The River course at River Landing Country Club has always gotten first attention among the two courses, both in name “River,” then “Landing”) and in existence. Clyde Johnston designed the full River 18 during 1996, and then returned a decade later to create a fourth nine, which would be combined with holes 19-27 to become the Landing course. In terms of playability, one cannot claim significant advantage over the other.
Although the Cape Fear River makes more appearances throughout the River course, there will be plenty of opportunities for players to get wet if they don’t control their shots at Landing. Twelve of the holes feature a reasonable opportunity for a splashdown, including all four par threes.
One hole that doesn’t have a reasonable comparison point at River is No. 14, a 415-yard par four that features a long bunker running along the right side of the fairway. Those who end up in the club may find their escape complicated but a series of turf islands dotted throughout the sand.
The club also features a pair of par three courses to match its championship layouts.
Maximizing its setting on the Northeast Cape Fear River, River Landing’s courses thrive and continue to be ranked among the state’s finest golf properties. On a recent trip to the Wallace community, it became very apparent why both routings are so well-regarded. Presented under immaculate conditions – with tight fairways, lush rough, and fast greens – the two layouts at River Landing offer distinct challenges that test all aspects of one’s game. It is the consummate playground for any golf enthusiast, and it is impossible to imagine ever growing tired of either 18-hole layout.
Although it is usually rated slightly higher than its older sibling, the Landing Course’s intricately contoured fairways and flashy, deceptive bunkering pique the players’ interest throughout the round. Notable holes include:
• #2: This short par four is potentially reachable, though laying up to the wide portion of the fairway is a more reasonable decision. Two bunkers which appear greenside are actually about 50 yards short. Finding either leaves a very awkward, daunting approach over more traps strategically hidden from the line of sight.
• #3: The ideal driving zone at the 3rd is exceptionally unique, with four distinct tiers of fairway from which to choose. Players must decide how much corner to bite off, risking tree trouble and awkward stances from errant shots.
• #7: The ideal angle into the 7th green is from the right, though this position is tough to achieve thanks to three very intimidating bunkers and a subtly right-to-left sloping fairway.
• #9: The four towering fairway bunkers at the 9th are menacing and demonstrate Clyde Johnston’s expertise at visual deception. Though it is not clear from the tee, there are two possible landing zones guarded by these hazards, and while the forward one is a far more manageable prospect, both require touch to avoid overpowering the drive.
• #10: With two large waste areas flanking the corridor, finding the fairway at the turn is imperative. This daunting green, which slopes sharply from back-to-front and left-to-right, offers absolutely no room to miss, especially long. Finding yourself in the sand can be deadly, as any thin miss will surely lead to a big number.
• #15: Featuring the most interesting putting surface on the course, the 15th presents challenges from tee to green. A bowl on the far right portion creates an awesome, yet terrifying array of potential pin placements requiring a left-to-right shot sliding towards the pond.
Although the Landing Course lacks the scenery of the River Course, the thoughtful bunker schemes and variety of corridor widths made it quite appealing. If asked to split 10 rounds between the two courses, my preference would be 7-3 Landing.
In addition to the two top tier golf courses, there are many other compelling aspects of the River Landing community. The first is a clear appreciation and stewardship of the environment. With so many natural waterways and game land, residents enjoy a variety of other outdoor activities. Both courses seem to work in harmony with the property, rather than feeling overly manmade. The second is the absolutely luxurious accommodations and generous staff. The clubhouse itself is magnificent and the food was delicious. Every employee made me feel welcome and appreciated. For these reasons and many more, it is no surprise why both courses at River Landing stand out as the crown jewels of Eastern North Carolina golf.