Georgia has a well-deserved reputation for providing the finest golf amenities amidst its many extravagant resorts. With its extensive, essentially year-round tournament calendar, the state boasts a roster of distinguished links challenging the most avid of players as well as a diversity of lavish settings in which they can master their games in style.

In Georgia’s “Lake Country,” The Ritz-Carlton Lodge, Reynolds Plantation at Lake Oconee offers 81 holes of championship golf designed by four of golf’s best known architects: Rees Jones, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Fazio and Bob Cupp. The Oconee Course, designed by Jones and described by many as “mind-game golf,” is designed to be a true risk/reward challenge, forcing golfers to choose between direct tee shots over water and long drives down tree-lined dog-leg fairways.

The 18-hole Great Waters, designed by Nicklaus, has been named among the best courses in Georgia. Using only the rolling Appalachian Mountain foothills as a canvas, Cupp, along with Hubert Green and Fuzzy Zoeller, designed the Plantation Course to provide a more relaxing and forgiving layout that can be enjoyed by golfers of all experience levels. Fazio’s masterpiece, the 27-hole Reynolds National Course, plays long and narrow through the towering pines and flowering dogwoods that are native to middle Georgia. With more than 100 bunkers, several holes tucked along the shores of Lake Oconee and large undulating greens, the National Course gives players little room for error.

Also in the bustling Lake Oconee area are the Port Armor, Harbor Club and Cuscowilla golf destinations, each offering 18 more challenging holes. Port Armor offers golf enthusiasts fine lodging at the Inn On The Green and has villas for rent on its Bob Cupp championship course. Nearby, Harbor Club was designed by renowned architects Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish to include “the five qualities that you look for in a good golf course,” according to Morrish – rolling terrain, elevation changes, streams, mature trees and lake proximity. Cuscowilla, named Golfweek’s #1 Residential Golf Course in America 2004, was designed to preserve the area’s original Seed Orchard.

The three courses at The Lodge at Sea Island – Plantation, Seaside and Retreat – are all distinctively beautiful, and each offers a unique experience. Their ‘grandfather’ was the venerated Plantation Nine, the Walter Travis course that set Sea Island’s reputation for fine golfing. In 1998, Rees Jones reshaped Travis’ work and combined it with Dick Wilson’s Retreat Nine to create the brilliant new 18-hole Plantation course. Tom Fazio transformed two of Sea Island’s brilliant original nine-hole courses into an 18-hole masterpiece, the Seaside course, in 1999. His vision honors the integrity of the original Marshside course as well as the Seaside design that was so admired by Bobby Jones. Elevated tee boxes inspire play with magnificent vistas of Seaside’s ancient oaks and cedars, the salt marsh and sand dunes, and the St. Simon’s Sound. Finally, designed by Sea Island’s resident touring professional, Davis Love III, the 2001 remake of the original Retreat course is challenging enough for a pro, yet comfortable enough for the casual player.

With its serene vistas and flawless greens, The General at Barnsley Gardens in Adairsville is one of the most popular courses in the Southeast. Opened in 1999, this Jim Fazio-designed, par 72 course was created in keeping with the philosophy of Barnsley Gardens’ 19th century architect Andrew Jackson Downing. Downing personally selected the 378 acres that the course occupies and supervised the moving of only one-quarter of the earth typically sculpted at new courses to create this masterpiece, still known today for blending gracefully into its natural surroundings.

French provincial and southern hospitality combine at Château Élan. The 18-hole Château course features contoured fairways, thick Bermuda roughs and strategically placed lakes and ponds on 170 acres of the finest terrain. Designed by Dennis Griffiths in 1989, this 7,030-yard, par 71 course winds along three lakes and two creeks, with water influencing play on 10 of the 18 holes while 87 bunkers give definition and character to the Bermuda fairways and smooth bent grass greens. Also designed by Griffiths, The Woodlands is a stunning, 6,735-yard, par 72 course with numerous elevations presenting memorable views of sparkling lakes, year-round green fairways and tree-lined holes giving players a blissful feeling of solitude. Other amenities at this Braselton resort include two clubhouses, two professional golf shops, two restaurants and two climate-controlled pavilions.

On the banks of the scenic Savannah River, Augusta Golf & Gardens encompasses approximately 17 breathtaking acres and serves as the home of the Golf Hall of Fame. Stroll through eight acres of tranquil gardens, including a Rose Garden complete with rose arbor entrances and more than 800 varieties of bright miniature roses; a Formal Garden filled with green and white plants and flowers; and an Asian Garden complete with a koi pond, moon gate and Oriental foliage, and admire the sculptures of golf legends Arnold Palmer, Byron Nelson, Raymond Floyd, Ben Hogan, Bobby Jones and Jack Nicklaus.

In addition to challenging courses to play, Georgia has tremendous ties to the PGA and LPGA and is host to several renowned tournaments throughout the spring, summer and fall, including The Masters® at Augusta National Golf Club; the BellSouth Classic at TPC of Sugarloaf in Duluth; the Chick-fil-A Charity Championship, hosted by Nancy Lopez, at Eagle’s Landing near Stockbridge; the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf at Savannah Harbor Resort; and The TOUR Championship at the legendary East Lake Country Club in Atlanta.

ALL PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY OF THE GEORGIA DEPARTMENT OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

To learn more about the state’s golf offerings, pick up the Georgia On My Mind Golf Guide, a 40-page publication produced by the Georgia Department of Economic Development. It covers top courses in each of the state’s five regions and offers “must see” and “must do” suggestions. To request a copy, call 800/VISITGA or email golf@georgia.org. For an up-to-date listing of Georgia golf packages, visit www.georgia.org/tourism/golf

 

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