What makes Raleigh’s River Ridge Golf Club one of the Triangle’s hidden gems?

River Ridge Golf Club’s 11th hole, a 315-yard par-4. Photo by Pat James.

When it comes to the best public golf offerings in the Triangle, most of the discussion revolves around those at the area’s most prominent universities.

The Duke University Golf Club, UNC Finley Golf Course and N.C. State’s Lonnie Poole Golf Course are regarded as some of the top courses in the state, each ranking within the top 65 of the North Carolina Golf Panel’s 2017 course rankings.

However, hidden gems such as the River Ridge Golf Club in Raleigh help make the Triangle one of the top golf destinations in the Carolinas.

Here are five takeaways from my recent round at River Ridge, which came in at No. 19 in Golf Advisor’s 2016 rankings of the top 25 courses in N.C., based off customer ratings and reviews.

Great green complexes

When the starter told me the greens had been recently aerated, I was prepared for the worst. However, a few bumps here and there didn’t detract from some of the best green complexes that I’ve played in the Triangle.

River Ridge’s MiniVerde Bermudagrass greens, which it converted to in 2014, run considerably fast, aided by some significant undulations. If you ever find yourself above the hole, best of luck.

Because of the undulations and bunkering, you’ll face some pretty difficult pin placements during your round. One of the most notable during mine came on the 12th hole, a 375-yard par-4 where the pin was tucked just behind a pot bunker that guarded the front side of the green.

The signature hole

At 375 yards from the tips, the par-4 fifth hole might not seem too daunting from the tee. However, it’s as you approach your ball for your second shot on this slight dogleg left that you realize what makes this River Ridge’s signature hole.

River Ridge Golf Club’s fifth hole, a 375-yard par-4. Photo by Pat James.

Reaching the green requires a shot over a large pond, which is mostly blocked from your sightline by the tall native grass that surrounds it. If you manage to clear the water, be wary of the bunker protecting the entire right side of the green, which sits high above the sand.

Quite the collection of par-3s

How many times have you been driving down one hole but simply can’t stop staring at another that awaits you later in your round? That was the case for me with the par-3 17th, which you pass on your way from the first green to the second tee box.

The 17th, which stretches 197 yards from the back tees, features wetlands that extend from the elevated tee to the green. A pond also guards the right side of the green, making this by far the course’s toughest par-3.

River Ridge Golf Club’s 17th hole, a 197-yard par-3. Photo by Pat James.

River Ridge’s four par-3s – which also include Nos. 2, 9 and 15 – form a challenging set that is also visually appealing.

Challenging but fair

The pin placements and undulating greens might add to River Ridge’s difficulty, but the course never feels like it’s too intimidating.

From the tips, the course measures 6,769 yards. It’s then just 6,206 from the blue, 5,756 from the white, 5,354 from the gold and 4,719 from the red. With the fairways also being quite generous, River Ridge is a great course for any level of golfer.

A solid deal

Booking through GolfNow, I paid $33 for a 2 p.m. tee time on a Monday. That price covered green fees, cart fees and a small bucket of range balls. A breakdown of River Ridge’s rates can be found here.

For such an experience at an affordable price, a round at River Ridge is hard to pass up.

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