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Bunker Battles and Risk-Reward Thrills: The Joys of River Club

Pawleys Island is home to one of golf’s best course clusters. Caledonia, Pawleys Plantation, True Blue and Heritage Club are all located within a Scottie Scheffler drive of one another, but those high-profile layouts are only the beginning.

The area also showcases five courses that don’t enjoy a national profile but do provide a memorable golf experience, highlighted by River Club, a Tom Jackson design.

As you weigh options for your next golf trip, here are five reasons you need to play one of the area’s most underrated tracks.

– There is water on 15 of 18 holes, including a few forced carries, but don’t be fooled by the course name. There isn’t a river on the property and water doesn’t define River Club and the challenges you will face. The hazard you need to be most wary of is the omnipresent sand traps that fiercely defend nearly every green.

– River Club’s fairways aren’t the area’s widest but there is ample room, unless you are really spraying the ball. This is a second shot golf course. Greens must be approached through the air and the greenside bunkers are expansive, leading to more than a few long sand shots.

– The course’s greens tend to run from front to back, so take that into account on your approach. Even more so than on most courses, landing a few yards short of the pin is ideal. Speaking of the greens, River Club’s aren’t super undulating, particularly by contemporary standards, but they do have distinct shelves, again highlighting the importance of the approach. If you are on the proper level, you can make putts.

– Par 5s typically represent your best chance for birdie, but the three-shotters at River Club have teeth. The shortest par 5 is No. 6, which plays 477 yards (all distances from white tees) and there are two that stretch over 500 yards. We haven’t even talked about No. 18, the risk-reward par 5 that is River Club’s most famous hole. For long hitters, it’s reachable in two but it requires as much nerve as it does power. You can score on River Club’s par 5s, but there isn’t a lot of margin for error.

– River Club is everything you are looking for in a golf course. The layout is challenging, there are holes you will be talking about in the clubhouse after the round, including the island green par 3 14th and No. 18, and it delivers the type of value we are all in search of.

Bottom line: There are layouts that attract more attention than River Club, but this is a design your group will be delighted to play. It’s challenging without being overwhelming, there are unforgettable holes, and it always delivers on the value side.

(8th hole top photo. Pictured right 18th/Clubhouse & 15th green.)