Crystal Lake Golf and Country Club in Hampton: Fabulous layout, good conditions make this southside Atlanta's best course
HAMPTON, Ga. -- There are plenty of excellent public-access golf courses in the metropolitan Atlanta area, but the majority of them are located on the north side of town. Southsiders aren't completely without options, however, thanks to the development of Crystal Lake Golf and Country Club.
The golf course, which opened in 2006, is one of the gems designed by Georgia-based architect Denis Griffiths, whose great work includes Georgia National, St. Marlo, The Georgia Club, Brasstown Valley and the courses at the Chateau Elan resort. Griffiths is up to his typical stuff at Crystal Lake, using visual deception to disguise bunkers and greens, but he also included many Scottish traits that he has come to depend upon over the last decade.
Crystal Lake plays 7,202 yards from the tips, but most golfers will get all they want from the gold (6,790) and blue (6,443) tees. The fairways are Bermuda grass and the greens are bentgrass. Unless playing from the black tees, distance off the tee isn't the most important factor. Players must keep their tee shots in play, as the rough can be penal for those who miss.
"The rough is what makes this golf course," said Butch Philbrick, who lives in the neighborhood. "If you hit the fairway, you can score. But if you hit it in the wrong spot you can make a big number."
The par 5s aren't particularly lengthy; the longest plays 545 from the back tees. But each one requires a player to think about ball placement before just ripping away. A tee shot that finds the wrong side of the fairway can greatly increase the difficulty of the hole.
"The par 5s are reachable. They're some good risk-reward par 5s," said Mike Glarrow, another local resident.
The first hole is a par 5 that plays 540 yards from the back tees. The fairways are wide enough to handle most shots. The approach shot requires a carry over a creek and plays to a slightly elevated green complex that's protected by four bunkers.
The 18th is most likely a three-shot par 5, too. A creek splits the somewhat narrow fairway and will cause the long hitter to debate whether the risk is worth the reward. (It may depend on the direction the wind is blowing.) The green, although guarded on the left by a large bunker, is big and receptive to approach shots, ideal for a player willing to wedge it in close and go for a round-ending birdie.
Crystal Lake's signature hole is No. 15, a par 3 that plays anywhere from 132 to 240 yards to a large green that's surrounded by water on three sides. There's only a little room on the right to bail out on this scenic beauty, which has claimed its share of poor shots.
The toughest hole is No. 14, a 437-yard dogleg right par 4. There's no room to miss with a driver on either side and the approach shot allows no room for error, either. There's a creek running across the front of the green, with a bunker thrown in for good measure. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution rated it one of the 18 best holes in the metro area in 2008.
Crystal Lake has an expansive practice area that makes it easy to prepare for a round. The practice green rolls true and there's a small chipping green near the first tee. Chris Busbee, a PGA Professional, is the facility's director of golf and offers instruction to individuals and juniors.
Crystal Lake Golf and Country Club: The verdict
Crystal Lake Golf and Country Club is one of the best public courses in the metro Atlanta area, regardless of the area. It just happens to be on the south end of town. The course is always in good condition, which indicates an ownership that's committed to excellence.
The course is difficult, but much less so if you play from the proper set of tees. High- and medium-handicappers should find that using one of the forward sets of markers could lead to an enjoyable experience.
The staff at the course is friendly and helpful. The food in the adjoining grill is tasty and affordable. Groups will find the course more than capable of handling their fundraiser with skill.
Visitors to Atlanta should definitely consider driving south of the airport to check out Crystal Lake. It's well worth it that 30-45 minute drive to play this golf course.
November 11, 2011