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efying convention can

sometimes be a wise

choice. At The River Club in

Clarksville, Tennessee, architect Billy

Fuller, ASGCA recommended a move

away from the 18-hole norm in order

to help his client achieve the objective

of building a facility that could help

grow the game in the local area.

The 145-acre site for the

development is located between the

Route 374 Highway and the Red

River, which joins with the larger

Cumberland River in downtown


Fuller was initially brought in by

the club’s co-owner Greg Guinn

to draw up plans for an 18-hole

routing and small practice facility.

However, after consideration,

Guinn was convinced a larger, more

expansive practice facility would

help to grow the game of golf in the

North Tennessee area.

“I suggested we design nine holes

with a combination of double greens

and/or large greens to offer two

pin settings for each green,” Fuller

explains. “One for the front nine and

one for the back nine, along with

double tees for each hole.”

After getting the go-ahead from

Guinn, Fuller set about creating a

design for both the flexible nine-hole

course and a practice facility at the

northern end of the site.

Fuller says that the course’s design

is “all about Golden Era look and

feel,” with much emphasis on the

ground game in green approaches.

“American golfers have become

entrenched in the air game, yet the

game was born as a ground game in

Scotland,” says Fuller. “My hope is

players will enjoy the ground option

at The River Club.”

The architect paid special attention

to the topographical elements of the

site when drawing up his design, and

said that the drainage story at The

River Club is a unique one.

“The Red River rises several feet over

the property, and most of the course

is flood plain,” Fuller explains. “I

designed large, wide swales between

parallel holes in lieu of lakes. These

help to evacuate water off greens,

tees and fairways as quickly as

possible and help resume play after

large storm events. These swales are

mowed at rough height and serve as

secondary hazards.”

The swales are engineered with a

large pipe underneath to remove

water and restore good playing

conditions as rapidly as possible.

Since flooding is an issue at the

site, Fuller and Guinn agreed to

limit the number of sand bunkers to

just 14, and include grass hollows

and strategic angled mounding

placements in some instances. These

may hide a portion of a player’s

target on a misplaced tee shot.

The final design includes nine

‘flexible’ holes, including six with

double greens that allow for a

second hole location. The design

allows for as many as six tees per

hole, and players can play in three,

six and nine hole loops. If a full 18

holes are played, the course can play

from as short as 3,111 yards up to a

maximum of 7,150 yards. There are

six sets of tees to accommodate every

level player.

This nine hole configuration freed

up space for an extensive practice

facility, which covers around 25

acres, is lighted, and includes more

than 100,000 sq ft of tee space, two

short game chipping and bunker

complexes, and two putting greens.

The course opened for play in the

Fall of 2014, and the club is selling

annual membership at a competitive

monthly price to 200 players. These

players get priority tee times up until

1pm each day, after which all play is

The River Club


Sean Dudley






By Design

A new ‘flexible’ course and practice facility

designed by Billy Fuller, ASGCA is helping to

grow the game of golf in Clarksville, Tennessee