Georgia mountain golf on your mind? Try these elevated courses
(Dec. 14, 2006) - When most people - most northerners, anyway - think of Georgia, they probably think of red clay, Ray Charles and swamps.
True, southern Georgia does have the Okeefenokee, and tons of red clay. But this state has extremely varied terrain, from the south's wetlands to the foothills and mountains of the north.
That diversity extends to its golf courses. Georgia has some excellent high-altitude golf, from foothills courses with beautiful views of the Smokies and Blue Ridge to tracks in the mountains themselves. Here are a few highlights.
Arrowhead Pointe, Richard B. Russell State Park, Elberton: Arrowhead Pointe, about 50 miles east of Athens, isn't the most challenging of the eight courses in the Georgia state-park system, but it's easily the most scenic.
The park sits on a peninsula that juts into 26,500-acre Lake Russell, and architect Bob Walker made full use of the water: Ten of the 18 holes have lake views. The back nine here 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 told TravelGolf.com. "[The state] pretty much gave me free reign. They said, 'Here's 400 acres, put the golf course wherever you need to.' "
Barnsley Gardens Resort, Adairsville:. This semi-private Jim Fazio course, 7,200 yards with a slope rating of 141, was built near an original Cherokee settlement 65 miles north of Atlanta. The resort has 70 luxury suites in 33 cottages, and visitors will feel they've gone back to the antebellum South.
Big Canoe Golf Club, Big Canoe: Joe Lee designed this golf-community course. The three nines, Choctaw, Cherokee and Creek, wind through valleys and around lakes to the tops of cliffs, with mountain peaks providing great backdrops.
Brasstown Valley Resort, Young Harris: This undulating, 6,957-yard Dennis Griffiths design in the heart of the Blue Ridge winds through wildlife preserves below a frame of mountain views.
Cateechee Golf Club, Hartwell: Named for a Choctaw Indian maiden, Audubon-certified Cateechee is known for its wildlife. It's considered one north Georgia's better courses, with great views from its lush, rolling hills.
Currahee Golf Club, Toccoa: Another Golf Digest top-20 pick, this course 90 minutes north of Atlanta encompasses 1,100 acres of views of Lake Hartwell, the Tugaloo River and the Blue Ridge Mountains. You can also see North and South Carolina.
Opened in 2003, the Jim Fazio design is long - 7,503 yards from the back tees, with two 600-yard-plus par 5s. Even the par 3s can stretch you: Your tee shot on the 251-yard 17th must carry a granite quarry with a waterfall on the right side of the green. Fazio called it "the best hole I've ever built."
Highland Walk Golf Course, Victoria Bryant State Park, Royston: The most difficult of Georgia's state-park courses, Highland Walk measures 6,407 yards from the tips, with a slope rating of 131. It's been softened somewhat, including new tee boxes on No. 12 and 17 for ladies and seniors.
Still, there are long carries here, plus 28 sand bunkers, numerous grass bunkers, hard-to-read greens and sloping fairways that tend to kick wayward tee shots - and sometimes even accurate ones - into the deep rough. But it's definitely a bargain test: $17 green fees weekdays, $23 weekends (plus $13 for cart). There are also discounts for juniors, seniors and state employees.
Innsbrook Golf Club, Helen: An alpine parkland course measuring 6,798 yards from the tips, Innsbrook is known for frequent deer sightings.
Kingwood Golf Club & Resort, Clayton: Kingwood is short (a little over 6,000 yards) but dramatic, surrounded by mature hardwoods and rippling brooks, with small bentgrass greens and plenty of elevation change.
Lookout Mountain Golf Club, Lookout Mountain: Overlooking Chattanooga, Tenn., this private course (you can play if you belong to a club with reciprocal privileges) was designed by Seth Raynor. The bentgrass greens have hidden breaks and undulations, and the fairways are open.
December 14, 2006