that creeps all the way down the left side.
River Club: The Verdict
Tom Jackson's design is challenging but not difficult in the True Blue Plantationor Long Bay Club mold. Like Willbrook Plantation next door, River Club is a favorite among Myrtle Beach's women golfers.
It's an upper-echelon course at $112 in the peak season, but you'll especially notice the extra attention the greens get.
River Club is one of the few Myrtle Beach courses to use A1 bentgrass greens. Bent is mostly reserved for more northern courses that can get some rest in the winter.
"It's definitely more labor-intensive," Bodensteiner said. "But it's the best thing about River Club. The greens are just awesome."
River Club has a different maintenance and aeration schedule than many other courses, but when the necessary inconvenience arises, they only do half the green at a time. Pins are placed on the side of the green that is in good shape. It sounds obvious, but you wonder why every course doesn't employ this method.