The private, gated community of River Hills has a history that dates back to 1988 when the first homes were built. Now, more than 1160 families call this deed-restricted, multi-village community home and several PGA, LPGA, Champions Tour players have been Members at River Hills over the years.
The River Hills community surrounds the country club and golf course. The golf course originally opened as a daily fee golf facility with private club-worthy amenities. It was designed by Joe Lee who Jack Nicklaus once said, “Has never built a bad golf course.” In 2000 – after the development had sold out, the developer sold the club to a growing golf course management company. River Hills Country Club has been bought and sold several times since, but in 2019, the River Hills Homeowners Association stepped in and purchased it, with plans to return the club to its former glory and enhance home values.
General Manager Bob Swezey has been instrumental in the resurgence of River Hills. Swezey was at River Hills in the early years, when the course – and development – were owned by Arvida, one of the biggest players in the golf community industry of the ’80s and ’90s. After those initial years, he left to pursue other interests within the golf industry but was brought back by the new owners to revitalize and stabilize the club after years of neglect and deferred maintenance.
Since rejoining the management team, Swezey has overseen more than $2 million in improvements and a multitude of projects including a total refurbishing of the clubhouse in 2019, a new playground, a complete resurfacing of the eight tennis courts, a major revitalization of the golf course, improvements in the swimming pools, and the reopening of more than four miles of nature trails along the Alafia River. In addition, members’ satisfaction and support of the food and beverage operations have exceeded expectations; sit down for a meal and you’ll see what I mean!
The golf course was designed to be enjoyed by all golfers regardless of skill level. Joe Lee’s designs are known for their bold and daring style with doglegs and elevated greens, and for superb use of bunkering, ponds, and wetlands. An experienced golfer will find the course full of challenges while lesser skilled players will find it forgiving enough to be enjoyable.
Manicured Bermuda fairways lead to Champion Dwarf Bermuda greens, the same grass used on the greens of 12 PGA Tour venues including Pinehurst No. 2. All the greens are well-protected, and the bunkers seemed to have been strategically placed, both on the fairways and around the greens. Water comes into play on 16 holes and the lush tropical beauty and natural scenery of the River Hills community make for a fun and memorable round of golf.
From the longest tees, River Hills plays 6,930 yards with a course rating of 73.9 and a slope of 140. Seniors will find the Yellow/Red combination (5,535/67/126) a good test of golf, while the Ladies typically play the Red Tees (5,185/71/128). As always, pick the set that matches up best with your abilities and you’re bound to enjoy your round.
For me, the 5th and 6th holes were quite memorable. At 405 yards from the White Tees (6,655/72.4/136), the par 4 5th hole is deemed the layout’s most challenging. Large trees line the right side off the tee and can save you from going out of bounds. There’s a fairway bunker on the right side in the landing area off the tee. Good mounding and roll in the fairway can lead to some interesting lies and the tree on the left that sits about 100 yards short of the green can easily come into play on drives hit down the left side. There are front and back bunkers on the right side and mounding around the green which can make for some interesting pitch shots. The green slopes back to front and has good undulation. It will take two well-played shots to reach this green.
Number 6 is a 525-yard par 5 with a slight dogleg to the right. Trees narrow the fairway on either side and the fairway bunker on the right tends to keep you honest off the tee. Your best play is to hit your tee shot down the left side, which will leave a choice to play your layup shot over the creek that crosses the fairway about 100 yards from the green, or layup. The green is well protected with a pond on the right side and bunkers on either side. Par is a good score here!
The practice facilities at River Hills are second to none with a full-length driving range that lets you hit every club in the bag, a short game area complete with bunkers, and a large putting green to groove that putting stroke before setting out on the course. If you need some help with any facet of your game, the talented and professional golf staff offers instruction and clinics for golfers of all levels.
The Golf Shop at River Hills Country Club is fully stocked with everything you need for your game including logoed apparel. As a member, you’ll enjoy the best pricing available on all in-stock golf merchandise including a wide variety of apparel, shoes, balls, and golf accessories by the best brands in golf including Titleist, FootJoy, Nike, Puma, Bad Birdie, Kate Lord, and more. Although they have an extensive inventory on-hand, they are happy to special order items for Members.
River Hills Country Club’s Members enjoy casual and upscale dining options along with a full social calendar throughout the year filled with events and activities for all ages. River Hills offers several dining options and regardless of where you eat, their expert culinary team puts new menus out regularly.
The Sawgrass Grill offers spectacular course views and is a great place to socialize, entertain, or simply relax. The Grill offers a full menu and bar for lunch and dinner, with daily happy hour specials.
The Oaks Dining Room features an elegant main dining room that can accommodate up to 200 guests, making it the perfect venue for weddings and special events. It also plays host to several major Member events, including the annual Holiday Party, Easter Brunch, Mother’s Day Brunch, Veterans Day Brunch, and Breakfast with Santa.
The Deck is River Hill’s enclosed porch which overlooks the golf course and is a great venue for cocktail receptions.
Because it’s a mandatory membership community every resident of River Hills now has privileges at the Club. That’s because if you live behind the guarded gates you will need to be at the very least, a Social Member. Unlike many mandatory membership communities, River Hills offers memberships to non-residents as well. Golf, Tennis, Social, and Corporate are available and non-resident members are responsible for a small, monthly F&B minimum.
As a member of River Hills Country Club, you’ll enjoy all the amenities they have to offer including superb golf practice facilities, tournament-level LED lighted Har-Tru clay tennis courts, a 24-hour fitness center, junior Olympic-sized swimming pool, and a beautiful clubhouse with the area’s best casual, upscale and outdoor dining by our award-winning Chef. You can also participate in a full social calendar of events.
River Hills is all about getting its members “involved.” Some of the Club’s programs include a swim team, tennis leagues, a year-round tournament schedule, a fully involved golf practice complex, ladies’ nights, men’s league, junior camps and clinics, weekly Gals Golf, Men’s Weekly Rumble, Ladies Nights, Kids’ Craft days, and a host of holiday and community events. All of these add to the vision of being a delightful and involved community.
According to Swezey, “River Hills Country Club wants to be known as a club that is inviting and attractive to all members and their guests by being more distinctive and dynamic.” The changes and upgrades they have made over the past couple of years back up his statement. Swezey further noted that “we have well over 100 Members that volunteer” to help plan and execute spectacular functions that have become legendary in the market.
River Hills is conveniently located in Valrico, FL, about 25 minutes from downtown Tampa and 15 minutes from Brandon. Come see for yourself everything River Hills Country Club has to offer. You can visit them online at www.riverhillscountryclub.com or plan on visiting them. They can be reached at (813) 653-1554.