For almost three decades, RiverPines Golf has enjoyed the reputation as one of the best and most popular daily fee facilities in the metro Atlanta area.
Located in the midst of some of the state’s top private courses in the suburbs of north Fulton County, RiverPines enjoys an ideal setting. But unlike in real estate, there is more to RiverPines’ success than its location.
In addition to one of the friendliest, best-conditioned layouts among the Atlanta area’s daily fee courses, RiverPines also has a 9-hole, par-3 course, a highly regarded practice facility and one of the better grills you’ll encounter at a public golf course.
All that adds up to a club that is consistently among the busiest in the metro area, which has been the case since the course opened for play in 1990 in an area where private clubs abounded but public courses were non-existent.
Bordered by the Chattahoochee River and adjacent to the posh Country Club of the South, RiverPines started with a prime location, which was enhanced by its non-development status. There are no houses on the family-owned land, and a round of golf at RiverPines is one of the most pastoral experiences to be enjoyed in the Atlanta area, with the compact nature making it readily accessible to those who prefer to tote their bag rather than riding in a golf cart.
Because of the moderately hilly nature of the terrain, walking RiverPines is not necessarily a picnic, but there are no roads to cross and no huge distances between greens and the next tee.
From a numbers standpoint, RiverPines is one of the friendliest daily fee courses in the Atlanta area, measuring just over 6,600 yards from the championship tees, 6,285 from the blues and 5,785 from the whites. Both the silver (just under 5,200) and red (just under 4,300) tees are very accommodating to seniors, juniors, beginners and women.
RiverPines plays to a par of 70 with just two par 5s, neither of which have serious length. With a tame and relatively short group of par 3s, most of the course’s challenge can be found on an excellent and challenging collection of par 4s.
Apart from the short 9th, the par 4s at RiverPines will provide a reasonably stout test. With an exception or two, they are not especially long as a group, but only a few can be considered short, and most have some fairly serious trouble along the way.
Denis Griffiths has designed a sizeable number of outstanding courses around the state, and RiverPines is an excellent example of his ability to create a layout that will appeal to novices and scratch players alike.
The absence of significant length can make RiverPines vulnerable to big hitters, but the presence of tight tree lines and the abundance of hazards place precision on an equal or higher footing than power. There are only a few holes where accuracy off the tee is not a necessity, but the modest yardages and hole designs limit the number of times when a driver is required for longer hitters.
Griffiths has provided a diverse mix of par 4s, with some very strong two-shot holes greeting you at the outset of your round. The downhill opening hole features a rolling fairway that will likely leave you with an uneven lie for a dangerous second shot over a wetlands area fronting the left side of the green.
The putting surface on the slight dogleg left 2nd is tucked between trees to either side, with the Chattahoochee River not that far behind the green and providing an appealing backdrop.
The long and narrow 4th is the No. 1 handicap hole for a reason, with trouble along both sides of the fairway and a large, angular green resulting in ample opportunities for a three-putt from long range, with a back left pin that is particularly difficult to shoot at.
The 6th is one of several par 4s where both sound thinking and execution are needed to avoid the water and stay out of the trees off the tee, with the short 7th demanding more of the former than the latter. One of two creeks that run through the course and into the Chattahoochee bisects the hole, and most choose to lay up short of it, leaving a ticklish second shot to another green where trees are very much in play if you favor the right side of the fairway.
Club selection is again crucial at the even-shorter dogleg left 9th, with any tee shot that finds the fairway – a task that looks easier than it is — providing a definite birdie opportunity.
The back nine begins with the tightest tee shot on the course, with the downhill, dogleg left 10th offering little room to miss off the fairway with a lay-up tee shot. A wetlands area short of the green has been reduced in size, but the shallow putting surface is still tough to hit from a likely un-level lie.
After the narrow, watery 11th, the par 4s open up a bit, with water also in play off the tee at 12 and 15, but only for those with a serious slice. Most of the hazards at RiverPines are off the fairway and avoidable with a reasonable degree of accuracy, but the tee shot on 13 is either struck solidly or will make a splash. Big hitters can cut off as much of the water as they dare, but those whose ball flight leaks to the right might want to aim a little farther left to be safe.
The rolling 18th is a strong finishing hole, with a wide green sporting a fair amount of slope, creating some perplexing putts and touchy short game shots if you’re off just a little on your approach. Big hitters can fly the top of the hill in the fairway, but trouble down the right side looms unseen from the tee box.
For the most part, the greens complexes at RiverPines are on the gentle side, with the putting surfaces neither especially fast nor undulating and the bunkering fairly sparse. The 18th is one of a handful of holes where you might encounter a chip or pitch from above or below the level of the green, but there are enough subtleties to the surfaces to keep you from holing too many putts beyond the tap-in range.
Two of the par 3s border on the Chattahoochee, but it is not in play on either hole, serving mostly as an appealing view similar to the second. Without substantial length or water in play, the par 3s don’t appear to offer much resistance, but birdies are rare and pars tougher to come by than you’d think.
RiverPines’ two par 5s have little in common other than their relationship to par on the scorecard. The 8th is straightaway and well-bunkered down the right side from tee to green, with the only seriously uphill shot on the course.
The dogleg right 17th is shorter and flatter, with water in play on every shot. It is a true risk-reward hole, with a pond in play down the right side off the tee, and Johns Creek cutting in front of the green. Trees are also a factor on both the tee shot and approach, and the layup area is pinched by water on one side and trees on the other, placing a definite priority on distance control for the lay-up.
With the Chattahoochee running parallel to the 17th off the tee, the hole offers a wonderful view from the tee box, but you may not appreciate the view as much if you hit an errant drive.
RiverPines is rated at 71.1/132 from the championship tees and 69.4/127 from the blues. The white tees are 67.2/119, with a combination white/blue set rated at 68.1/122 for those looking for a something in the 6,000-yard range.
There are some hefty gaps in yardages on several of the par 4s between either the blues and whites or whites and silver, and for those who are not especially long off the tee, it might be a good idea to check some of those numbers out before basing your decision on which tees to play based on the total yardage
Bogey golfers can take a shot at playing the course from the blues, but a few of the par 4s may be more than players who can’t break 90 comfortably can handle.
For area golfers looking to work on their game on the practice range or in need of some lessons, you can’t do much better than RiverPines. The expansive practice facility is almost always lined with golfers beating balls, and the instruction staff is headed up by Mike Perpich, a Golf Magazine Top 100 teacher and one of the most sought-after instructors around.
Veteran RiverPines head professional Phil Wagoner is also part of a staff that has a total of five instructors. RiverPines offers clinics during the Summer months, with the facility having a strong orientation toward juniors. The par 3 course does brisk business with juniors, and is a terrific place for novice golfers to get introduced to the game.
RiverPines’ tournament schedule includes several junior events, as well as tournaments for its pass holders and regulars. The club’s biggest tournament is the annual Toby Wade Chapin Memorial Pro-am, a benefit for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta played in honor of the club’s first head professional.
Chapin helped get RiverPines started along with owner and general manager Roger Miers, but died of cancer several years after it opened. Donations from the tournament have helped create a Toby Chapin family room at Children’s Healthcare. This year’s event is scheduled for June 10 and 11, with a par-3 tournament the first day and the pro-am the next day.
For information on RiverPines, call 770-442-5960 or visit www.riverpinesgolf.com.