Looking for pretty? Try these picturesque Georgia golf courses
From Sea Island Resort and The Hampton Club on the coast, to Reynolds Plantation inland and Brasstown Valley Resort up in the mountains, golfers can choose from a variety of scenic golf courses in Georgia.
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - The great state of Georgia has as many different kinds of golf courses as it does topography. From the mountains to the north to the coastal plains of the southeast, the state has some of the most scenic courses in the country.
After touring the state for years, here are some of our favorite scenic golf courses in Georgia.
Georgia's coastal golf courses
• Seaside Course, Sea Island Resort, St. Simons Island: The Seaside course is located on the site of the old Retreat Plantation, with tabby ruins and an old slave cemetery clearly visible. The tees are slightly elevated and give excellent views of the Intracoastal Waterway and St. Simons Sound.
Seaside is advertised as an ocean-side links course, and certain sections of the course do indeed have a wild, windswept feel to them, as the routing climbs naturally over grassy dunes with their backsides up to the ocean breezes.
• The Hampton Club, St. Simons Island: Of all the marsh courses I've played, from Florida north through Myrtle Beach, S.C., the Hampton Club may be the best, in terms of the views.
That's because at the Hampton Club, the views are not of the marsh, they are from the marsh. You are literally in the marsh, out there with the ospreys, bald eagles, woodpeckers and other marsh critters. The builders carved four holes on the islands off the mainland. You get to them via a series of bridges. You are the marsh, and the marsh is you.
• Oleander at Jekyll Island Golf Club, Jekyll Island: The state hasn't exactly gone out of its way to spend money on conditioning here, but the Oleander has views unmarred by development, though as of this writing, the politicians and the Jekyll Island State Park Authority were squabbling about funds for developing and refurbishing the barrier island.
It's a well laid-out Donald Ross design and has a nice mix of loblolly pines, white and live oaks and oleander. You can hear the roar of the ocean from almost anywhere on the golf course.
Georgia's inland golf courses
• Arrowhead Pointe Golf Course in Elberton: This is the most scenic of the state's park system, in my view. The park and the golf course are situated on a peninsula that juts out into the 26,500-acre Lake Russell, and architect Bob Walker made full use of the water: 10 of the 18 holes have lake views, and the back nine in particular is about as close as you can come to a naturally pristine experience and still be on a golf course.
"We started with probably one of the best pieces of ground that I have ever worked on in 32 years of work," Walker said. "I just couldn't have found a better site, honestly. (The state) pretty much gave me free reign. They said, 'Here's 400 acres, put the golf course wherever you need to.'"
There are no structures of any kind on the lake. Nor are there any roads of consequence nearby. The scenery is so peaceful and quiet, you may be tempted to stop playing and just drink in the surroundings.
• The Reynolds Plantation has 99 holes of golf designed by the likes of Rees Jones, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Fazio and Bob Cupp. Nicklaus' Great Waters course is the most scenic; it's like the knock-out blonde who's so good-looking you can't see past her appearance to her other talents.
All the holes on the back nine have expansive views of Lake Oconee, and if you're lucky you'll play it with the sun shimmering off the water. It's an Audubon-certified course, and you'll see all sorts of graceful lake birds, along with other animals like deer, red-tailed hawks and foxes, wandering and hovering above classic Georgia pines, hardwoods, azaleas and pink dogwood.
• TPC at Sugarloaf was Greg Norman's first design in the U.S. The course plays through more than 1,000 acres of rolling terrain decorated with oaks, pines and maples. It's a parkland course built on a site that used to breed Tennessee walking horses, with streams, lakes and hills.
• You would expect a golf course at Callaway Gardens to be beautiful, and you'd be right. The long-time Georgia attraction has two courses, the Lake View and Mountain View. They have a great deal in common in terms of scenery but could not be more different in terms of strategy.
There is enough elevation change on both to give good views. Lake View in particular is a very scenic course, winding through the azaleas that the gardens were originally formed to protect.
• The Golf Course at Cuscowilla on Lake Oconee has been ranked the No. 1 residential layout in the country. It was designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, well known for their penchant for aesthetics, and it meanders through rolling meadows and pine forests, with views of waterfalls. Many of the holes play along the shores of lakes and ponds.
Georgia's mountain golf courses
• Brasstown Valley Resort in Young Harris is located in the southern peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountains, two hours north of Atlanta. The fairways are lined with towering hardwoods and play through wildlife preserves, ponds and streams framed by the, mountains.
• Cateechee Golf Club in Hartwell, is located in the scenic foothills of northeast Georgia. It's been called "pure golf in a nature park," 380 acres of golf with no houses or street crossings. The course is known for its superb bentgrass greens.
July 2, 2008