Twin Rivers GC Hole by Hole
Up until recently the only golf course I had played on the island of Newfoundland was the great course at Humber Valley which is currently ranked #28 in Canada on the SCORE Golf Top 100 Courses in Canada list. That course was designed by Doug Carrick one of the best of the modern Canadian golf architects and a couple of weeks ago I got to play another Newfoundland course that Mr.Carrick had a hand in – the Twin Rivers GC at Terra Nova Golf Resort just outside the national park of the same name. In my opinion this is a true hidden gem that deserves to be included among the best courses in Canada. Here’s a hole by hole description to back up my claim.
Twin Rivers GC began as a Robbie Robinson nine holer in 1984 and was expanded to 18 in 1991 with nine new holes designed by Doug Carrick. I’m not sure if the layout is the same as it was when it first expanded because both nines are outstanding and to me there was no noticeable change in approach from the front to the back. What both architects did was take full advantage of the rugged Newfoundland landscape that has been shaped by glaciers and the Northwest and Southwest Rivers that come into play on a surprising number of holes.
You’ll probably want to take a cart here because it’s about a kilometre from the clubhouse to the first tee and likewise a kilometre from the 18th green back to the clubhouse. There’s also some decent elevation change as well. On the way to the first tee you have your first of many river crossings.
Twin Rivers GC #1 – 396 Yard Par 4
Twin Rivers GC is not long from the tips, only 6546 yards and the better players will want to play from those tees. For me, it’s Play It Forward and I’ll be hitting from the whites at 6,066 yards. The shortest tees are 5,423 yards.
In many cases the first hole can make or break a golf experience. The first thing I look for is the overall conditioning; am I going to be playing in goat track or does it look like it actually has a real groundskeeper? Twin Rivers GC passed this first test with ease. Frankly given the vicissitudes of the Newfoundland weather, I was very pleasantly surprised at how well maintained this course is.
The second thing I look for is how does the hole fit the eye and blend in with the natural landscape. #1 does this perfectly with the hole following a natural fall line around to the right with great views of Clode Sound, an arm of Bonavista Bay. Obviously avoiding the bunkers is the main object off the tee and by aiming at the far bunker on the left that was no problem.
The drop in the fairway means you’ll get a lot of roll and the 396 yardage doesn’t play nearly that long. This is about where the approach shot will be taken to a small green with a trap and sharp drop off to the left. Staying right is the sensible play, but all in all this is a great starting hole.
I played early in the morning and there was a bit of a mist so the greens were not fast, but like the fairways in very good condition.
#2 – 468 Yard Par 5
The scorecard says this is the easiest of the holes on the front nine and I have to agree. The fairway is very generous and again the biggest obstacle is the traps, especially for the approach shot. However, playing it safe and not trying to reach in two should yield a par or better.
Twin Rivers GC #3 – 177 Yard Par 3
This is the first of five par threes at Twin Rivers GC. For me these holes were the strength of the course and #3 was probably the most average when compared to the others. That said, it’s definitely an above average hole. The slightly elevated green guarded by traps on all but the very front right demand a club that can get it there, but not roll through. If it was 20 yards shorter that wouldn’t be a problem, but at 177 yards most of us seniors will need something well below the five iron we once might have used.
I did end up in a front trap here and that leads to my one complaint about Twin Rivers GC, the sand is closer to loose gravel and a bitch to play out of. I guess now that I know that the plan is to stay the hell out of them. As if.
#4 – 416 Yard Par Four
I love the way the grass has been cut here to accent the contours of the fairway. This second par four is similar to the first in that the elevation drop takes away some of the challenge presented by the length. Still this is a tough hole. While I’m not a fan of blind tee shots, the fairway is wide enough, with no traps to let the driver rip.
A good drive will leave this for the second shot that you don’t want to be long as there’s quite a drop off from the back of the green. That makes the two traps in front all the more beckoning. Today’s pin is a bit of a sucker placement, but I’ve always been a sucker. So after vowing to avoid the traps after the last hole, I’ve already forgotten that promise and am back in one. Double bogey coming up!
Twin Rivers GC #5 – 368 Yard Par Four
While the first two par fours were downhill doglegs, this, the #1 rated hole on the front, has a much more severe right turn with a fairway that feeds everything into the rough. You can see three of the four players in front of me looking for their balls down there. Even if the find them they can only chip out sideways. Having observed this dilemma from the tee box I was sensible enough to stay as far left as I dared.
That worked, but the reward was that I was still a mile from the elevated green on a fairway that was about to get considerably narrower. In addition to the length the huge trap was there to prevent bailouts to the left and the woods awaited anything even marginally to the right. This was one of the most daunting second shots on a par four I’ve faced in some time. Solution? Don’t go for the green. I chipped up a 100 yards or so short of the trap and then on for a two-putt bogey. Probably at least two shots better than if I’d gone in the woods and one at least if I got in the trap.
This is a very well designed and very challenging par four.
#6 – 373 Yard Par Four
After two difficult par fours, #6 is a bit of a respite at Twin Rivers GC. No real trouble anywhere. The second shot is considerably easier on what I would call the only somewhat routine par four on the front nine.
Twin Rivers GC #7 – 372 Yard Par Four
#7 is another dogleg right, but there is far more room out to the left than on #5. The biggest issue here is getting enough length off the tee to be able to get a clear path to the green for the approach shot.
