River Club is tucked away in Pawleys Island. Its sister course, Willbrook, attracts more attention, and layouts like Pawleys Plantation, Caledonia and True Blue are just minutes away, leaving the Tom Jackson design chronically underexposed.
But shed no tears for River Club, which opened in 1985. The course may not enjoy the acclaim of its neighbors, but informed golfers flock to the layout year after year.
What can players expect when they tee it up at River Club?
For starters, don’t be fooled by the fact the course plays “just” 6,677 from the tips as it is more than long enough, especially from the 6,250-yard white tees. With pushed up greens, many fronted by water or surrounded by sand, golfers often have to fly the ball to the putting surface, leaving little margin for error.
Despite not actually playing along a river, water also comes into play on 15 of 18 holes and the layout is equal parts demanding and enjoyable.
River Club is a thinking man’s course, rewarding brains at least as much as it does brawn. There is ample room off the tee but it’s a second shot golf course, so positioning yourself for success on the approach is vital.
The need for precision off the tee reveals itself on the opening hole (pictured right), a 354-yard (all distances from the white tees) par 4. With water fronting the green, there is no reason to get aggressive with the driver on the slight dogleg left. Tee shots that favor the right side of the fairway provide a more desirable angle of approach and eliminate the risk of hooking the ball in the water on what should be a manageable opener.
Following the benign par 3 second hole and the dangerous, but not super difficult No. 3, a par 5, the round’s easiest stretch awaits. The fourth hole is a 339-yard dogleg right; a 210-yard tee shot, favoring the left side of the fairway, will allow you to take dead aim at the pin. The straight-away No. 5 is the rare hole with no water so you can be aggressive off the tee and on the approach.
The front nine then gradually stiffens before concluding on the 394-yard ninth hole, the course’s longest par 4.
While River Club flies under the radar, the course isn’t anonymous, especially a pair of back nine holes. The course’s hardest hole is the 384-yard 15th (pictured right), an angry two-shotter with water everywhere, most significantly on a demanding approach. If you don’t hit an outstanding drive, don’t be afraid to play this as a three-shot par 4.
River Club’s most talked about challenge is No. 18, a 493-yard, dogleg left par 5 that only the skilled, the brave or the foolhardy attempt to reach in two. Water runs the entire left side of the hole and every player eventually has to confront it, but if you are playing the percentages, tackle it as a three-shot par 5; try to hit your approach close and make the putt, a strategy that greatly reduces your chances of disaster.
Bottom Line: River Club may not attract a lot of attention, but it’s a very good layout. There are memorable visuals, risk-reward decisions your group will discuss after the round, and No. 18 is one of Myrtle Beach’s best finishing holes. If you haven’t already done so, it’s time for your group to discover River Club.