Ten North Georgia golf courses design traditionalists will love

By Stan Awtrey, Contributor

It is still possible to build a great golf course the old-fashioned way, without needing to move tons of dirt or disturb delicate wetlands or wildlife preserves. The traditional approach to course design is on display at many golf courses in North Georgia, some of them that have been built over the last decade.

Golf Club of Georgia's Lakeside Course - Hole 18
The greens on the Golf Club of Georgia's Lakeside Course are smooth and fast, but with undulation that causes even scratch golfers to shake their head.
Golf Club of Georgia's Lakeside Course - Hole 18Golf Club at Cuscowilla - Hole 14Woodmont Golf and Country ClubNorth Fulton Golf Course - AtlantaGolf Club of Georgia's Lakeside Course - Hole 11
If you go

Here are 10 North Georgia golf courses, none more than two hours from Atlanta, that can take pride in their traditional designs.

Golf Club at Cuscowilla

When they were asked to design the Golf Club at Cuscowilla in 1996, the team of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw were given 700 acres of property on the banks of Lake Oconee and told to come up with something special. Boy, did they ever deliver.

Although it's only been around a short time, Cuscowilla is a throwback to an earlier day. The classic design offers the player a choice on each hole, with the course growing more difficult as the round progresses.

Observers claim it has bunkers inspired by Alister Mackenzie (who designed Augusta National) and greens inspired by Donald Ross (designer of Pinehurst No. 2). Given Crenshaw's love for golf history and his affection for great golf architects, both men are likely sources of inspiration.

"It was really a fun project to work on," Crenshaw said. "We've had a lot of good comments on that one."

The course has a little bit of everything. It rolls through pine forests and meadows, as well as the shore of Lake Oconee. The par 4 10th hole and the par 3 11th hole are spectacular in their scenic beauty, but it's hard to find a fault with anything at Cuscowilla.

Golf Club of Georgia (Lakeside Course)

Call in any of your markers and use them to play the private Lakeside Course at Golf Club of Georgia, the original 18 holes designed by Arthur Hills and established in 1991 in the northeastern suburbs of Alpharetta. The Lakeside course was built on higher ground and Hills routed the holes through the valleys. The back nine includes four picturesque holes on Lake Windward, especially the par-5 11th hole with its breathtaking peninsula green that seems to emerge from the water. The greens are the king at the Golf Club of Georgia. They're smooth and fast, quicker than anything you've probably ever played, but with undulation that causes even top-level players to shake their heads.

Crystal Lake Golf and Country Club

Built by prolific Georgia-based architect Denis Griffiths, Crystal Lake Golf and Country Club is one of the area's hidden jewels, located in Hampton, one of Atlanta's southern suburbs. Griffiths has done some stellar work over the years (the Woodlands Course at Chateau Elan, Brasstown Valley, Georgia National Golf Club, St. Marlo Country Club), but this may be his finest yet.

The difference in this course is found in the bunkering. Griffiths uses Scottish style bunkering to play tricks with the player. He called it "a good bit of deception." Griffith's design requires players to use intelligence and place the ball in the right spot.

Woodmont Golf and Country Club

Opened in 1999 in the northeastern suburbs of Canton, the only course in Georgia designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. doesn't have a bad hole. The layout at Woodmont Golf and Country Club flows effortlessly through the woods and around streams and lakes and is a visual joy to behold. Golfers are given strategic options on each hole and asked to respond accordingly.

The three closing holes are among he best you'll find. No. 16, the signature hole, is a three-shot par five with a creek that crosses the fairway in two places and doubles back in front of the green. No. 17 is a short par 4 that requires an approach over water to a nasty bowled green. No. 18 is another long uphill par 4 with a green that guarantees you won't have a straight putt.

Highland Country Club

There's little fancy about Highland Golf Club and a glance at the scorecard (6,817 yards, par 72) makes it look like a cupcake. That's far from the truth. The course, built by designer Neil Edwards in 1961 and renovated in 1986, is a shotmakers delight. The greens are small by modern standards and are filled with subtle undulations. There are five small lakes that come into play as the course is routed through some rolling terrain. The course is about 30 miles east of Atlanta in Conyers and is a very walkable layout.

Stone Mountain Golf Club (Stonemont Course)

The original course was designed by Robert Trent Jones and remains one of the most demanding layouts in the metro Atlanta area. From the first hole - a robust 423-yard par 4 from the white tee - you know it's going to be a challenging day. Stone Mountain Golf Club's Stonemont Course is a par 70 that plays 6,863 from the back tees over rolling fairways and dotted with the typical strategically placed bunkers for which Jones is so familiar. And visitors should remember that almost every putt breaks toward Stone Mountain, the world's largest exposed hunk of granite.

University of Georgia Golf Course

The Robert Trent Jones-designed University of Georgia Golf Course opened in Athens in 1968 and includes many of his typical features, including pesky bunkers placed in strategic places and some long par 4s capable of squeezing the life out of you. The hilly course was renovated by the Love Brothers (Davis and Mark) in 2008; they added nearly 500 yards and focused a lot of attention on the well worn greens. Need a lesson? Check with Head Professional Matt Peterson; he's a former touring pro and the reigning Georgia PGA player of the year.

North Fulton Golf Course

Highly trafficked North Fulton Golf Course is the best of the municipal golf courses in Atlanta. Built in 1937 by Chandler Egan (with consultation from Walter Hagen and Bobby Jones) the course has many things that make it great: a nice rolling layout that makes it easy to walk, some undulating greens that spice up the challenge, and a wonderful view of the city. But beware: This place stays busy (it's very popular with seniors) and rounds can be excruciatingly long. The amenities are definitely of the no-frill variety, so don't expect comfort or luxury. Still, the course has withstood the years and is worth the effort.

Brasstown Valley Resort

It's definitely worth the two-hour drive to the Blue Ridge Mountains to soak in Brasstown Valley. It's a quiet place that features wonderful accommodations and dining, so good that you would never believe it's operated by the state of Georgia. Brasstown Valley Resort's golf course is spectacular. Designer Denis Griffiths produced a mountain masterpiece that even a casual golfer can enjoy. Griffiths worked effectively within the environmental restraints that come along with construction inside sensitive areas, such as wetlands and wildlife preserves. The completed project is a links-style course that has received numerous accolades. The signature hole is No. 18, which climbs uphill to a green that rests in front of the Lodge.

Stan AwtreyStan Awtrey, Contributor

Stan Awtrey spent 25 years as a sports writer with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He is editor of Golf Georgia, the official magazine of the Georgia State Golf Association, and writes a weekly column for PGATOUR.com. His work has appeared in dozens of newspapers, magazines and Web sites.

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