Looking for great residential golf? Why not Georgia?

By Tim McDonald, Contributor

Looking to buy golf course real estate in Georgia? We rank the top golfing communities, including Sea Island on St. Simon's, Reynolds Plantation in Greensboro, Hawks Ridge and TPC at Sugarloaf near Atlanta, and Ford Plantation, south of Savannah.

Brunswick Seaside
The 54-hold Sea Island Club is available for most Sea Island residents to play.
Brunswick SeasideReynolds PlantationHawk's Ridge
If you go

Some snowbirds on their way to Florida, looking for a nice golf community to retire to or buy a second home in, are so pleasantly surprised by what Georgia has to offer, they stop. Sometimes permanently.

Georgia doesn't have the sheer volume of residential golf opportunities Florida does, but it does have some very nice ones — some in fact that are considered world-class. Here are GolfGeorgia.com's favorites:

• No 1: Sea Island is actually on St. Simon's, a barrier island on the southeast coast that combines the primeval and the luxurious. It's like stepping back in time, but with a whirlpool and fancy fixtures.

Davis Love III lives here, and the island has eight distinct neighborhoods tucked away discreetly around the island, off the main roads that take you around.

Most residents have available to them the 54-hole Sea Island Club as well as the superb and private Ocean Forest Golf Club, ranked third in the state by Golf Digest.

Sea Island Club has three courses, including the excellent Seaside course. Originally designed by Harry S. Colt and Charles Alison in 1929, Seaside was given a thorough modernization by Tom Fazio in 1999.

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 course climbs naturally over grassy dunes with their backsides up to the ocean breezes.

• No. 2: Reynolds Plantation in Greensboro is a golf community on Georgia's "Antebellum Trail," on the shores of Lake Oconee.

There are two full-service marinas, with dry dock storage, charter fishing and boat rentals. Not to mention four superb golf courses, and another on the way.

Three of the courses at Plantation made it into Golf Digest's top 20-ranked courses in Georgia: Great Waters (11th), Oconee ranked (16th) and National (19th).

The only unranked course, Plantation, isn't exactly a slouch. It's a Bob Cupp design with input from Fuzzy Zoeller and Hubert Green.

• No.3: Hawks Ridge is in Ball Ground, site of old gold mines along the Etowah River. It's a small, family-oriented town in Cherokee County (motto: "Where metro meets the mountains") just north of Atlanta.

It's the home of Lake Allatonna, the Dixie Speedway — home of the South's biggest short track stock car race — and pro wrestler Rick Steiner, who now serves on the school board.

There is only one course, but it's a good one, a Cupp design that has won numerous awards. It's a private, by invitation only club that winds through pine and hardwood forests, and has some nice elevation changes.

Home sites range from one to 14 acres.

• No. 4: The Golf Club at Cuscowilla takes up about 600 acres on the shores of Lake Oconee, a lake that draws quality golf like a magnet, with four courses around its shores by architects like Jack Nicklaus, Tom Weiskopf, and Fuzzy Zoeller. There are four distinct neighborhoods.

The Cuscowilla course is a Bill Coore-Ben Crenshaw design, which means you're getting a top-notch traditional layout. It plays through hills and pine forests, with frequent views of the big lake, the back nine in particular.

The bunkers are filled with red Georgia clay instead of the old generic white sand, and the water hazard comes in the form of interior ponds.

It's in Eatonton, home of Brer Rabbit and Uncle Remus (by author Joel Chandler Harris).

• No. 5: TPC at Sugarloaf is in Duluth, an Atlanta-area suburb in booming Gwinnet County, with an easy commute to the big city via I-85.

It's the first Greg Norman design in the U.S., on the site of a former farm where Tennessee walking horses were bred. The parkland course uses streams, lakes and hills and has only about 60 bunkers, but throws sharp runoffs that make you agonize over wayward approaches.

This is the site of the PGA Tour's Bell South Classic. The 60,000-square-foot clubhouse is set in a grove of trees overlooking the 18th hole.

• No. 6: The Ford Plantation is in Richmond Hill, about 20 miles south of Savannah, on the Great Ogeechee River. The 1,800-acre community is located on the site of former plantation rice fields. Henry Ford bought the land and used to throw big oyster roasts; an old oyster house still stands on the property and is still used for smaller, intimate affairs.

There is only one course, but again, it is an excellent one, a Pete Dye work that he called "arguably, my finest Southern design."

Members don't need a tee time here, even a preferred one. The front nine is designed around 250 acres of lakes and the back is links-style within one of the original rice fields. The clubhouse is on the site of the antebellum Cherry Hill plantation, with a formal colannade of live oaks, some of which have been there since the 1700s.

Tim McDonaldTim McDonald, Contributor

Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

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