The gauge of a good golf course isn’t based solely on popularity. Yet, it stands to reason that the course that draws a steady stream of players must have something good. River Hills Golf & Country Club gets that kind of love, plus plenty of regard from those who know the Myrtle Beach golf scene well. If you’re a visitor or newcomer, you rely on that word-of-mouth validation for a great place to play. To that end, you’ve probably heard great things about River Hills.
I made the journey just north of Myrtle Beach on a recent trip to try River Hills Golf & Country Club for myself. Although I’ve yet to play a course that wasn’t high on the winsome scale for aesthetics in this area, River Hills particularly grabbed my attention as soon as we approached the first tee. It’s a reminder to me, with maritime forests that make this part of Carolina so incredible, why I always bring my clubs to the coast.
The lowcountry, wetlands feel to this place is palpable. Part of the celebrity of this course comes from its designer, none other than Tom Jackson. Regardless of your skill level, you’ll find beauty in the game you’ll play at River Hills. I felt as if the serenity of my surroundings helps me through technically trying moments of challenge. A bad shot on a picturesque course isn’t such a bad thing. Everyone you meet is pleasant here, but how could you NOT be at River Hills?
Course condition is everything. I can face a daunting challenge with utmost confidence if the grounds have been kept ship-shape. No problem there. The course had work done in 2003, keeping the intimidation and beauty but actually giving an easier course to navigate. After my struggles on Nos. 4 and 17, I imagined how tough that might have been before the renovations. The course played beautifully the morning I was there, and I’d have shaken Tom’s hand myself if I’d seen him. (They say he visits now and then, and who could blame him?)
You don’t expect rolling hills in this part of the state, so close to the coast. The thing I remember most though, is the water. Natural water bodies that seemed made with the course. No. 6 especially, tree-lined on both sides with a gorgeous pond engulfing the green. It plays much tighter than another course we played recently, Meadowlands Golf Club in Calabash. I liked that, though, and it made me more mindful off the tee and in every approach.
I did a double-take when reserving a tee time online. I still feel like it’s a steal of a price for such a course! If you’d asked me to pay after playing, I’d have guessed the price would be at least 30% more. Customer care is part of that, too, from the pro shop to the carts. The fairways alone were worthy of any course I’ve played, regardless of price. The array of holes also made the experience feel like the best kinds of challenges.
Staff friendliness ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
My playing partner and our cart attendant, Faye, got along famously. Everyone we encountered seemed happy to be there, and that makes a difference. It’s worth a second mention here. Not that it’s fair to downgrade a course for an outlier who isn’t well-versed in golf hospitality, but if I were tasked to find one, I might still be there. Pro shop folks are the kind of people you could spend a lot of time shooting the breeze with.
Off-course facilities ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Let’s talk a minute about the delight that is The Grill Room. It’s a place I’d want to come to on a rainy day, maybe for Sunday brunch. We wrapped up just in time for happy hour specials and appetizers. We sat outside, overlooking the 9th hole. The clubhouse renovation is smashing. Perfect spot for a wedding. We loved the practice facility, which has 2 greens and 2 bunkers. The spacious range got me loose for a stellar round. Too bad my score didn’t reflect that!
Pace of play ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Had one incident that won’t diminish the overall experience here. Overall, we got in a round in less than 5 hours, which was good for the volume of players on the course. I felt rushed only once, and Faye quickly handled that with aplomb. Bears mentioning, this place has a crew that knows as much about hospitality as it does about the game. It’s tough to complain about a midday round in the Carolinas on a crisp spring day, even if it takes a few minutes longer.
From pro shop to carts to course to happy hour to clubhouse, it’s hard to justify the low cost of a tee time at River Hills. And my round wasn’t my best. It doesn’t always have to be. It’s the experience that sticks with you. In that case, there’s just enough challenge and reward at every turn at River Hills. Totally worth the short drive to Little River, a town both pirates and George Washington have traveled through. You’ll be glad you did, too.