Due to the generosity and hospitality of Chris Cupit, I got the opportunity to take some friends out to Chris’ club, Rivermont, in the northern Atlanta ‘burbs and meet some fellow GCA’ers yesterday. As the day progressed, it ended up being one of my favorite golfing experiences to date.
For starters, our group was treated to a description of the course by Chris and, the
golf course architect, Mike Riley. They described some of the nuances of the course, like the redesign of hole #5, how to approach hole 8, and the punchbowl on 9. And what became apparent through their talk was that there was more to this course than initially meets the eye…which, as we know, is what is what good golf course architecture is all about.
I had the opportunity to play the course previously with Bryan Icenhower, a member, and I had the great privilege of seeing Mike and Chris
hard at work redesigning holes 7, 8, and 9 and supervising the construction. In fact, I posted a bit on this previously. http://golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,45238.70/
And just like their talk illustrated, to unlock all the mysteries of Rivermont you need to play the course many times.
#1—is a great opening hole. From the white tees (one up from the tips) the hole is a 378 yard par 4 that kind of eases the golfer into the round. The drive is not threatening and the green is somewhat protected by a bunkers and a creek bisects the fairway somewhat near the green. The green has some movement to it, but not too much. Nice opener.
#2—is one of the best holes I’ve played. It is a 517 yard par 5 with a few different options on how to attack the green. And oh that green!!! MAGNIFICENT!!! On the website, Chris describes this green as “devilish”. Yeah, I guess I’d describe it that way…well, maybe I’d use another word.
#3 is a great par 4 with a green that I’d advise you to keep the ball below the hole on. And #4 is a great version of a redan. What a great hole and, of course, a great green!
#5 is a stunningly good par 4 with a strategic decision to make as that creek, that appeared previously, meanders across this fairway as well.
#6 is a forced water carry par 3 with perhaps the most unique par 3 green I’ve ever seen. With its “half pipe” feature inspired by Winged Foot (incidentally both Chris and Mike won championships on the Winged Foot courses).
#7 was recently redesigned and makes for a great par 5. This is hole is a real test of driving ability and offer key strategic decisions as well. And yet again this hole has another fantastic green, this time the “milk jug”.
#8 is another hole that was recently updated ;
as was #9, which can only be described as an Alps/Punchbowl. But in the recent changes the front edge of the punchbowl was lowered/removed and the golfer can now see the green and adjust strategy as needed.
The back nine has a great and intimate feeling, which is a testament to the courses routing. I don’t know the total acreage they had to work with, but it couldn’t have been the easiest property to work with and throw in the neighborhood surrounding the course these restrictions could have provided easy excuses to offer up a mundane/average course. But that is not what this architectural effort yielded. The routing is so good that the neighborhood is barely noticed and I suppose I would compare the routing efforts to a Canterbury or an Inwood in terms of getting the most out of a small plot of land (I haven’t played Merion so I can’t comment on that one).
#10 is another great par 5 that winds the golfer down the fairway into another great green site with interesting contours.
This hole is followed by a fantastic short par 4 (276 yards from the tees I played). That is heavily guarded by severe bunkers. In fact, you’ve got a rendition of a Devil’s A$$hole off to the left of the green.
#12 is a tremendous par 5 with a massive bunker lurking to the left of the green. Although not as big as the bunker to the left of the 4th green at Sand Hills, it did remind me of it. It is so big, Chris and Mike gave it a name, “Big Bertha”.
#13 is a longer par 4 with a crazy false front to deal with. I think Mike is a
genius for putting this feature in as
I couldn’t get my damn ball to stay on the green
it adds an incredible amount of variety to the course.
#14 is a nice par 3, #15 is a blind tee shot par 4 that plays into a very solid green.
#16, to me, is the best hole on the course and reminds me a lot of Cuscowilla in its feel. In fact, the natural feeling of the course might be best personified in this hole. Like Cuscowilla, the bunkers at Rivermont have very natural reddish-brown sand in them. Since Georgia is the land of red clay, I don’t want bleached white ocean type sand in GA bunkers. Give me the native looking reddish sand, it just fits. The holes layout will shape your drive, but your approach will require you to hit a fade off a hook lie. Bring your skill or face bogey. I like it!
#17 is a drop shot par 3 that offers stunning views and #18 brings to the table a demanding approach shot with a green that offers a backstop to play unique shots off of.
I suppose I am taking the time to write such a lengthy post for one main reason. We talk an awful on this site about courses like Pebble Beach, Cypress Point, and Crystal Downs, but the courses that I think need to be talked about are courses like Rivermont. It is a very affordable private course with extremely good golf course architecture. And we need more of these types of golf courses. Many more! This is a hidden gem of the highest magnitude for the golf course architectural junkie.
You want a redan? You got it. You want a “milk jug” green, “Big Bertha” bunker, “half pipe” greens, strategic decisions off the tee and on the approach? You’ve got’em. And to talk about the greens again, they are plain and simply magnificent. Plain and simple.
So, anyway…I think in addition to talking about courses like St. Andrews and Pine Valley, we need to bring to the forefront course like Rivermont; Architecturally significant courses that don’t price out the core golf course architectural fanatic. If hidden gems with significant golf course architectural interest are going to compete with the big budget “signature designer” courses, we’ve got to lead that charge.
Kudos…Chris Cupit and Mike Riley. AMAZING work!!!
Thanks for a wonderful day!!!!