#8 – 141 Yard Par Three
You now begin a stretch of six holes of which five are simply outstanding and definitely the core of the Twin Rivers GC experience. Well traveled golfers are used to seeing water hazards of all shapes, sizes and types. The ocean holes at courses like Cabot Cliffs or Kingsbarns, the marsh holes at Low Country courses such as Pawley’s Plantation or the dreaded burns that meander through Carnoustie and other links courses. I’ve played courses where the natural course of a river was a prominent feature such as on Pete Dye’s two courses at Blackwolf Run in Wisconsin, but I’ve never seen a hole like #8. The raging river is about as far as one can get from the artificial creations of many modern designers. When Robinson stood on this side of the river he had to know there had to be a green on the other side. This is not a hard carry or a tough hole, but one you’ll long remember.
Once you get to the rather small green appreciate the wildness of this hole by looking back at the river. It’s also a good place to comment on the fact that the greens at Twin River GC are very fair with few major undulations and no tricked up pin placements. Once you reach the greens there really shouldn’t be many three putts.
Twin Rivers GC #9 – 442 Yard Par Five
To me the final hole on the front nine was the easiest. It is a very short par five from the whites and if you have the guts to cut the right hand corner probably reachable in two. The only hole in this five hole stretch that is not that memorable unless of course you eagle it. Definitely the best birdie chance on the front nine.
The course does not return to the clubhouse after nine as most modern courses do. In fact as noted, it doesn’t start or end anywhere near the clubhouse. Instead there is a great little canteen where the staff were cooking up one of the best breakfast sandwiches I’ve had in some time washed down with a steaming cup of black coffee. Did I mention it was a bit nippy?
#10 – 304 Yard Par Four
The Doug Carrick nine starts off with this little poser of a par four. Obviously a driver or even a wood is way too much club, but just how much can you get away with before reaching the water? The closer you are the flatter the lie. Also the fairway seems a lot narrower than the photo would lead you to believe. I chose a five iron that didn’t reach the flats leaving a really tricky lie for the approach shot. Too tricky as it turned out as I chunked it into the water and took a double. Looks like an easy par, but only if you manage the proper tee shot.
Twin Rivers GC #11 – 214 Yard Par Three
After an apparently easy par four you get this seemingly too long par three. The river has cut a small canyon between the tee box and the fairway which gives the hole a daunting look. But there’s a pleasant upside to this hole. Once you clear the ridge, keeping you ball well to the right it will feed right down to the green for a surprisingly easy par.
This is the view from the bridge that you cross to get to the other side of the river. Another gorgeous par three marred only slightly by the highway bridge behind it.
#12 – 144 Yard Par Three
The green you were just looking at as you crossed the bridge on No. 11 is now you target as this amazing set of holes at Twin Rivers GC continues. The postage stamp green is more elevated than it appears calling for one more club than you would expect. I learned this because I hit what I thought was the perfect shot for the yardage, but landed just short of the green and rolled back into the rough, resulting in a bogie.
Here is another view of this hole looking directly at the river. Stunning.
Twin Rivers #13 – 321 Yard Par Four
Doug Carricks second par four is also a very short one, but no pushover by any means. The river cuts in between the fairway and the green meaning the second shot will need to carry some portion of it. The fairway also slants left to right which will push balls towards the water and leave a downhill lie similar to the one I goofed up on #10. The saving grace for me on this hole is that my ball flight is right to left which left me with a much easier approach than anything hit down the right side. The photo does not do justice to the beauty of this hole.
#14 – 410 Yard Par Four
This hole is a mystery to me. For some reason it’s rated the easiest at Twin Rivers GC, but at my age reaching a 410 yard hole in two is doubtful. While the trouble is easily avoided because of the generous fairway, the length makes it problematic.
Twin Rivers GC #15 – 492 Par Five
The first par five on the back nine is rated the #6 stroke hole, but I found it much easier in terms of ability to get par than #14. All you need to do here is not get carried away, keep the ball on the fairway and you should have an easy pitch for the approach and a relatively easy two putt for par. At least that’s the theory. For once it actually worked in practice as well. I’m never upset with a par five that rewards you for just playing your game and not requiring excessive length off the tee.
#16 – 504 Yard Par Five
The final par five at Twin Rivers GC is a bit of a brute. The three fairway bunkers will force most players to stay well left of them leaving a long way to the green. Even with what for me were two good shots I still had this left for the third to a green that is much more elevated than the photo makes it look. A tough par five, but a fair one in my opinion.
Twin Rivers GC #17 – 389 Yard Par Four
For some reason I forgot to take a photo of this last par four from the tee box. It is not an easy slight dogleg left that will require a well struck second shot to hold the green and avoid the well placed bunkers on both sides. This is what I was facing.
The resort was kind enough to provide this aerial view which really highlights that there is not much room for error on the second shot.
#18 – 135 Yard Par Three
Twin Rivers GC ends with a bang and not a whimper with this beautiful par three that rivals #8 as the signature hole. This photo is from the blue tees at 175 yards and I couldn’t resist hitting from there. The photo does not do justice to just have much elevation change there is on this hole. The fact the traps are at the back of the green indicates to me that Mr. Carrick anticipated many golfers over clubbing on this hole.
Here is the view from the white tees which still pretty amazing.
This was one of those rare rounds that I never wanted to end. There are so many good holes at Twin Rivers GC that anyone would want to play it again and again. Here’s the real kicker – for a course of this quality the green fees are exceptionally low. Less than a third of some other courses I could name in Atlantic Canada that do not compare to Twin Rivers GC. This is a course that is worth seeking out, even if it is a little off the beaten path.