Like its rolling terrain, The Lion Golf Club in Bremen has had its ups and downs since it opened in 2001, but remains one of the best courses in the state located in a relatively small community, and enjoying one of its busiest years in 2015 since making its debut 14 years ago.
The course has a colorful, if somewhat tragic history, dating back to before it opened in 2001. The course was originally designed to be a municipal facility, but local politics intervened and almost put an end to the project before it could be completed.
A group opposed to the construction of the course shut off its water supply during the growing in phase, but The Lion survived thanks to the efforts of a local couple.
Ed and Jane Newbern, who had loaned the city money to get the project going, took over ownership of the course and completed its construction, but not without some personal tragedy.
Georgia-based golf course architect Arthur Davis died during the latter stages of The Lion’s development, with his son Lee overseeing the remainder of the work to get the course ready for play.
Not long after The Lion opened, Ed Newbern passed away, with his widow running the course before she died in 2010. The next few years were not the best ones for The Lion, which closed early in 2013.
Fortunately for its local and area regulars, The Lion wasn’t out of commission for long, re-opening in March of 2013 after sitting idle for just 2 ½ months. A trio of local residents assumed ownership of the club, and quickly got things up and running.
Lion assistant professional Jake Ledford, who was with the club when it re-opened, says The Lion had its best year in 2015 since its brief interlude.
“Things are great,” Ledford said. “Business is up, the course is in good shape and ownership is good. People around here are glad we re-opened.”
Ledford says The Lion gets the bulk of its play from the nearby communities of Douglasville and Carrollton, along with a decent amount of visitors from metro Atlanta. The course is located just a mile north of I-20 off exit 11 (U.S. 27) and is just 45 minutes from downtown Atlanta and an easy drive from the Marietta area.
The Lion offers one of the more unique golf experiences you’ll encounter within such close proximity to metro Atlanta, with the layout providing a mountain course feel without the severity inherent at some mountain-style courses.
The relatively rugged terrain comes as something of a surprise to first time visitors, considering the club is located adjacent to the Bremen Industrial Park and its address is 400 Murphy Industrial Boulevard.
The location and address do not accurately reflect the setting of the course, which is completely free of development and has a natural feel, with the rolling nature of the terrain among The Lion’s strongest assets.
Davis was responsible for the design of some of north Georgia’s top daily fee layouts (Stonebridge in Rome, Fields Ferry in Calhoun and Royal Lakes in Flowery Branch) and was also involved in the design work for Berkeley Hills, a well-regarded private club in Duluth, and Pine Isle Resort at Lake Lanier, which is no longer in operation.
The Lion is a quality layout, with Davis deftly incorporating the terrain and presence of a number of wetlands areas into his design. Although the Course Rating/Slope numbers are relatively high, The Lion is not an overly demanding layout, but those making their initial visit may not expect a small town course to offer a fairly big test.
“For people playing for the first time, it can be a little challenging,” Ledford says. Wetlands areas come into play on a number of holes, but hazards are not a serious concern until you reach an outstanding finishing trio that may be the three most memorable holes on the course.
The Lion sports five sets of tees, with a pretty sizeable gap between the middle tees (gold) and senior tees (green). The course is a very stout test from the tips (black) at just under 7100 yards and is rated at 73.7/142.
The next set (silver) measures 6780 (72.1/138), with the middle tees a playable 6446 (70.1/132). The senior tees are a very comfortable 5654 (66.6/119), with a few holes having such a disparity between the middle and senior tees that those playing the green tees may want to move back to the golds for a few holes to make them play more like they were designed to play.
With a number of the holes beginning with elevated tees, The Lion doesn’t quite play its listed yardage, but there are enough uphill approaches to offset the downhill tee shots. With a few exceptions, length is not a major concern, with only one par 4 of over 400 yards from the middle tees and the 18th the lone par 5 with serious yardage.
There are a few tee shots that have to clear wetlands, but none of the carries are excessive. The Lion is reasonably open off the tee, but thick tree lines and a few red stakes off the edges of fairways will penalize errant drives.
The rolling terrain is a factor both in the fairways and around greens. You can expect to come across an uneven lie or two, with some bordering mounds capable of providing favorable kicks back towards the fairway or producing slightly awkward lies.
There are also a number of smaller mounds along the edges of the greens that impact both short game shots and the putting surfaces. The Lion does not feature a large number of greenside bunkers, but some drop-offs around the putting surfaces will require a deft touch on pitch shots, even on holes where sand is not a factor.
The Lion opens with a mostly tame group of holes beginning with a straightaway par-4 without much length. The lengthier third is among the holes without a bunker, with a slightly elevated green located in a bowl that creates plenty of movement and provides for an interesting visual. Like the third, the short fifth includes an uphill approach shot, this time over sand, with the fairway dropping off slightly to the tree line near the corner of the dogleg right.
The two par 3s on the nine (2 and 4) have wetlands areas between tee and green that are not much of a concern, but the greenside mounds give the putting surfaces some movement, with the fourth also without a bunker.
Holes 6 and 7 are the most dangerous on the opening nine, with the double dogleg par-5 sixth requiring accuracy on both the tee shot and lay-up. Red stakes are in play on both sides of the lay-up area, and a tree within wetlands on the left makes the second shot for big hitters a risk/reward with a creek just short of the putting surface.
The same creek snakes through the par-4 seventh, crossing just short of the green and guarding the right edge. The dogleg left is among The Lion’s longer two-shotters, and is the only one of the group with a hazard that seriously impacts play.
The eighth is one of the holes with senior tees pushed well forward because of a wetlands area, but with an ample fairway and modest length, is playable for shorter hitters from the middle tees.
A short, inviting par 5 closes out the nine, with both the green and gold tees a little too friendly for a hole without much in the way of defenses.
Both 10 and 11 also have considerable gaps between the gold and green tees, with the par-5 10th a better hole from the golds. The fairway on the dogleg right slopes toward the trees, with the hole gradually rising to a green guarded by a large front bunker.
The 11th is the longest of the par 4s from the silver and gold tees, but is less imposing from the much shorter green tees, with a wide, shallow green making for a tough target to hit from long range from the other three tees.
Enjoy the short, straight par-4 12th, because it’s the last soft touch left. The bunker-less 13th is a lengthy par 4 that rises to a slightly elevated green with plenty of roll from bordering mounds. The par-3 14th is 211 from the sliver tees, with the green opening up back left behind a deep, imposing bunker. The par-4 15th lacks for length, but is among the tighter holes at The Lion and also sports one of the more sloping putting surfaces.
The terrific trio of finishing holes begins with the par-3 16th with separate tees 150 to 180 feet above the green, a wetlands area and creek short and not a great deal of room to miss. The hole has some length, especially from the left tees, but the elevation takes some of the bite out of a striking but demanding “short” hole.
The par-4 17th is among the few flat holes on the course, with the creek winding along the right side of the hole and crossing in front of the green. Trees along the right can impede second shots from that side, with the angled second requiring precision to clear the creek and find a putting surface that offers little depth.
Few courses have a finishing hole to match the unique nature of the 18th at The Lion. A lake on the left sits between the fairway up top and the green below, with the big hitters having the possibility of going at the green in two from an angle, and everyone else advancing the ball close to the end of the fairway for a third shot in the 150-yard range and up. From the upper fairway, there does not seem to be a great deal of green, with a bunker and a bank behind the putting surface popular landing areas for those who take a little too much club.
The Lion is survived last Summer’s heat in reasonable condition, with its rates very competitive and a quality grill for a post-round bite to eat.
For information on The Lion, call 770-537-7020 or visit theliongc.com.