Our last stop on the trail was at Hampton Cove where our morning round was scheduled on the River Course. We were hoping that it would be quieter on a Monday and that’s exactly what we encountered. We got out a few minutes early and hacked our way in around in 4 hours seeing just two other groups!
When I say “hacked” that exactly what I did! I’m not going to say that I’ve been playing great golf so far this year, but it hasn’t been awful. Well this morning I played terrible and we are lucky to have played in 4 hours! I’m just finishing this review (about a month after playing) and I feel like I should still be out on the course dropping balls, after hitting it in the water! The River Course is one difficult course, up there with the Judge in my opinion. Although the Judge turned out to be much more enjoyable.
The thing that makes the course so difficult is that there is a lot of water in play! That wasn’t what I was expecting since Hampton Cove is in a mountainous area on the southeast side of town. Actually, the course has a wetlands feel to it without any elevation change. The Flint River borders a couple of the holes, but it shouldn’t come into play. However, there have to be twenty or more water hazards on the course. Sometimes holes have more than one hazard to affect tee shots and approaches! It is a place where you can easily knock your tee shot in the water, drop, and then plunk another one! I figured that out after a few holes and busted out the crappy balls. I still lost four or five, but at least I was able to clean out my golf bag! That’s your warning, bring a lot of golf balls!
For reference, we played the Orange tees which are 6764/72.8/134. I don’t feel like I’m exaggerating when I say that there is water all over the place! The water is going to be the biggest difficulty as it affects most of the tee shots, but the fairways are wide for the most part and there are some bail out areas. If you know some of the angles and wide points of the fairways you can play to those and limit mistakes. You hear the pros talk about taking an aggressive swing to a conservative line and that’s what I’d recommend here. I didn’t struggle off the tee, but that could have had something to do with the fact that most of the doglegs go right. I’m a fade player so I was comfortable standing on the boxes.
The spot where the course drove me crazy was on the approaches! The greens themselves aren’t small when it comes to square footage, but they are typically raised every so slightly above the level of the fairway and have water that zig-zags around the edges of them. Because they are elevated, I couldn’t see the contours of the green nor tell exactly where the tongues of water crept in. The greens also have narrow sections and sit at an angle which further add to the madness! The options are either hit a perfect approach, miss the green and find the ball, or risk a shot kicking off the downslope and into the water on the other side. You can scroll down to the pictures of the 11th and 12th fairways to get an idea of what I’m talking about.
Missing the green and finding the ball seemed like a decent choice until I was left with chips that required Phil’s touch to get close! I’m decent around the greens and the course overwhelmed my chipping! For most chips you needed to play a bump and run into a mound or land a high lob on a downslope. Extreme chipping is probably a good way to describe the adventure that you’ll encounter around the greens. I chipped two into the water, doh! Once on the greens things won’t get much easier as the greens have large ridges, dividing them into two or three different sections.
I don’t know that there is a signature hole on the River Course, but the stretch from the 11th to the 14th was the most memorable for me. It features three mid-length par 4’s with two requiring pin-point approaches and another one needing a laser off the tee. The last hole in that stretch is a long par 3 over water. I found those holes to be some of the toughest on the course, even though the handicap’s don’t reflect that. The signature design feature is probably that there aren’t any bunkers on the course! That’s unique and I don’t recall the last time I played a course without sand!
The conditions on the River Course were fine. The fairways had some different grasses and were shaggy in spots, but nothing that a mow couldn’t fix. There were a couple sanded sections on the greens and they rolled slower than they looked. That seems to be a common theme on the trail courses though. The greens were cut tight and rolled well though.
I didn’t do a good job of being objective in this review! The River Course got under my skin because only a perfect approach was rewarded. I didn’t expect to light it up, but it wasn’t a “fun” course to play on vacation! Out of the trail courses that we played on the trip, I’d rank this one towards the bottom. As always though, I suggest that you make up your own mind as different people view courses from different perspectives.
#1 (505 yard par 5):
#2 (186 yard par 3):
#3 (404 yard par 4):
#4 (375 yard par 4):
#5 (388 yard par 4):
#6 (196 yard par 3):
#7 (393 yard par 4):
#8 (566 yard par 5):
#9 (394 yard par 4):
#10 (535 yard par 5):
#11 (398 yard par 4):
#12 (418 yard par 4):
#13 (382 yard par 4):
#14 (186 yard par 3):
#15 (519 yard par 5):
#16 (176/168 yard par 3):
#17 (378 yard par 4):
#18 (365 yard par 4):