Hit it straight and enjoy the scenery at St. Marlo Country Club in Duluth
DULUTH, Ga. -- Located in the busy northern Atlanta suburbs, St. Marlo Country Club has always been one of the most visually impressive golf courses in the city. You can easily forget how you've been beaten into submission because the course is so beautiful, with areas of stacked stone, exposed rocks and fabulous houses that line almost every fairway.
St. Marlo, which opened in 1995, is another fine effort of underrated Georgia architect Denis Griffiths. The course has been on a number of "best of" lists and is a popular venue for outings. St. Marlo is semi-private facility that stays extremely busy, especially on weekends. The competitive golf economy has caused a drop in prices, often making St. Marlo a bargain.
Griffiths, who also designed popular golf courses such as Chateau Elan and Brasstown Valley, went out of his way to make St. Marlo a second-shot golf course. The houses earned the right-of-way in most places, which caused Griffiths to compress the design. The yardage from the gold tees is only 6,823 yards, with the blue tees going 6,405 yards and the white tees at 5,933 yards.
There's really no benefit to playing gorilla golf. Driving accuracy is encouraged, and fairways are generally wide and gentle. There are only a couple of holes that require tee shots to carry water. Most of the time you need to play smart instead of long.
One of those carries over water is No. 12, a par 4 that plays 437 yards from the middle tees and 452 yards from the back. It's the No. 1 handicap hole.
The tee shot must carry a pond that's bordered by stacked stones and run up a hill. Even a good drive necessitates a long approach, often into the wind, to a green that has little room to bail out.
St. Marlo Country Club's toughest hole may be the ninth, a 441-yard par 4 that plays like a par 5 to the average golfer. A good tee shot leaves a long uphill approach to an elevated green, which features a large rock outcropping on the left side. The approach is almost like attacking a fortified castle without a warrior waiting at the top with a bow and arrow. A long iron is tough to stop on the green. Even those who choose to lay up and play into the green with a wedge can be befuddled, depending on where the pin is located.
There are several par 4s that bring water into the equation on approach shots. The relatively docile 356-yard sixth hole is guarded on the left by a pond and the 370-yard 14th requires a complete carry over water to reach the green.
The course is highlighted by a set of strong par 3s, which are both aesthetically pleasing and challenging. The best of the lot is No. 3, which plays 162 yards from the blue tees and features a waterfall that seems to pour out of the green and into a pond that guards the right side. Oh, and a false front is there to punish the timid.
St. Marlo Country Club's 11th is another solid par 3 that plays downhill from 163 yards to a smallish green that's protected on the right side by a pond. The 16th is another challenge, a 181-yard monster that requires a carry over water to a green guarded by a hazard on the left and a pair of large bunkers on the right. The green is deep (about 40 yards) but very narrow; it's large enough, but there's little room to bail out.
The opening and closing holes are both highly playable. No. 1 is a 396-yard par 4 that turns right and plays downhill. The green is bordered on the right by a pond and a bunker, but makes for a good starting hole. The 18th is a 369-yard par 4 that plays uphill to a green that is protected by a very large sand trap on the right side. A decent drive on the left side of the fairway leaves an open approach to the putting surface.
The practice facilities are above average. There is plenty of room on the range (you'll have to pay for balls), although half of it is reserved for club members. There are two practice putting greens that roll similar to what you'll find on the course.
St. Marlo Country Club: The verdict
Don't turn down a chance to play St. Marlo Country Club. This is an interesting course that should appeal to players of all skill levels. Anyone capable of hitting a decent tee shot has a chance to score here. Conditions are good and the staff seems very welcoming to nonmembers. Besides, even if you don't score well here, you'll still rave to your friends about the beauty of the course.