River Marsh Golf Club at the Hyatt in Cambridge, MD very much lives up to its name, as the nearby Choptank River feeds into acres of wetland, around which Keith Foster designed an 18-hole public-access facility during the early years of the new millennium. Players will travel across hundreds of feet of bridges and traverse hardwood forests between tees.
The closing hole must have been one of the most obvious decisions in Foster’s career, simply placing a par five along the banks of the Choptank and allowing golfers to soak in the views the whole way home. The only ones disappointed will be those who fail to find the left side of the fairway in their pursuit of a birdie, and end up wet instead.
The penultimate hole is almost as dramatic as the ultimate, featuring a 200-yard carry across a wide inlet named “Shoal Creek.” Even if you duff one into the hazard, you can at least fudge the details to tell your pals you played into Shoal Creek?
Many of the fairways are divided at the middle by more direct water hazards, with forced carries provided by the native terrain.
Designed by Keith Foster and closely connected with a large, family-oriented Hyatt hotel located on the Choptank River (which is very wide and looks like the Chesapeake Bay) near Cambridge, Maryland. This golf course is what one would expect at a resort.
The hotel/resort took the best land to build their hotel, leaving only three holes with a view of the river. There is a view from the second green. The seventeenth plays over an arm of the river. The eighteenth hole, which plays along the river and is somewhat similar to the eighteenth at Pebble Beach. It is a dogleg right although not quite as big of a bend. The eighteenth has a tree somewhat in the fairway (although not in the center but on the right) and a long stretch of sand roughly 100 yards on the left between the river and the fairway. There are two bunkers left of the green, but no fronting bunker. Perhaps Mr. Foster was “inspired” by the eighteenth at Pebble Beach to create the most memorable hole on the course.
I played the course on July 5, 2019 on a hot and humid day. Thankfully our tee time was at 9AM and nearly every group ahead was twosomes/threesomes which resulted in the round taking just over three hours.
There are is nothing truly memorable here other than the final two holes, but it is a pleasant enough course where several holes require good decision-making and offer adequate challenge.
Being close to the river, there is are wetlands near the holes that can result in a lot of lost balls. At times the course will remind one of playing in the Lowcountry or in Myrtle Beach due to the landscaping and it being a flat course. Several of the fairways are also tree-lined creating a sense of privacy but also the chance for out-of-bounds.
One feature of the course that I like it is a core golf course where you do not see housing. Holes one and two play alongside the hotel parking lot and a condominium complex. After that you do feel as though you are in nature with the exception of four holes along route 50 where you can hear, but not see, the traffic.
The fairways are generally wide and there is good, sculpted bunkering. Most of the green are also of good size for the length of the likely approach shot with some nice inner shaping. There is also decent mounding off many of the greens.
For longer players, the course is too short. However, one’s length can often get one more into trouble here than on similar length courses due to some of the placement of bunkers.
The Gold tees measure 6801 yards, par 71 rated 72/5/127. The Blue tees measure 6391 rated 70.5/125 while the White tees measure 5845 rated 69.5/122. There is also a shorter set of tees at 4748 yards.
We played the Blue tees and with the humidity, I should have switched to rain gloves by the eighth hole.
1 – par 4 372/352. The tee shot plays between trees bordering the parking lot on the left and thicker trees on the right. The fairway opens up a bit to offer more room on the right. There is a large bunker on the left side of the fairway that is in play with another bunker left of the green. The green has several humps and slopes and is long and thin. It is an okay starting hole.
2 – par 4 369/335. Probably the worst hole on the golf course due to the condominiums off to the left (my playing partner put his tee shot over the condos into its parking lot). There is a bunker fronting the beginning of the fairway and then two large bunkers on the left side. At the green there are three large bunkers right. A shot hit to the left will have the view of the green blocked by two trees. I played over the trees to six feet to a green that has a dip in the middle. Off to the left of the green is a view of the river. Immediately behind the green are trees blocking the best view of the river which I think should be removed to enhance the golf course but perhaps zoning laws will not allow it.
3 – par 5 493/476. There is out-of-bounds down the entire left side of the fairway. There is a narrow slice of a pond on the right followed by a long crescent shaped bunker. The fairway is then bisected by another finger of the same pond. The green is set off to the right where three bunkers await and has a slight false front. The green is big but not overly done. It is a birdie opportunity for better players.
