Views of Kingsmill's River Course -- The Best of both Dye worlds

Text by Jeffrey A. Rendall; photos by Jeffrey A. Rendall and Mike Tanner

WILLIAMSBURG, VA – Pete Dye is known for designing some of the most diabolically difficult golf courses in America (as well as the rest of the world), but he also seems to have ‘mellowed’ with age.

Dye’s past and recent work on the River Course at Kingsmill Resort exposes both of his styles in the same golf course – a track that was originally tough enough to challenge the best golfers on the PGA Tour, and then was remade (in 2004) to welcome players of all sorts. Make no mistake, the River Course is still plenty challenging for better players (it’s hosted the LPGA Tour since 2002), but average players won’t find it nearly as frustrating as the old days.

Wayne Nooe, Kingsmill’s Vice President of Golf and Club Operations, says the River Course now represents ‘both’ sides of Dye: “I think the course is much more playable now for the average golfer than the original design (which opened in 1975) was. There aren’t as many forced carries, and it provides an opportunity to play around the trouble at the greens so that a simple putt, chip, or pitch is available as an option for the higher handicap player.”

Nooe continues, “The design of the bunkers still provides a severe penalty to the better player who’s playing over the hazard and may miss-hit a shot, however.”

Having seen both the ‘before’ and ‘after’ versions of the Dye classic, I’d agree with Nooe’s assessment of the River’s newfound dual-appeal. A perfect example is the tee shot landing area on the par four eighth hole – it used to be a harrowing shot for all levels of players, but now offers a rather wide area to land tee shots, especially from the forward sets of tees.

The more user-friendly aspects of the River Course are certainly welcome changes – but some things about Kingsmill have thankfully stayed the same. Despite the fact that Anheuser-Busch (Kingsmill’s former owner and operator) was sold to a Belgian brewer (InBev), Nooe said the resort’s operations have remained exactly the same. In other words, if you liked Kingsmill before, you need not worry now.

As far as the future of the River Course and its hosting of professional events, it’s currently in limbo – a decision hasn’t been made whether to host the LPGA again (the Michelob Ultra Open) in 2010 (See note below). Whether or not the pros tee it up next year on the River Course, the layout’s history will remain legendary in these parts, and it will continue to be a favorite for years to come.

Here are some of the sites we saw on the River Course this year:

Note:  Shortly after publication of this story, it was announced that the LPGA will not be playing the Michelob Ultra Open at Kingsmill in 2010.  Here's a link to the story.

Like most of the holes on the River Course, the par four 10th is very wide - but you'll still need to pick your spots on the tee and approach shots.

The 198-yard, par three 2nd hole is a good example of the River Course's dual-playability - average players will appreciate the wide playing area, and better players will need to be precise to try and beat the hole.

The River Course winds in and through a residential community, but it's still got a very tranquil, 'natural' feel to it. Here, the par three 13th hole.

At 518-yards, the par five 3rd hole looks benign on the scorecard - but if you don't play your shots right, you could very well end up in a tricky situation.

The 503-yard, par five 15th hole is rated the toughest hole on the back nine, and demands precision over length from tee to green.

The par four 4th hole looks narrow from the tee, but if you're playing the correct set of tee boxes, the landing area is actually pretty wide.

The par four 16th hole points you straight towards the James River - the beginning of a very grand finish, indeed.

A difficult up-and-down awaits if you miss the green of the par three 5th hole.

The par three 17th hole's picturesque setting makes it a TV favorite every year.

Looking from behind the flag on the par four 8th hole - a hole that was softened considerably after the 2004 renovation.

Coming home on the par four 18th hole, you'll walk in the footsteps of the many champions who've challenged the River Course over the years.


Kingsmill Resort’s River Course
Williamsburg, VA

(757) 253-3906

Course Designer: Pete Dye
Vice President of Golf & Club Operations: Wayne Nooe


Gold    6831    137/73.1
Blue     6326    129/70.9
White 5640    126/67.4
Red     4814    122/68.4 (L)


Check the Kingsmill Website for current rates and package information, including stay & play packages.

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