It’s no secret that Georgia is full of golf history. People beginning to utter the words “The Masters” shortly after spring turns the corner, is enough to make the hair stand on the back of your neck. Being host to a plethora of professional and amateur events always give people reasons to flock from near & far.
The history is deep, ingrained & highlighted and the golf is plentiful & pure. I’ve concocted a Georgia bucket list that I believe are the best representations of the best golf that this golf diverse state has to offer.
#1 Peachtree Golf Club
Mr. Robert Tyre Jones Jr. grew tired of the slow play plaguing East Lake and walked off the golf course one day whilst grumbling about building his own pride and joy. Nestled on 250 acres that started as a nursery, between Ashford Dunwoody Road and Peachtree Road fittingly, sits a golf club that is just that, a simple golf club. No “big” tournaments, limited access & simplicity mixed with playability are what make Peachtree great. The rolling zoysia fairways that are seemingly cut by hand with scissors and incredibly shaped bent greens, create an atmosphere in which you feel as though you’re miles away from anything, let alone Atlanta.
While the pro shop is small in stature, anything coming out of there will be sure to be a conversation starter based on the logo alone. Peachtree Golf Club made #1 for a plethora of reasons but the main one being, if you talk to enough people around the golfing world, you’ll probably meet more people that have played Augusta National than Peachtree Golf Club.
#2 Augusta National
The place that needs no introduction. A gift to golf. The mecca.
From Berckmans place to butler’s cabin, the history at ANGC runs deep and true there is a bountiful amount of reasons it’s at the top of millions of bucket lists. Augusta National is one of those places where time quite literally stops. If you’re a golf junkie like me, for a couple of hours (if you’re lucky enough to play the short course pre or post round) you lose all sense of the outside world. The pure rush of driving down the infamous Magnolia Lane and having no one chase after you is one of the most exhilarating experiences life has to offer.
#3 Sea Island
Sea Island truly embodies everything that Georgia’s gold coast has to offer. The list is long and the experiences are always top notch. What really separates Sea Island from the rest, is the fact that there are 3 different courses to choose from. Seaside, which hosts the annual RSM Classic, is a Tom Fazio redesign initially built in 1929. It’s a fantastic mix of links golf with ocean views that feature an abundance of native grasses, dunes and winds that can switch on you at any second. Plantation is a Rees Jones design that features wide fairways, but heavily guarded greens. On the 10th fairway when the sun begins to set, a bagpiper takes his places and closes the golf course for the day. The retreat course which was redesigned by Davis Love III and his brother mark, features less water than the other two courses, creating a great experience for golfers of all skill levels. Having a barrage of tour players otherwise known as the Sea Island mafia, on property at any given time also gives people a once in a life time experience if you’re lucky enough.
#4 East Lake Golf Club
Starting in 1904, East Lake Golf Club is located in the heart of Atlanta. Original course architect, Tom Bendelow, saw his work repaved by Donald Ross in 1913, which remained until 1994 when Robert Trent Jones later restored the design to its former glory. Last year the nines were reversed and the finishing hole is now one of the most demanding on the golf course.
Once you pull through the gates at East Lake, you’re awestruck. Having a full caddie program that is full of a ton of great caddies really adds to the experience. The clubhouse is incredible and is a living testament to Bobby Jones and all that he accomplished. While the walk isn’t exactly ideal, I don’t know if there are many better views than from the 6th green with the Atlanta skyline in the distance as the sun sets. Featuring sub air systems under all 18 greens gives the agronomy team at East Lake a real advantage against the elements. With East Lake holding events such as the Tour Championship & East Lake Cup for the college kids, it’s an easy pick for #4 on my bucket list.
#5 Ocean Forest
Built in 1995, Ocean Forest is a club that has managed to stay “under the radar” so to speak with quite the track record. Host of the 2001 Walker Cup and the annual Jones Cup, Ocean Forest has small greens that guard the golf course with swells surrounding in typical Rees Jones fashion.
A links style course that’s a real test featuring a tough tree lined front side & a finish towards the Atlantic that keeps your head on a swivel. As part of Sea Island properties, I don’t think Ocean Forest gets enough credit for what it is but I highly suggest you peg it if you’re ever afforded the opportunity.
#6 Champions Retreat
20 minutes from Augusta National, Champions Retreat plays host of thousands come masters week. With incredible cottages available to rent and 3 nine-hole courses designed by some of the most influential men in golf, Nickalus, Palmer and Player, Champions Retreat Golf Club is nothing short of one of a kind.
The Creek, Island and Bluff all have their own uniqueness to them that truly feels like 3 different properties. If you’re ever near by for that tournament in April, give this place a shot, while it may be pricey during that time of year, you won’t regret it.
#7 Cuscowilla Golf Club
Cuscowilla on Lake Oconee is the only Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw golf course in Georgia. After falling in love with the land, they didn’t change a single thing during the routing and just highlighted the area’s native features.
Just an hour and a half east of Champions Retreat, Cuscowilla is vastly different with some unique design features. Unkempt bunkers, red clay sand, views of the lake and quick undulated greens make for one unique experience. The chicken salad in a cup is one that rivals that of a ton of great clubs so keep that in mind at the half way house.
#8 Capital City Club – Crabapple Course
Personally, this is one of my favorite golf courses near the metro Atlanta area. Capital City Club has two courses, Brookhaven is located slightly north of midtown and one 45 minutes north, without traffic of course. Both incredibly well manicured, but Crabapple is truly a golfer’s paradise. Once you pull in the inconspicuous stone gate, and cross over the wooden bridge that propels over a river that cuts through the property you realize how special this place is. Being afforded the opportunity to caddie in the US Mid AM and play in the Georgia State Amateur here, its truly one of the best competitive test that the state has to offer. Having Tiger Woods win his 7th WGC event on property never hurts either, but CCC has an absolute gem that deserves a top spot at anyone’s bucket list.
#9 Atlanta Country Club
Host of the Atlanta Golf Classic from 1966 to 1996, this William Byrd has seen a couple tweaks and renovations from Jack Nicklaus & Bob Cupp in ’83 then Michael Riley in ’01. With winners like Kite, Nicklaus, Pavin, Peete and Watson, the event was a staple in Atlanta until 2008. The golf courses features a massive club house, impressive practice facilities and a staff that makes you feel as though you’re at your home club. Capturing Georgia’s natural topography, there are a couple of elevated tee shots and winding dog legs around tall pines to offer shade during the hot summers.
#10 Ansley Golf Club – (Settindown Course)
Ansley Golf Club started in 1912 with nine really good holes in the heart of midtown. Later purchasing land 30 minutes north, the Bob Cupp design plays host to US Open Sectional qualifiers, local amateur events and a US Women’s Am.
After speaking to a member recently, they had a fungus reach hundreds of trees and that has changed the course drastically, but the bones are solid. Lightning fast bermuda greens in a low lying area create a challenge due to the wind getting really tricky to gauge. Given the chance, especially to play all 27, Ansley Golf Club creates a bucket list experience.