Mystery Valley Golf Club remains a mainstay in the Atlanta golf scene
LITHONIA, Ga. -- More than one generation of Atlanta's public golfers have grown up playing Mystery Valley Golf Club.
For years it has was one of the few facilities opened to the public. It was a leader in the movement to encourage and develop junior golf in the state and region. Mystery Valley continues to be a haven for the area's high school golfers, who are welcomed to come and learn and improve.
The Dick Wilson-designed course opened in 1966 about 20 miles east of Atlanta, not far from Stone Mountain Park, but has not remained Stuck in the '60s. Mystery Valley continues to keep pace with other fancier clubs that come with higher green fees. Most recently the course completed a $1 million-plus irrigation project that gives the superintendent the ability to hit every blade of Bermuda grass on the course with water when needed.
"You will see grass in places at Mystery Valley you have never seen grass before," said John Crumbley, PGA director of golf. "By mid-year 2012, this place will be awesome. We have more grass and better turf than I have seen here in my seven years as director or golf.
"Take No. 18. In the past you had to hit your tee shot to the far right of the hole and hope it would not roll into the left trees. Now you can hit a drive down the middle and it will stay in the fairway. That has never happened before."
Mystery Valley is a parkland course that winds through mature pine and hardwood forests and forces players to think their way around.
Although it plays just 6,700 yards, this isn't a course that a bomber can expect to bring to its knees, especially if accuracy off the tee is any sort of problem at all.
The greens are bentgrass and in good shape, despite heavy play of nearly 41,000 rounds per year.
A visitor to The Valley understands the message on the first hole, a 520-yard dogleg left that hugs the woods. The green is large, but well bunkered, and a par is a good way to start the day.
No. 3 is a playful risk-reward, dogleg left par 4 that plays only 331 yards. The green is assailable, but any short shots will likely find the pond (the only real water on the front nine) or one of the three greenside bunkers. The toughest hole on the front is No. 6, a 406-yard uphill par 4 that never seems to reach the green.
The back nine opens with a 488-yard par 5 that requires a drive over a lake. Players can determine how much of the lake to chew off with their tee shot; an aggressive player will have a short iron into the green. The elevated teeing ground makes this shot seem almost impossible to a beginner or a junior, even though the distance to clear the water is only about 120 yards.
The toughest two-hole stretch on the course is No. 14 and No. 15, where a pair of pars would be a good score. The par-5 14th (535 yards) is a long dogleg right that requires an approach to a well-bunkered green. The 15th hole is one of the most notorious in Atlanta; the par 4 plays 408 yards to a very narrow landing area, with water pinching in on both sides of the fairway. No. 15 has wrecked a few rounds in its time.
The practice facilities are solid. The driving range is sufficient, with separate areas for putting and chipping.
"This is close to home for me and the people who work here are very nice," said Lonzell Woodard of Stone Mountain. "The course is always in good condition and the greens are nice. Those are some of the main reasons I keep coming back."
Mystery Valley Golf Club: The verdict
Mystery Valley Golf Club has been a good, solid course for years and seems to get better with age. Because of its prime location, its fun and enjoyable layout, and its affordable price structure, people continue to flock to Mystery Valley.
You'll need every tool in the bag, even though the yardage doesn't seem overwhelming from the scorecard. Golfers are free to bomb away on some holes, while others require them to step back and think before pulling the trigger. The greens are moderately sized and roll at a good speed. And this is one place where walkers are welcomed and pull carts are a common sight.
There are other public courses in the Atlanta area that get more attention, but few can match Mystery Valley for the quality that it has provided for nearly 50 years.