4 – par 4 440/420. One hits over a pond that is not really in play and has to stay right to avoid three bunkers on the left. At the green there are two bunkers right. I like the change of bunker positions for this hole but felt the green to be a bit small for the length of the hole.
5 – par 5 538/520. A fairly long walk or ride takes one to the fifth which is straightforward with a fairway bunker left and wetlands to either side. For the second shot there is a pond about 60 yards long on the right side. Twenty yards short of the green are two bunkers on the right followed by flanking bunkers to either side. There is a large bailout area right of the green for longer hitters. The green is elevated, long but overly thin for the length of the hole.
6 – par 3 217/200. The green is angled left to right playing out of the trees. There are flanking bunkers at the front. This is a hole one will feel as if they have played before.
7 - par 4 360/335. This is a “cute” short par 4 with a “v”-shape set of five bunkers at the end of the fairway. This is followed by bunkers on either side of the green which has nice contouring to it. I like the hole.
8 – par 3 194/178. The green is angled left to right with a back right pin position where the green narrows. There is a single bunker on the left and a pond immediately behind the green. It is an okay hole. Seven and eight play alongside route 50.
9 – par 4 484/414. My favorite hole to this point has higher ground to the right where two bunkers sit. There is a break in the fairway about 35 yards short of the green with ground that could be wet if there has been rain, otherwise it is tall scrub/grass. There is a single bunker on the left to a green with some nice inner contouring and shaping at the edges of the green.
10 – par 4 435/410. The tees make one want to play towards the tree line on the right which is a likely lost ball. This hole has another break in the fairway, this time about 75 yards short of the green which we were unaware of. At the green there are two bunkers on the right. The green is angled left to right with nice mounding to the left side and behind. It is a good hole but one must come into it from the left side of the fairway.
11 – par 4 359/336. For me this is one of the least memorable holes on the course. After crossing over the entrance road, this has trees on all sides with two fairway bunkers on the left and a single large bunker greenside right. I suspect Mr. Foster was not given enough budget for this hole because we saw plenty of room to lengthen the hole and make it a dogleg right although it would have required more tree removal. Perhaps the land is being saved for housing which would ruin the golf course. I note that housing is being built elsewhere near the course.
12 – par 4 432/421. One of the more difficult holes due to out-of-bounds left and wetlands off to the right. This hole has flanking bunkers on the fairway and then two on either side of the green. At the green the bunkers are put front left and back right creating a nice visual, one that I wish Mr. Foster would have done more often. Holes eleven and twelve play alongside route 50. It is a nice hole.
13 – par 3 241/206. My second least favorite hole on the course. There was not much I liked about this hole; it is merely long.
14 – par 4 429/412. A dogleg left with a bunker on the outer corner, another bunker 20 yards short of the green on the left and then a bunker on the right side of the green. The green is angled left to right. This is one of the more visual pleasing holes on the course.
15 – par 3 154/141. Finally, we have a short par 3. This has water on the right which continues behind the green. One has to carry the water to a green surrounded by four bunkers. The green is angled left to right but essentially flat.
16 – par 5 519/503. There is a large collection of bunkers on the left only in play for the longer hitters. Farther up about 50 yards short of the green are two bunkers on the right. The more difficult part of the hole is the pond that begins about 70 yards short of the green on the left. There are two bunkers at the front of the green. The green is thin but wide. I thought the hole to be average although the green was decently contoured. They are building house off the right side of this fairway.
17 – par 3 203/185. Another par 3 that is all carry over an arm of the river. There is a bailout area right but it is the same length. A large bunker sits on the left and two bunkers are five yards off to the right. Between the green and the pond are wetlands so you must reach the green. The green is wide at the front but narrow right to left. The safe play to avoid a double bogey is to hit it long over the green as there is a chance of recovery albeit to a green sloped back to front.
18 – par 5 562/547. The best hole on the golf course is next and it is a visual delight as it plays along the river with sand basically running down nearly all of the left side between the fairway and river. There is a grouping of oak trees that pinch into the fairway on the right but unless one is right behind a tree trunk, it is easy to advance one’s ball. The bunker on the right about 50 yards short of the green is to be avoided. The green wraps around the two bunkers on the left. The green is fairly large. It is a good finish to a decent golf course.
The golf course is not as good as the Hyatt hotel which has some very good amenities and lovely views, but for the area it is one worth playing. I would not go out of my way to play it unless staying at the hotel, but if staying there I would definitely play it. There is a chance the visual of the course will be lessened substantially if they build more housing on the course. If they did, I would not play it.