The birth certificate says River Oaks Golf Plantation is 23 years old. Anyone that has been to the course during the last month will tell you the 27-hole facility is the closest thing Myrtle Beach has to a new golf course.
Located less than 10 minutes from Myrtle Beach International Airport, River Oaks – home of the Fox, Otter and Bear nines … has always enjoyed the benefit of a great location, but under previous management, the Gene Hamm/Tom Jackson design fell into disrepair, struggling with course conditions.
Those issues are a thing of the past.
Signature Golf Group took over management of River Oaks a year ago and the course’s ownership made a financial commitment to restoring the layout. River Oaks has undergone a $2 million renovation project and the results … as those who have seen the before-and-after efforts can attest … are stunning.
Architect Craig Schreiner, who spearheaded the renovation of Pine Lakes Country Club, led the effort at River Oaks. He oversaw a project that included the installation of new Champions bermuda greens, new cart paths, new bunkers and drainage, and the removal of more than 2,500 trees.
The greens at River Oaks, which celebrated its grand reopening on October 21, are in superb condition, rolling fast and true. While players spend more time on the greens than any other part of the course, that’s not the only aspect of River Oaks that has enjoyed an upgrade.
For people who aren’t familiar with the layout, the impact of the tree removal won’t be as noticeable, but it’s no less significant. Previously, River Oaks was perceived to be a tight facility that, in many instances, discouraged players from using a driver. That’s no longer the case.
The impact of the tree removal is perhaps most apparent n the first hole of the Fox nine. The 536-yard par 5 used to offer little leeway off the tee, but with the removal of scores of pine trees, mostly along the right side, the hole is open off the tee, allowing players to swing away.
The tree removal had the greatest impact on the Fox, eliminating the shade that made it difficult to grow grass in spots, and giving players more latitude off the tee, particularly on holes 4, 5 and 6, doglegs that were previously claustrophobic.
River Oaks also installed new cart paths and bunkers throughout the Fox and Otter nines. With a planned clubhouse renovation and expansion in the next 18 months, River Oaks management is committed to continued improvement
On the course, players at River Oaks enjoy three nine hole layouts that offer different experiences. The Otter is a tournament style course that allows players to bomb away off the tee with no concerns about tricked-up holes or the need to layup.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t decisions to be made. The par 4, seventh hole on the Otter is a dogleg right that has a lake along the right side. Players can be as aggressive as they want off the tee, but the more they challenge the lake, the more difficult the drive becomes.
The Otter’s primary defense is its greens, which have quite a bit of undulation.
The Fox course is an open layout but there is a premium placed on positioning off the tee because of the doglegs.
The Bear course wasn’t renovated, in part because it didn’t need as much attention. Without the tree removal, the Bear has a tighter look, but it’s a straight-forward layout that allows players to hit driver.
“Come out here and give us a chance,” said Scott Taylor, who is overseeing the course for Signature Golf Group. “We’ve priced the golf course accordingly to reintroduce it into the market so people can see what we’ve done. This is a brand new River Oaks.”
The Verdict: Taylor is correct, this is a new River Oaks. The course’s turnaround over the past year couldn’t be more dramatic. From tee to green River Oaks is in outstanding condition, and it offers great value. Give River Oaks a try, it’s a decision you won’t regret.