Designed by Clyde Johnston, the River course was the first of two 18-hole layouts to appear at the River Landing Country Club in 1996, with six of the holes running beside a mile-long frontage of the Northeast Cape Fear River.
The architect returned in 1999 to create a third nine then he completed a fourth nine six years later, with these additional holes then forming the 18-hole Landing layout. Both courses in this private community now occupy an authentic boat landing area where tobacco riverboats once steamed up the river to dock in the early 1900s.
Lakes, streams and freshwater wetlands characterize the design style of the River course, with feature holes including the 191-yard 6th, calling for a scenic tee shot over a natural bend in the river, and the left doglegging 18th, which plays to a home green that sits behind a 10-foot-high crescent-shaped waterfall.
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.
Typically considered stronger than its younger sibling, the River Course’s tight landing areas and island fairways make it a ball-striker’s dream. Beautiful inclusions of the Northeast Cape Fear River throughout the routing remind the player that accuracy is critical and that driver can generally stay in your bag. Notable holes include:
• #3: The first of many holes with a forced carry to the fairway and green, the third invokes options. The ideal angle of attack to the putting surface is from the right, though this area is guarded by two large bunkers. Two more traps protect the green on the left, making that angle from the fairway even less desirable.
• #6: A stunning one shotter, the 6th is the first introduction to the property’s namesake. While not a long hole, sticking a wedge or short iron to this oblong green while avoiding both the river and a deep, central bunker make for a tricky, yet gorgeous par three.
• #14: Holes that turn a full 90 degrees are becoming more rare, yet the 14th at the River Course demonstrates how fun they can be. With a bunkering scheme that appears almost random, the challenge off the tee is intriguing both for an amateur aiming for the corner, and the low-handicapper trying to shape a shot from left-to-right. Knowing the pin placement may very well dictate an entirely different driving strategy on any given day.
• #16: If playing from the proper tee, the drive at the 16th will test even the best players’ nerves. Following the natural contour of the land, this fairway has a strong slope from right-to-left and towards a pond which bisects the hole. Of course, the ideal angle to this long kidney-shaped green is from that harder-to-find right portion of the fairway. Off the tee, then, the player must keep the ball as far to the right as possible – thereby challenging the mighty Northeast Cape Fear – while also finding the perfect distance between a soft drive and a long fairway metal. This hole makes one delightfully uncomfortable and tests the players’ creativity, thoughtfulness, and touch.
Although the River Course features superior views and topography, a number of holes are similar in strategy. It is surely a course best suited for very strong players. 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.