The seventeenth, Pinched Nerve, is rightly regarded as the signature hole. It plays 223 yards from the black tees, a number that only begins to suggest the true measure of this picturesque and proudly penal par three. You stand on a slightly elevated tee, awed by the beauty of the setting and the difficulty of the task at hand. Depending on the direction of the wind, you may be required to hit a knockdown draw with a long iron, a high fade with a fairway wood or a driver busted with all your might. Although the putting surface is forty-four paces deep and seems a pretty fair target for a long iron or fairway wood, it allows little room for error. In addition to the lake on the far left, the hole's defenses include nine bunkers and a steeply sloping hill that looms like a fescued fortress on the right. Your chances of escaping the seventeenth with a bogey or better ultimately depend on whether you can muster the nerve and skill to pinch your tee shot between the fortress and the edge of the cliff.
6,991 yards, par 72 // Rating/Slope: 74.9/151
The desired pace of play is four hours forty-five minutes, but expect to be out at least five hours. The course includes some breathtaking (literally) high vistas--especially on the 419-yard par-four fifth--and the river comes into play on nine holes. On five others, strategically positioned ponds serve as hazards.
The ninth, a 337-yard par four called Cathedral Spires, exemplifies the best of the River course's natural beauty and the worst of Dye's penchant for tricking up holes. Nestled against a crook in the Sheboygan River, the ninth is a sharp dogleg right that features two inside corners. You have three main options off the tee, none of which is particularly fair.
Option one: Cut the closer corner of the dogleg with a driver. That requires a 260-yard carry over the river to a landing area about three cart-paths wide. Option two: Carry the "spires," a stand of fifty-foot-tall cottonwoods on the farther inside corner, with a high-cut three-wood shot of exactly 230 yards. Any shorter, you won't clear the trees; any longer, you'll wind up in a pot bunker. Option three: Lay up by threading a long-iron shot between the spires on the farther corner of the dogleg and another stand of trees at the edge of the left rough. Then feather a 140- to 150-yard approach shot to a green guarded by three bunkers and the river. By the way, the kidney-shaped ninth green is one of the smallest on the entire course, measuring only twenty-six paces deep.
The front-nine finish pales in comparison with that on the back nine. Deservedly dubbed Dyehard, the eighteenth at the River course is a 469-yard par four that doglegs left along a massive waste area that also guards the green. During the '98 U.S. Women's Open, the waste area was filled with water, but it's still a formidable hazard when drained to the muddy bottom. The best way to negotiate this treacherous hole is a drive left of center. Don't stray or you'll find yourself in the long grass, with little shot at par. The green slopes down and away toward the river, making it difficult to hold onto. Your best bet is to miss right and hope the mounding will push your ball back to the relative safety of the green.