Twin Rivers GC a 'Bear' of a Course

By: Steve Habel

Editor's Note: This is the third in a series of golf courses of the Big 12 Conference. Habel has also profiled The Jimmie Austin OU Golf Club in Norman, Okla. and the University of Texas Golf Club in Austin.

In the heart of the Lone Star State on the outskirts of Waco, not far from the ranch home of former President George W. Bush, lies Twin Rivers Golf Club, a demanding test of golf designed by the team of PGA Tour pro Peter Jacobsen and PGA member Jim Hardy.

The Tough 14th at Twin Rivers

The 205-acre course along the banks of the Middle Bosque River is as the home track for Baylor University and its golf teams. Built for $7.5 million and originated as Bear Ridge Golf Club in November 2001, the course was foreclosed on in 2007 and re-emerged as Twin Rivers GC, a salute to the two waterways that define the landscape southwest of Waco's main drag.

"The new ownership and management (Brown Bark 1, a subsidiary of NC Ventures of Houston) decided to make a name change to reflect all the course changes," said Mike Hicks, Twin Rivers' director of golf. "The course's Tif-Eagle greens were replaced with Emerald dwarf Bermuda-grass and all our greenside bunkers were rebuilt."

New carts, colors, name and logo were all part of the change. The facility is still linked to the Baylor University Bears and sustains its Jacobsen/Hardy origins.

Twin Rivers plays to a par of 72 and stretches 7,478 yards from the "Big Jake" tees. After opening, it was the longest course in the state and remains a tough test because of its rolling topography, hole-squeezing trees (especially on the back nine) and the steady wind that whips across the property.

The well-kept track boasts a 76.1 rating and a 131 slope from the tips - which are rarely used. It's tough and long, but also rewarding although accuracy is at a premium as the tree lines are close to or impinge on fairways, while doglegging holes are prevalent. Bunkers are relatively sparse (just 44 in all) but strategically placed to be a problem for the wayward.

Hardy, who has been Jacobsen's design partner since 1995, said Twin Rivers was planned with much deliberation. "We knew the course would be the home to the Baylor University men and women's golf teams and it would likely host intercollegiate matches," he said.

The holes that run north-south were intentionally given added length so they could be played from the very back of the tee boxes if there were backing winds. But when there are facing winds those same tees could be moved up or one of other six tees put to use.

Hardy said such variety is crucial to a good layout. "We made sure we understood the weather patterns and took all those aspects into consideration by building a golf course that is flexible and adaptable."

Playing a round at Twin Rivers certainly requires a golfer to be adaptive. The first three holes are set in a wooded area, and - beginning on No. 4 - the course ventures into a wind-blown meadow. Then it's back into the trees for holes 8-10, returning to the meadow on Nos. 11-13, before weaving into the woods for the final stretch.

The changing landscape is enhanced by the two rivers that cross and border some holes, which allowed Jacobsen and Hardy to create options. "We were provided with a beautiful piece of land," Hardy said. "This will become one of the top courses in Texas and will be reminiscent of many of the scenic, rolling courses you see in Austin."

Hardy and Jacobsen - both former collegiate players - were sure to involve Baylor players and coaches in the design. "We really used their input about where the bunkers went and on green shapes and tee placements," Jacobsen said.

Be Ready on the First Tee

There's little time to ease into a round at Twin Rivers, so warm up well and be prepared right out of the gate. The opener is a 437-yard par-4 that rolls downhill and doglegs right. Any shot not well-placed in the fairway can end up in the trees left of the landing area. The approach is uphill, but often off a downhill lie, which can lead to an early disaster.

The demand for length arises soon after on the third, a 460-yard par-4. The hole sweeps rightward through native hardwoods; a large jagged bunker crosses the fairway short of the green. A grass hollow guards the left side of the putting surface, which is deep and wavy.

The fourth tips out at 587 yards, making the par-5 the second-longest hole on the course. Length is less a factor than placement off the tee on this right-bender as the elevated tee drops to the fairway 50 feet below. The second shot must find a landing area pinched between an expansive lake right and two bunkers left. The fourth green is protected by several bunkers left and short, while water surrounds it along the right.

Take plenty of club when approaching the 457-yard par-4 seventh and stay away from its right side, where a creek lines the entire length of the hole and cuts into the fairway near the green. The hole is played into the prevailing wind and runs a bit uphill.

The 577-yard par-5 eighth is the best hole on Twin Rivers' out nine, moving left and uphill off the tee to a green nestled amid live oak trees. There are no greenside bunkers, so go for it in two, a tack aided by the prevailing, backing wind.

"Most better or low-handicap players score better on the back nine, while the higher-handicap players score better on the front," Hicks said.

The 610-yard 10th is the longest offering at Twin Rivers. The drive is blind; aim a bit left to avoid the high grasses and lateral hazard that runs the entire length along the right. The approach must carry a creek in front of the green, and a hill to the left creates dramatic contouring on the putting surface.

The 15th Hole at Twin Rivers GC

Final Stretch Serves as Twin Rivers' Gauntlet

Club officials and Jacobsen and Hardy believe that the last five holes are Twin Rivers' "Signature Stretch." The 14th might be the most spectacular of the bunch. The 216-yard par-3 drops nearly 85 feet from tee to green and a large oak sits directly in the flight of tee shots and can obstruct the view of the pin.

No. 15 is a 419-yard par-4 with one of the most intimidating tee shots in Waco. Tree-lined on both sides and with the Bosque River running its entire length, this gem also has a creek along the right that crosses the fairway in front of the green.

The 515-yard par-5 16th features a tee shot off an elevated tee, which offers nice views of the surrounding countryside. Despite it being the shortest par-5 on the course, it merits a No. 1 handicap rating. The 16th is reachable in two with two very crisp shots, but be good as your second must clear the creek that crosses 100 yards before the green.

The 430-yard par-4 finisher rises uphill and is affected by a predominantly left-to-right breeze. Your drive must clear three fairway bunkers along the right and miss the creek. A long- to mid-range iron over a creek bed might find a green guarded on the right by bunkers.

"Some of the golfers will like the holes at the start of the round that are in the dense woods, while others will like the holes around the meadow," Hardy commented. "But those last five holes in the forest are stunning. We think the others are pretty good, too"

When playing golf in Waco it's often quite evident you're in Waco. But because of its elevation changes, Twin Rivers gives the impression you're in another place as the course contains such a fine variety of holes. Strategy and course management are necessary, and the greens - considered the best in town - are frequently slick and deceiving.

Baylor officials say the course and the separate Bill and Roberta Bailey Baylor Golf Center, a 5,500-square-foot indoor-outdoor team-practice facility, have helped put Baylor on the NCAA map. The Baylor men's team immediately reaped the rewards with the new facility, winning the 2001 Big 12 championship.

This season, the Bears' men's golf team beat Georgia in a playoff to earn the fifth and final NCAA Championship spot out of the South-Central Regional held at The Traditions Golf Club in College Station, Texas. It's Baylor's first trip to the finals since 2002.

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Steve Habel is one of Cybergolf's national correspondents, contributing news stories, features, equipment and book reviews and personality profiles from his base in Central Texas. He is also the managing editor for Texas CEO Magazine and works as a contributing editor for Horns Illustrated magazine, a publication focusing on University of Texas sports. He also writes a blog (, which features news on golf and the Longhorns, and another ( on his many travels, which took him across the nation and to 105 different golf course in 2009. Habel is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America and the Texas Golf Writers Association.