The Sebring, Florida area has a number of interesting golf courses in the area, but nothing as unique as River Greens Golf Club.
What makes this course so different is that it wasn’t built by any big-name golf design firm, it was built by its owner, Rodney Davis, although that may not be totally true. Davis and his partner Jeff Harstine own a golf construction company and own/manage another course in the area: Lake Placid Golf Club in Sebring. Their golf construction company has done work for some of the biggest names in golf at some of their best designs including the Tom Fazio-designed Black Diamond Ranch, Pine Barrens at World Woods in the Brooksville, FL area, Greg Norman’s TPC Sugarloaf in Minnesota and the Jack Nicklaus masterpiece, El Dorado in Puerto Rico. They have also built a course for the Crown Prince of Bahrain, in the Middle East as well as the two courses that they manage in the Sebring, FL area.
River Greens Golf Club is located in Avon Park, FL and was originally designed by Jack Kidwell. The course opened in 1969 and can be played from as far back as 6,400 yards or as short as 4,200 yards with a number of choices in between.
The course is in tremendous shape and the TifEagle greens are absolutely amazing. They look great and roll fast and true. Water comes into play on about half the holes. Several of the water hazards are not visible and, unless you know where they are, they can wreak havoc with what you thought was a great shot.
The front nine plays to a par of 35 and boasts several interesting holes. The par 3, 5th hole plays only 150 yards from the back tees but with a road to the left and water to the right of the green. It’s a very narrow tee shot, so accuracy is extremely important. And the wind is usually blowing, either from the left or from the right. Number 7 is a great par 4. It plays 362 yards from the blue tees and is a dogleg right with trees that guard the right side, forcing you to play the entire length. Should you mishit your tee shot over the trees on the right, don’t despair. Unless you find the water that is way to the right, there’s a good chance you’ll find your tee shot in the fairway of the seldom used 9th hole’s secondary hole location. You’ll be left with a long shot over water into the green, but at least you won’t incur a penalty stroke.
Number 8 is a drivable par 4 that plays 260 yards from the back tees. Water on the right catches short, errant drives. Since it’s all carry off the tee, a drop near the water plays substantially uphill. The same road from Number 5 creates an out of bounds on the left and a bunker short right make for an interesting tee/approach shot.
Number 9 is far and away River Greens’ most interesting hole; it’s also the #1 handicap. There are two greens on this hole; one plays 557 yards and the other 442 yards. The reason the shorter green even exists is that the longer, original green sits very low and has a tendency to flood. After hearing numerous times from disgruntled members that the best hole on the course was unplayable, Mr. Davis decided to build a temporary green on higher ground. This new green was so well received by the member that they decided to make it a permanent fixture and give players the option. Number 9 is a true risk/reward tee shot; successful navigation over the water off the tee will give you the opportunity to go for the green in two. Should you be playing to the longer green, you’ll need to cross the lake twice. Getting on the green in two is a lot tougher with this green.
What the back nine lacks in character it makes up for in distance. The par 37 back nine plays almost 400 yards longer than the front, with 3 of the final 4 holes being par 5s that all play more than 500 yards. Water comes into play on all 3 and forms a boundary to the left on number 15. It’s also in play to the right on Number 18 off the tee. The fairway bunker on the left off the tee on 18 sees a lot of action.
In case your hunger gets the best of you after your round, River Greens offers a lot of clubhouse favorites including hot dogs, hamburgers and gilled cheese sandwiches. They also make a mean Philly Cheesesteak sandwich. All are served with your choice of potato chips and a pickle; they also offer daily specials. To quench your thirst, The Plantation Grill offers all of your favorite post-golf libations.
For more information or to book your next tee time, give them a call at (863) 453-5210 or visit them online: www.rgreens.com.