Favorite Courses in Georgia
Disclaimer 1: This is a piece about my favorite courses in Georgia. NOT the best. Best artist? Best band? Best dessert? There are no right or wrong answers to these questions. It's a matter of personal taste.
Disclaimer 2: I have not played all the courses in GA, not even all the good ones. I have never played Atlanta CC (despite living in ATL for 22 years), Augusta CC, Great Waters, Ford Plantation, McLemore, Waterfall, and dozens of other courses in GA. There is also a list of courses I've only played once, which makes them difficult to pick as a favorite. That list includes Frederica, Crabapple, and Lookout Mountain.
Disclaimer 3: I recently stumbled upon this quote, and loved it. It applies to so many things, including golf courses. Any day spent with friends on any golf course is a pretty good day, don't overthink it.
"Some types of sophistication won’t make you enjoy the object more, they’ll make you enjoy it less. For example, wine snobs don’t enjoy wine twice as much as you, they’re more keenly aware of how most wine isn’t good enough. Avoid sophistication that diminishes your enjoyment" - Ideopunk on lesswrong.com
Methodology: When picking my favorite courses I simply try to answer the question, "If I had one more round to play, with 3 good friends, where would I choose to play?" That rigorous process allows me to answer "PEBBLE BEACH!" before a person can finish the question "What's your favorite course in the wor...?"
I will add one caveat to the aforementioned: The round of golf is 80+% of it, but the tiebreaker is lunch/beers after the round. If the locker room or patio setting is scenic or memorable, that can elevate a place to being a favorite. Part of the appeal of Shinnecock is having lunch after golf on the back patio of one the coolest clubhouses in the world.
So with that I give you my favorite courses in my home state.
A day at Augusta National is something you never forget, but a Spring or Fall day spent at Peachtree when the greens are running isn't far behind. Golf in Georgia starts and ends with Bobby Jones, and these are his two cathedrals. Simply a cut above.
These 5 places showcase the variety of great golf in the state. The Farm is a hidden gem tucked away in Dalton, and is beautiful from start to finish. I've always felt like The Farm is the Fazio course with the most character. East Lake is the true home of Bobby Jones and a must-see for any golf trip to Atlanta. I will admit that East Lake is probably more enjoyable for better players, but you don't even have to play golf to love the historic clubhouse, classy grill room, and expansive back patio views. Settindown is an outlier for North Georgia golf - it lies in a river basin and mostly avoids the dramatic elevation change you find on most North GA courses. A unique course, there's just nothing else like Settin' in Atlanta. Finally, you have the ying and yang of Seaside and Ocean Forest down on the Golden Isles of Georgia. There's not a more peaceful, enjoyable walk in golf than Seaside, or a more rewarding feeling than posting a good score at the difficult Ocean Forest. Both Sea Island courses also get high grades for post-round settings. As good as both locker rooms are, the views out to the water from both clubhouses are even better.
These 4 places could not be more distinct from each other. The newcomer to Georgia golf is Ohoopee Match Club. I'm no expert on South Georgia, but if you had told me there was a "Georgia Sand Belt" near Vidalia and that Gil Hanse was going to build a great golf course on it I would have asked if you had been drinking. But that's exactly what happened, and it's very cool. On the other hand, Piedmont Driving Club was founded in 1887, but their golf course is only 20 years old. Wait, what? I'll spare you the details but there are actually a few courses in Atlanta with multiple sites like PDC. The course is beautiful, and their best 3 holes are the last 3, which I love. Not to mention it has the best post-round beer perch in the city. Atlanta Athletic Club's Highlands course is a monster, in my opinion the most difficult course in Georgia. Bring your humility, but a day spent at AAC is a real treat. Cuscowilla is the 2nd course Coore-Crenshaw did (after Kapalua) and it's a real charmer. Wide fairways, red sand in the bunkers, and super-sloped greens, the joke around The Willa is "on in 2, off in 3". With distinct par-3's and 2 drivable par-4's, Cuscowilla is the definition of a course you enjoy playing every day.
Hopefully this list of favorites brings back memories of good days spent at some of these places, or puts a course on your radar for your next golf trip to Georgia. I dug some photos out of the archives for the gallery below, and also listed how 3 notable publications rank the courses in Georgia.
p.s. These are my 3 favorite logos in Georgia.
Ocean Forest Settindown Piedmont Driving Club