Bartram Trail Golf Club stays true to its namesake
GROVETOWN, Ga. - As you make your way around the Bartram Trail Golf Club for the first time, if you were hurried and didn't have a chance to glance at the scorecard, you'll start to notice something unusual.
"Hmmm, didn't we just play a par 3?"
"Wait a minute, didn't we just play a par 5?"
Your musings would be on-target. Architect Rick Robbins, who served apprenticeships with Bruce Devlin and Robert Von Hagge and, later, with the Jack Nicklaus Group, stepped out of line a bit from traditional routing.
Robbins designed five par 3s and five par 5s at Bartram Trail, a contrast from the usual four of each. It's a little disconcerting at first, all those short holes counterbalanced with the long ones, but it does provide a break from the routine.
Not that the layout needed any quirkiness to keep it interesting. It's a very picturesque course, just minutes away from Augusta, GA, which has a collection of good courses many people may not know about, overshadowed by the brilliant light shone by Augusta National.
Bartram Trail has a nice, rural feel, with none of the homes that tend to mar golf course landscapes these days. Located next to Patriot's Park in Grovetown, the course makes use of the rolling terrain with hardwood and pine forests. The fairways have excellent movement, dipping, rising and rolling through wetlands.
You would have expected nothing less from a course named after the famous naturalist, William Bartram, who catalogued native flora as he hiked around the Southeast in the late 1700s. They take their nature seriously here in the lower piedmont and upper sand hills.
"I like that course because it seems to be away from everything and they keep it in great shape," said James Palmer, a mid-handicapper who has played the course several times and considers it one of his favorites in the area. "And it can definitely be hard."
Especially from the back tees and, in some cases, the middle tees. The closing hole of the front and the start of the back are particularly dangerous.
No. 9 is a 511-yard par 5, a slight dogleg left, throws a partially blind tee shot at you to a fairway split in two by a ravine/wetland area with woods down the left side. Fairway bunkers are to the right, but the aggressive players will stay left anyway. No problem trying to reach in two here, it will actually help your third shot, if you can manage to keep your fade under control and stay left.
Then, No. 10 is a 404-yard par 4 with a blind, uphill tee shot. The fairway tilts right and drops off to woods. The green is shaped like an upside down "L" with a bunker middle left of the green. It's a three-tiered green with the high side being in the middle; easy for approach shots to get away from you.
Bartram Trail is the Augusta area's newest entry in the daily-fee offerings, and with green fees at $21-$30 - juniors and seniors can play for $15 - and the $14 cart fee, it's in line with the area's good, affordable golf.
It's the only course in Columbia County to have bentgrass greens, which average a little more than 6,200 square feet. The course itself isn't overly long at 6,700 yards, and can be tricky.
It's owned by the Bartram Trail Community Development Corporation, a non-profit entity set up to own and operate the course for the eventual owner, Columbia County.
Stay and play
The Radisson Riverfront Hotel is in downtown Augusta, with South Carolina just to the east across the Savannah River. The city's riverwalk meanders right by the hotel, and the crowds show up here the first Friday of every month, a social event known here as, what else, First Fridays. The hotel is within walking distance of shops, restaurants, museums and marinas.
It has 237 rooms, including two whirlpool suites, a business center, high-speed Internet access in the rooms for about $10, and 45,000 square feet of meeting space in 22 rooms. It's a good, central location for playing Augusta's golf courses.
Augustino's at the Radisson has a pasta bar every Friday evening and with Sunday brunches. It's an Italian restaurant serving a variety of steaks and chops, with prawns, and other entrees like salmone alla aglio e burro - pan-seared Atlantic salmon - beef tournedos, veal scallopine, and chicken picatta.
A number of other restaurants are within walking distance of the hotel.
The club does offer memberships, with $160 for singles and $200 for families. Seniors and juniors get discounts. All memberships have a $400 initiation fee.
March 17, 2006