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Renovations continue to breath new life into River Oaks Golf Plantation in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Ian GuerinBy Ian Guerin,
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There's plenty of open room to put a solid swing into the driver on most holes at River Oaks Golf Plantation. (Courtesy of River Oaks Golf Plantation)

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- Scott Taylor didn't need to think about his question or the answer.

Asked which of River Oaks Golf Plantation's three nines the head pro liked the most, he paused only to chuckle before pulling the trigger.

"That's like asking which one of your kids you love the most," Taylor said. "I think they all stand on their own."

Five years after Taylor and the rest of the current management team took over what was little more than 27 holes of avoidable golf, the new-age combination of the Bear Course, Fox Course and Otter Course are breathing new life into River Oaks.

The original renovations on the latter two courses were joined in the summer of 2014 when the club went to work on the Bear. Fresh sand was put in place, and other bunkers were on track to be bulldozed and filled in completely.

All that progress continued to show on a recent visit.

"The golf course this summer was in the best shape it's ever been," Taylor said. "I'm excited for the future of River Oaks. The opportunity is to go up. We're still retraining people who haven't been there in years. The location is a big part of our drive to improve the golf course. We're sort of in the middle of it all in Myrtle Beach."

The course now has even more going for it than proximity to the center of South Carolina's Grand Stand.

River Oaks Golf Plantation: The course

There are two inherent challenges that seem to level the playing field.

First off, the variance from the fairway to the rough can be extreme throughout. On a recent trip, it took three players several minutes to find shots that were within 15 feet of the good stuff. That's worthy of note, because on several holes, the fairway juts and jives in anything but a straight-line fashion.

If you do find the rough, clubbing up at least once (if not twice) is even more vital here than most other area courses during a significant portion of the year. That leaves many repeat customers at River Oaks willing to sacrifice distance off whichever of the five tee boxes they're playing from. But for those with eagle eyes -- or maybe just hopes of going for eagle -- there is plenty of open room to put a solid swing into the driver on most holes.

The second thing to keep in mind is pin location on the Champion UltraDwarf greens. Even from the championship boxes, any combination of the two nines leaves players going anywhere from 6,778-6,877 yards, with the whites playing less than 6,000 yards. Many of the par 4s are plenty reachable in two under normal conditions, even for high handicappers. That's not really much of an issue.

However, several greens are either undulated or heavily sloped or both and almost never the same way twice. The front of the green on several holes was the target zone, only to have that same placement leave you up the proverbial creek on others.

"I would say it's probably not the hardest golf course anybody is going to play," Taylor said. "Certainly that's the great equalizer. To have that smaller, undulated characteristic (to the greens), absolutely, it differentiates us.

"Greens are a big topic all over the country. The Champion is as close to bentgrass as you can get."

River Oaks Golf Plantation: Facilities and instruction

A full driving range and putting green are in place at River Oaks, allowing players to properly warm up prior to the round. Individual teaching lessons are available through either the Golf School of Myrtle Beach or with Taylor himself.

What helps set the course apart, though, is its large outdoor patio overlooking several holes of the Otter Course. During most months of the year, it is utilized by players after a round or those needing a quick break before playing nine more holes. It is also used for many of the shootout-style tournaments the course runs at various points of the primary golf season.

That back patio includes a grill and a standalone bar.

River Oaks Golf Plantation: The verdict

The nice thing about River Oaks Golf Plantation is that it's not pretending to be something it's not.

The course isn't going to be in any national top-10 rankings or even on many "must-play" lists.

"We're affordable, great shape," Taylor said. "We're actually improving year over year as a facility."

That commitment to re-investing back into the course has revitalized River Oaks. It doesn't appear that trend will expire any time soon.

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Ian Guerin is a freelance writer and DJ living in Myrtle Beach, S.C. He's decent with the driver and putter; it's everything else in the bag that gives him trouble. Follow Ian on Twitter at @iguerin.

Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.

 
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