(January 2009) As you enter the gates at River Strand’s you are greeted by a cascading rock waterfall entry and Tuscan-inspired gatehouse. Once inside the gates, you will be awestruck by the sight of the clubhouse and pool situated between the 18th and 27th greens of this Arthur Hills designed course. Wes Miller, Head Golf Professional at River Strand, says this golf experience will be everything you’ve come to expect in playing a modern golf course.
Arthur Hill’s trademarks of generous fairways and precision approach shots are quite visible throughout the 27 holes at River Strand. He also loves to employ the risk/reward aspect in course design, and certainly takes advantage of the terrain here. The courses will provide a challenge to the low handicapper, yet the high handicapper will enjoy it too! All the while, you’re playing in a gorgeous, natural setting with palm trees and live oaks that Mr. Hills designed around, and a nice mix of river holes.
The golf course fits in well with the environment, with holes intertwined by tributaries and estuaries. River Strand backs up to the Manatee River and the tidal area is often built-into its holes. The course is well maintained and features Tif-eagle greens that are mowed with a walking mower to insure pristine conditions. Make sure you know which way the grain is running when you putt.
The 27-holes are divided into three sets of nine. The Estuary is 3,411 yards, the Tributary is 3,214 yards, and the newly opened Sanctuary is 3,290 yards. If your plan is to only play 18 holes, you can pick and choose which two sets of nine they would like to play.
Number 3: Par 5, 495 Yards. A relatively short par-5 that is reachable in two is not short on drama! A large pond down the left side makes hitting your tee shot right mandatory. Several well placed fairway bunkers make your second shot a little tougher. The right side of the green is guarded by a pond on the right bunkers left, right, and long.
Number 7: Par 4, 337 Yards. Although this is relatively a short Par-4, you will have an approach shot over wetlands to a well elevated green. Proper club selection on your approach shot is essential. A good drive down the right side of the fairway will leave a short iron approach to the small green. Anything to the left and your approach shot will be blocked out by trees. A definite birdie opportunity!
Number 3: Par 5, 535 Yards. This is the first hole with any signs of civilization (houses)! This hole features a very large fairway with steep-walled bunkers on the right reminiscent of Scotland. The left side is no picnic either; a grove of oak trees can easily eat up your ball or worse yet, push it into the pond. Danger awaits your second shot with a pond lurking on the right and bunkers to the left. The green sits ominously close to this same pond. Three good shots should find the green!
Number 5: Par 3, 208 Yards. The longest par-3 on the course! Although you are shooting to a rather large green, a “coffin” bunker on the right and a back left bunker that is hidden await errant tee shots. The opened front of the green allows a long iron or wood to run onto the putting surface. There is a wetland that meanders to the front and left of the green, but there is plenty of room to miss the green and still save par.
Number 9: Par 5, 507 Yards. Right is death! The largest of all the ponds on the course runs the entire length of the hole. The wide fairway bottlenecks beyond the landing area between a large cross bunker and the pond. The long, narrow cross bunker will catch many miss hit second shots. Carrying the cross bunker will leave a clear shot to a large green. A large, “L” shaped bunker guards the front left corner of the green.
Number 2: Par 5, 540 yards. This hole offers a beautiful backdrop of mature trees. Your tee shot is a risk/reward shot, however you still need to avoid the fairway bunkers on the left side of the fairway. Fairway bunkers also come into play on your second shot; you will need to carry these to leave a relatively short approach shot to an elevated putting surface. The kidney-shaped green is closely guarded by that same pond.
Number 4: Par 3, 198 yards. A true nature lover’s hole with gators and lots of birds visible on a bright sunny day. Although the two bunkers in front of the green look wonderful to the eye, they typically wreak havoc on your scorecard. There’s plenty of room to run the ball onto this large green however don’t miss it left! A shot hit left can easily find the pond that is not visible from the tee.
Number 8: Par 4, 409 yards. Another memorable hole that lies within the tidal area of the Manatee River. The fairway bunkers are an extension of the swale that cuts through the back center of the fairway. The plateau on the right side of the fairway is enticing but it requires a huge carry over the corner of the pond that runs down the right side. Bailing out to the left will leave a longer approach shot over the bunkers that block the front side of the green.
The layout is beautiful, and plays fairly for the high handicapper, while challenging the shot making abilities of the avid player. For membership information, please visit their website at www.riverstrandgolf.com or give them a call at (941) 708-3617. Play the course while you can, ultimately it will become a private club. Currently green fees are quite reasonable.