Virginia Tech’s Pete Dye River Course is a fascinating place. It’s strange for a university-owned course not to be immediately adjacent to campus, but the River Course is basically in the next town, a good 12 miles from Virginia Tech’s campus. It’s actually much closer to Radford University, another NCAA Division I institution whose golf team also calls the course home. But despite its distance from campus in Blacksburg, the University took it over in the early 2000’s thanks to a wealthy donor who just happened to be friends with Pete Dye, leading to the redesign to its current state.
The course sits completely enclosed within a long bend of the New River, the famed watercourse known for cutting a winding path through the Appalachian Mountains from the Carolinas north to West Virginia. Quite a few holes take advantage of the (thankfully flood-controlled) river as a hazard immediately adjacent to the greens. The outward and inward nines are separated by a tall bluff on which the clubhouse sits – because of this bluff, despite the flatness of the rest of the terrain, it’s a pain to walk the course. Oddly enough, I felt the front nine had some better individual holes, but the back nine felt more cohesive overall since it is truly wedged into a narrow strip of land between the bluff and the river, whereas the front was spread out over a larger piece of flat flood plain.
Holes I enjoyed included: #3, a par five featuring the river down its entire right side; #5, an extremely long par three set against the natural bluffs behind the green; #7, another brilliant par three to a green falling off on all sides, the only hole on the course playing perpendicular to the river; #8, a tricky mid-length par four with an intimidating approach; #12, a great risk-reward par five along the river, with a very strategic fairway bunker placed 50-60 yards shy of the green; #14, another riverside par three at the farthest point from the clubhouse; and #18, an extremely narrow long par four threaded between the tenth hole and the river.
All in all, the River is a solid university golf course in a particularly pretty spot, but not much more than that and certainly far from the best university course in the country. I’d recommend it if you happen to be in the area, but it’s probably not worth the trip from anywhere else by itself.
Date: July 07, 2020