Bob Gallagher is a good friend of mine and your typical weekend golfer. We worked together, golfed together, played hockey together, and hung around each other a lot when I lived in Columbus.
Bob has a group of buddies – 4, sometimes as many as 12 – that try to play together each week, usually on a Sunday. He lives in Columbus, OH where daily greens fees can get rather expensive. I recently took Bob with me to River Greens when my wife and I went to play and photograph the course. Although he has lived in the area his whole life, BG was not familiar with River Greens Golf Course or what they have to offer.
“I was thoroughly impressed that a golf course of this caliber has been right in my back yard the entire time,” Gallagher said. “I could see making this one of our regular stops. And with the accommodations they offer, we will be doing some overnight trips out here.”
Doug Davis has been around the River Greens Golf Course his entire life. Doug’s family owned a couple of small farms in rural Ohio, dating back to his great, great grandparents. Doug’s father George served in the Navy during the Korean war and upon returning to the farm in 1955 and farming the land for another 10 years, realized that the days of making it on a small farm were probably over. George had always thought about converting one of them into a golf course, after all, the sport was surging and with Ohio’s native son Jack Nicklaus leading the way, many other farmers were converting their land into golf courses.
As it turns out, there was a golf course designer named Jack Kidwell who lived in Columbus, OH. George went into town one day to buy a part for a piece of broken farm equipment. He knew Kidwell lived in the area and on his way home he had a decision to make; should he pay a visit to Mr. Kidwell and learn more about this golf opportunity or should he go straight home and fix the tractor. According to Doug, his father literally sat at the crossroads for several minutes debating the merits of each. Fortunately for golfers, he went to Jack Kidwell’s office.
Jack Kidwell did more for golf in the State of Ohio than most golf historians give him credit for. After his family purchased a small 9-hole golf course on land contract in the middle of the depression, Kidwell learned all aspects of golf course ownership out of necessity. He became one of the most revered professionals in golf by freely sharing his knowledge and time; in fact, many of the golf courses he is credited with building were built by farmers like George who had little or no money, knew nothing about turfgrasses or golf, but wanted to get into the golf business. Kidwell was once quoted as saying “I am happy to help people get into the golf business who have no money or experience because if those were a prerequisite, I would never have enjoyed the life that golf has given me.” Kidwell also worked with Doug’s uncle, Rodney Davis, and helped him design the River Greens Golf Course in Avon Park, Florida, just north of Sebring.
River Greens Golf Course is a semi-private facility located in West Lafayette, OH. The original 18 holes – the River and Greens nines – were designed by Kidwell, with the first 9 holes opening in 1966 and the second nine opening a year later. Another 9 – the Pines Course – was added in 1994. The result is three 18-hole layouts that will challenge and delight golfers of all levels and abilities. The River/Greens combination is the most popular and measures 6588 yards from the longest tees with a course rating of 71.1 and a slope rating of 120. The course features 4 sets of tees with bent grass greens and bluegrass fairways.
The River Course (1 – 9) derives its name from the Tuscarawas River that borders several holes. You first see the river on the 4th green. Hit it long and right over the green and you’ll have a close-up view of what I’m talking about. Holes 6, 7, and 8 are a good trio, and playing them well will probably result in a good score. Number 6 is a nice tree-lined par 4 that plays 348 yards from the Blue tees. This dogleg right plays along the Tuscarawas River which provides a good backdrop for photos. It’s a narrow driving hole with trees on either side at the dogleg. Play your tee shot out to the left but be mindful of the river over there. The left side of the fairway provides the best angle into this relatively flat green. Number 7 is a 170-yard par 3 with the river on the left. Anything pulled left is likely wet. Number 8 is a challenging par 5 that plays 490 yards. This dogleg left has two bunkers on the right in the landing area that catch a lot of errant shots, so keep your tee shot left. A good layup shot down the left side will leave the best angle into this elevated green and take the two pot bunkers on the right front of the green out of play.
The Greens Course (10 – 18) also ends with three challenging holes. Number 16 is the first hole with water directly in play. It’s a par 3 that plays 214 yards from the back tees into a green fronted by a pond on the right side. Check the wind, choose your club wisely and swing away; you can bail out to the left if need be. Number 17 is a 358-yard par 4 with a pretty significant dogleg to the right. There’s a bunker straight away off the tee on the left side of the fairway and trees to the right if you try and cut it. A good drive right of the bunker will leave a short iron into the green. Number 18 is a 537-yard par 5 that requires a good drive and then a layup shot out to the right to avoid the small pond on the left. Two solid shots will leave a short pitch into a fairly flat green.
The Pines Course (19 – 27) got its name from the pine trees that framed the fairways although many have been lost since the course was built. Pines features three par 3s, three par 4s, and three par 5s, so scoring can be at a premium, as long as you play the par 3s well. Pines also has the longest hole on the course. Number 21 is a 605-yard par 5 with a slight dogleg left. Bunkers come into play on both your drive and layup shots and the bunker in the front right of the green needs to be avoided if you want to score well on this monster of a golf hole. Remember that pond on the par 3, 16th hole? Well, you’re about to experience it again. The 326-yard par 4 27th hole requires a well-calibrated drive followed by an accurate approach shot over said water into a green protected on the left by trees. Par (or better) is a great way to finish.
Last Word: River Greens Golf Course features well-manicured fairways, hazards, and greens, almost to a private country club level. The three-9-hole courses can be conformed into 3 18-hole layouts, each with its own character. No combination is overtly long and choosing the right set of tees regardless of your course combinations is always going to result in the most fun. Although you’ll find a lot of mature pine and oak trees as you make your way around the golf course, what you see is what you get at River Greens Golf Course. Flags are visible from most tee boxes and there aren’t a lot of surprises along the way. You won’t see much water out here either; the Tuscarawas River can be seen on a few holes but then you don’t see any more until the 16th, 18th, and 27th holes.
River Greens offers some great Stay and Play packages, especially for larger groups. The Farmhouse is located next to the 1st tee and Is perfect for 8 people. It features 4 bedrooms with 3 queen beds and 5 twin beds. Linens and towels are provided and there is a washer and dryer as well. It has a fully equipped kitchen, WiFi, DirecTV, and a deck with a gas grill. If that’s not big enough, River Greens Guest House sleeps 16 with 6 bedrooms and 16 beds. It’s located near the 19th tee and comes with all the same amenities. Either house requires two nights minimum per person. Rates are cheap and you get a great discount on golf. Just bring your own food and your favorite beverages and have yourself a good ole time!
For more information on the golf course or to book your next round or golf package, visit them online at www.rivergreens.com.