FISHERS, IN - River Glen Country Club is unbelievably close to the hubbub that has come to characterize Indianapolis. Just a few miles north of the Castleton area (465 & Allisonville Road), River Glen is a full-fledged country club with tennis facilities and extensive amenities.
And it's an excellent golf value, with weekend rates at $44 with cart for non-members, and a fabulous package on Mondays thru Wednesdays before 10 a.m. - $30 for 18 with cart, $100 total for a foursome. I can just imagine the business meetings conducted on this 6,672 yard course.
Course pro Eric Flowers and his staff were exceptionally friendly and helpful. And the new course superintendent, Jimmy Trixler, has the course in great shape. A couple of the bentgrass greens seemed a bit rough, but may have been recently aerated. River Glen is a Gary Kern design, completed in 1990, and offers a number of very memorable holes.
The only aesthetic problem is a certain discontinuity between sections of the course. It's almost as if the course can't make up it's mind as to what kind of course it wants to be. You start off with several wide fairways flanked with mounds and two-foot rough.
Linksy? Not exactly, as there are also some parallel fairways in the first 9 and some thick woods. Park land? Well, kind of, until you finish the 14th and steer your cart over a quarter mile through an upscale neighborhood (more on that later). The last five fairways are then lined with houses. Subdivision course? Hmm...
Perhaps it is this variety of atmospheres that makes it hard to agree on the signature hole. Perhaps it is simply the very well-designed individual holes that, while lacking continuity as a group, present you with intimidating tee shots, rabid doglegs, water on at least 11 holes, and undulating greens individually.
I asked a few people what the signature hole is, and I was told #8, #9, or #14. And for pure scenery, #4 could be the one as well, with water in front of the green and a covered bridge behind.
With so many fine holes, it's impossible to mention them all. But there are a few exceptional highlights. Common to all the holes is the rough. The fairways are rye grass and Kentucky bluegrass.
The first cut is a couple of inches, and these two stiff strains of turf make hitting out of even the short rough like hacking through a steel wire brush. Clubfaces will open, club faces will close, and clubs will simply stop when tangled in this stuff. And just when you've accepted that you'll never make clean contact and take one or two clubs extra to simply advance the ball, you'll catch it flush and send your ball sailing over one of the severely banked greens.
I'm not even going to mention the ever-present two-foot rye grass rough, other than to say that if your ball goes in, don't waste much time looking for it (unless you bring a hunting dog with you and smear your ball with pheasant urine).
On to the individual holes, the 1st is a 519-yard par 5 that tests you before you're even stretched out. Off the tee, you see water left, water right, and absolutely no sign of the green, since it's a dogleg left. A big hitter can cut over the pond on the left (aim over the big rock), but others can land short of the water on the right. A big hitter with a slice will find that water right.
To make things worse, the wind is in your face 85% of the time off this tee. The bright spot is that if you aren't warmed up when you tee off, you will be by the time you putt out.
Numbers 2 and 3 are relatively easy, scoring holes. The greens are protected by grass bunkers, which are plentiful on this course. A few sand bunkers are thrown in too, to keep you honest. The 4th is the covered bridge hole, a relatively short par 4 that doglegs left over a stream to the green. Not too hard, but very pretty indeed. The 5th is another short par 4, requiring a tee shot over water and past the covered bridge. #6 is a 545-yard par 5, with woods left and water right (not shown on the scorecard).
The green of the par-3 7th was populated by geese and, consequently, littered with goose poop. Goose droppings, by the way, are considered a loose impediment (some appeared very loose), and can be brushed away with a gloved or ungloved hand, but not with your glove if it's off your hand, according to USGA rules.
One thing the rule book doesn't tell you is never, ever smell either your hand or glove after brushing away said goose poop.
Either #8 or #9 could be the signature hole. The 8th is a 434-yard par 4. It bends right, with a second shot over a stream running in front of the long, bunkered green.
The tall cotton and thick trees punish stray tee shots to the left, but there is a little more room on the right. #9 is a real bugger - the hardest hole on the course - yet another long par 4 (428 yards), and yet another dogleg right. Any push or slice off the tee will end up in a deep ditch or the creek that runs through it. A really wicked slice will enter the spacious driving range from the wrong end. If your tee shot ends up safe but short, you won't have much of a shot either, as towering trees stand between you and the green.
Decide to go left to miss the trees, and you'll find a pond, left, front of the green that can't be seen from the fairway. If you're as frustrated by the time you putt out as I was, you might consider heading up to the clubhouse, which stands behind the 9th green, to cool down.
The 10th is a long, dogleg left par 4 -aim the tee shot over the small evergreen shrubs on the left. Avoid going over the potato-chip green because the bottom 2/3 of the flag can't be seen from the back of the steeply banked green (trust me, I know). Skipping to #14, we find another potential signature hole. A 191-yard par 3, landing on the green means carrying across a large pond and a front bunker. There is also sand, back, right and water, back, left. At least the concave green is large and receptive.
At this point, the course gets a little weird. Between #14 and #15, you drive your cart (or God help you, walk) up a steep hill and then through a very nice upper-class neighborhood. You drive on sidewalks, you cross streets, you practically cruise through people's yards. It's like a parade of homes.
I found this to be especially cruel, since the course makes you feel inadequate about your golf game, and this jaunt through suburbia makes you feel inadequate about your own house. At #15, it's payback time, though. A bad slice will put your ball into the family room of one of the houses you had to drive past, and this will make the owners feel inadequate about their windows.
The 389-yard 16th is a great hole, with a blind tee shot, violently undulating fairway, a well-protected green, and houses absolutely everywhere. I assume that the people who live in these houses only let their children play outside during lightning storms, as being struck by lightning is much less likely than being struck by golf balls.
My brother-in-law expressed his extreme dislike for houses on golf courses at this hole. For those who feel the same, numbers 15 through 18 will not be pleasant.
Number 17 has the most beautiful tee shot on the course over a woodsy ravine. More woods are tight right, and a large tree and steep hills are left. You need a straight tee shot, and at only 322 yards (308 from the whites), I would recommend an iron. The green is nearly surrounded by a marshy creek, and, like all of the greens at River Glen, thick, rough. Missed greens will cost you.
Also guarding the 17th green is a bunker right and a huge bank falling off into the creek back and left. Supposedly, 17 is the easiest hole on the course, which is hard for me to believe.
>From 17 to 18, you traipse back through the neighborhood (the things you can see through open windows!). Again, blessed are the walkers, for they shall develop blisters.
At 18, you're presented with a sizable tree smack-dab in the middle of the fairway. The tee shot should be to the right of the tree, but not so right as to land OB in the yards that run from tee to green on both sides of the fairway. I didn't realize that the hole doglegged right, and boomed a big drive over the tree, thinking I was safe.
The course architect apparently anticipated driver-happy lugs like me and placed a fairway bunker directly behind the tree, just to ruin long drives and the prolonged posing they engender.
By the time you finish River Glen, you may feel like you've played several courses. This feeling may result from the variety of looks this course presents players with. Or, it may result from the fact that you're simply exhausted from forcing your club through the ever-present, steel-like rough.
Whatever the case may be, you'll have a lot to talk about with your playing partners and even more to look forward to the next time you play the course - because if you're like me, you'll definitely want to go back.
To further whet your appetite, check out the River Glen Country Club web site. You'll find lots of pictures and thumbnail descriptions of all the holes and the amenities offered. Have fun and take lots of balls when you play!
12010 Club House Drive
Fishers, IN 46038