Location: Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Course architects: Gene Harman and Tom Jackson
Tee – Yardage l Rating / Slope:
Championship — 6,791 | 72.9 / 136
Professional — 6,345 | 70.6 / 132
Back — 5,741 | 70.2 / 124
Middle — 5,076 | 70.0 / 116
Forward — 4,666 | 69.7 / 110
Saturday morning green fee: $ [Under $50; $66 in high season, starting in March]
Caddie service: No
Walker friendly: No
Fairways: 419 Bermudagrass
Greens: Champion Bermudagrass
Starter: River Oaks succeeds against some big odds in the Myrtle Beach golf market. The area has more than 85 golf courses, and all but a few combine in some way for marketing and packaging power. River Oaks, however, is a single-course family business where golfers feel at home and their business is truly appreciated. The Taylor family has invested more than $2.2 million in renovations since taking over 10 years ago. After a complete reno job, the course was recognized as the 2015 Myrtle Beach area Course of the Year. “We just keep trying to make it better, step by step,” said patriarch Steve Taylor.
Play because ...: The layout, which features three nines — the Fox, River and Otter — is enjoyable and the staff's friendly demeanor is even better. River Oaks does plenty for the community too. The course hosts more than 25 charitable events each year and is home to the Myrtle Beach Junior Golf Foundation and the Folds of Honor Golf School for veterans. Most of the play at River Oaks is repeat business. The regular will say the course has never looked better, especially since Jeff Weitzel came aboard two years ago as the superintendent. Oh, the bunkers still need work, but that is true of many courses.
Takeaway: This is where the locals play. Operator Steve Taylor isn’t a golf administrator by trade. He spent 22 years in the Air Force and retired after being the administrator for the Air Force base in Myrtle Beach. “It had to be golf,” he said when asked why he chose running a golf course in his life after a military career. “I caddied when I was a kid for 75 cents a bag. Now it’s our family business. It’s not about the money; it’s about golf.” Taylor is joined in the business by his son, Scott, the general manager and a PGA professional. Scott’s wife also plays a big role as a full-time employee.
THE RATINGS [1 to 10 scale; 10 being the highest]
Food | Beverage: 7.5
Pro shop: 7.0
Pace of play: 8.0
Best par 3: No 3 (Fox) [189 | 161 | 140 | 117 | 104 yards]
This par 3 requires a middle iron to a slightly elevated green that is 28 yards deep and sloped from back to front. Stay away from the deep greenside bunker on the right as that is a difficult up-and-down to convert. The green is tricky, and par is a good score. This is also the first hole that provides a good look at the beautiful Intercoastal Waterway.
Best par 4: No. 14 (Otter) [365 | 340 | 305 | 300 | 256 yards]
This is a straight-forward hole from tee to green. Just keep from spraying the drive way to the right where a creek runs parallel to the hole. That should leave a middle iron to a large green that has a greenside bunker on all sides. Pay attention to the hole location and plan accordingly. Being on the wrong side of the mound in the middle of the green will create a difficult two-putt situation.
Best par 5: No. 7 (Fox) [511 | 503 | 429 | 368 | 350 yards]
This is a good birdie opportunity for most golfers. Don’t be enticed by trimming yardage off the hole and straying too far left. Cutting the corner will most likely create regrets. Stay right of the fairway bunker off the tee and short of the small stream that cuts the fairway, and a short pitch should remain for the third shot and a good look at birdie. Big hitters might even be able to reach the green in two. The green slopes severely from back to front, so stay short of the hole location for the best chance to make a putt.
Rater: Craig Smith