Attention soldiers and civilians: There's good golf at Fort Gordon
FORT GORDON, Ga. - Assuming you don't have any explosive devices, enriched uranium or Osama bin Laden hiding in your trunk, you can make it through the security checkpoint at Fort Gordon near Augusta and play Gordon Lakes Golf Course. Even if you're not a soldier.
Beware, though: You'll have to open all your doors and trunk to the serious security guards. Assuming you don't have anything to which the U.S. Army objects, drive through the base, make a left and enter a serene wildlife-management area to get to the golf.
You'll find the nicely renovated clubhouse, a utilitarian green-and-white structure, and three nine-hole layouts: Pine View, Island View and Lake View. The original 18 holes were designed and built in 1976 by none other than Robert Trent Jones Sr.; Ault and Clark designed the newest nine, Pine View, in 2001, and renovated Island View two years later.
Gordon Lakes is not in the top echelon of military course - it doesn't rank with the Air Force Academy's Eisenhower Blue Course (also designed by Jones Sr.) in Colorado Springs, the Fort Golf Course at Fort Benjamin Harrison outside Indianapolis or Fort Ord's Bayonet Course in Seaside, Calif.
But it is a very nice course, in a surprisingly peaceful, thickly wooded setting. There's some base-traffic noise (but not much), and you'll see occasional military planes flying overhead. It's a good place to play some scenic golf while contemplating the precarious state of the world and offering some appreciation for our armed services.
"The reason I took this job is I thought this was something you should be paying $100 a round for," said Bill Fumai, the manager. "When I look at this golf course, I think it's that caliber. It's the kind of golf course you'd see in the sand hills of Pinehurst."
Fumai said the military has continued to invest in the course, with quite a few improvements planned.
"This is my fourth military installation I've been privileged to be manager of and this one is a little nicer than most - I'd say nicer than probably three-quarters of them," he said. "You've got to have a nice facility in Augusta because you've got a lot of options."
And this is a good option. The course has pines and big oaks, rolling terrain, challenging doglegs and large, receptive greens, all arrayed around Lake Gordon. Much of Lake View, probably the most difficult track, is due to be shut down in April for a $1 million renovation. Officials also plan to cut down 300 trees to get better views of the lake.
The course features an island green, a difficult 170-175 yards away depending on which tee you hit from. "That hole makes you pucker up a bit when you step on the tee box," Fumai said.
True enough; on the most recent dredging, the first in a year and a half, 13,000 golf balls were fished from the water in front of the green. Officials are considering installing a tee box at 140 yards, to ease the pain of future thousands.
Gordon Lakes is a picturesque course on rolling terrain and well worth the green fees ($13-$14 for members, $25-$35 for military personnel grades E1-E5, $35-$40 for E6 and above, $60-$65 for guests of authorized patrons and $75-$80 for unattended civilians). Golf carts are $11 per seat.
The course has hosted the All Armed Forces Championship and the All Army Golf Trials. It also has a nice practice area, including a large putting green, practice bunker and driving range.
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 237-room hotel offers two whirlpool suites, a business center, in-room high-speed Internet (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 and is within walking distance of shops, restaurants, museums and marinas.
Gordon Lakes has Bogey's Grill and the Radisson has Augustino's, offering a pasta bar every Friday evening and Sunday brunches. It's an Italian restaurant serving a variety of steaks and chops and other entrees such as 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 course recently installed GPS systems in its golf carts.
May 2, 2006