No matter where you live in metro Atlanta, there is almost certainly an outstanding daily fee golf course within a reasonable proximity.
For those living east of Atlanta in or near Rockdale, Newton and Walton counties and the eastern and southern portions of DeKalb and Gwinnett, Cherokee Run in Conyers is the best daily fee facility in an area where there are not as many options for golf than there used to be in the not-so-distant past.
Cherokee Run opened in 1995, and while the course has had some ups and downs over its 25 years, it remains the best and most challenging daily fee course in east metro Atlanta, with the course conditions as good as they’ve been since the club opened.
Cherokee Run suffered through some troubles beginning in the mid-2000s, when the City of Conyers, which owns the course, was leasing it out. The city reclaimed control of the course in 2010, and veteran Georgia PGA member Tommy Moon, Cherokee Run’s Director of Golf and General Manager, says the hard times of the late 2000s “are behind us.”
Since the city took over the operations of the course, Cherokee Run has undergone a total renovation of its greens and bunkers, with MiniVerde Ultra Dwarf Bermuda putting surfaces installed in 2012 to provide the best experience for the course’s clientele. The greens were in superb condition just prior to being aerated in mid-July.
The overall condition of the course has also been considerably upgraded, with the Zoysia fairways providing first rate lies to match the quality of the greens, which will definitely test your putting ability. There are only a handful of other metro Atlanta courses with Zoysia grass on the fairways, East Lake among them.
Cherokee Run is an Arnold Palmer Design Company creation, with Ed Seay serving as the lead architect. It is one of the strongest designs among metro Atlanta’s daily fee courses, ranking with the likes of Cobblestone, Bear’s Best, Echelon, the Frog and Woodmont.
Cherokee Run is rated at a hefty 75.1/143 from the black tees, with the blues 72.8/139 and the green Augusta tees 70.4/133. Length is not the major concern, with the course listed at just over 7,000 yards from the tips, 6,564 from the blues and 6,083 from the Augusta tees. With multiple tee boxes on most holes, the course can play shorter than the listed yardages, with a few holes typically playing at a reduced yardage from what is on the scorecard and others not playing their distance because of elevated tees.
The forward tees are listed at 4,950 yards, with senior tees sharing yardages with both the reds and greens and totaling just under 5,300.
It is not length, however, that gives Cherokee Run its considerable challenge. Although the course is mostly generous off the tee, there is an ample amount of trouble in play, particularly on one of the more interesting group of par 5s you will encounter anywhere.
The nines at Cherokee Run were reversed in 2015, with most of the tougher holes now part of the front nine and the friendliest part of the course found on the closing holes.
Cherokee Run begins with a par 4 of modest length that features a wide fairway, but with trees within range of those who pull or hook their opening tee shot. The hole begins from an elevated tee, but the approach is sharply uphill over sand to a wide, shallow green that is the norm for the layout, with some extremely fast putts from above the hole.
The other par 4s of note on the front nine are the fourth and the ninth, which both feature hazards just short of the putting surfaces. The fourth begins with a tee shot around fairway bunkers on the left corner to a landing area angling to the left. The approach is likely to be off a slightly downhill lie if you take advantage of the “speed slot” in the gently rolling fairway, with a pond covering the entire front of a green with modest depth and bunkers behind. .
The ninth is the longest par 4 on the course with perhaps the widest fairway, but the tees are often pushed up a set. It’s listed at 463 (black), 446 (blue) and 427 (green), making the hole a virtual par 5 for those playing the Augusta tees. Fortunately, the green tees are frequently placed with the senior and forward markers, cutting about 100 yards off the distance, but still requiring a demanding approach over a creek to an angled, two-tiered green.
Both par 3s on the nine have some length, with the second playing downhill to a large green without any serious trouble. Hazards short and right are within reach on the sixth, which plays its distance (213/191/165) to an angled green with an upper back left tier that is difficult to get to.
Precision is required on both par 5s going out, with the dogleg right third among the narrower holes at Cherokee Run. Trees are tight to the right off the tee, with the tree lines in play off both sides on the second shot, which turns right to a slightly descending landing area. The third shot over a scrub area is all carry to a green with drop-offs around it but no sand.
Like the par-4 fourth, the eighth hole turns left over bunkers at the corner, with longer hitters having to be concerned with driving through the fairway. Shorter hitters have to thump it off the tee or face either a long carry over wetlands to reach the island lay-up area, or hit the first of three short iron shots and hope to save par. The green is fronted by a creek that makes any shot from long range a risk, with the landing area for the layup narrow enough to put some pressure on those who play the hole more prudently.
The par-4 10th lacks the penal nature of its two immediate predecessors, but is listed as the toughest hole on the back nine with ample length (448/411/387), tree lines within range on both sides and another shallow green protected by a front bunker. The removal of a tree down the left side has eased the pressure on the tee shot, and was part of a sizeable tree reduction that has opened up the course.
The 11th, which has a wider landing area beyond a cluster of bunkers on the right, also features an approach over sand to an angled green without a lot of depth.
A long, narrow green with plenty of back to front slope highlights the par-4 13th, with the 16th beginning with a tee shot that has to carry a wetlands area, but with no serious concerns after that.
The par-3 12th is one of the most scenic holes on a course that sports plenty of appealing views. Rock formations in front and below the green and above and beyond the putting surface frame the hole visually, and make for a slightly intimidating sight. The boulders behind the green loom over a waste area that is best avoided, with a drop-off on the other side to a front bunker below another very wide and shallow putting surface.
The shortest of the pr 3s is the 15th (175/153/131), which plays downhill over a large expanse of rock to a green flanked by bunkers and a small alley between the two in front that allows a run-up shot to right side pins.
The 15th is part of Cherokee Run’s inviting stretch of five finishing holes (excluding the 16th), which also includes the shortest and must score-able par 4 on the course. The downhill 17th tops out at 300 yards and is drivable by big hitters willing to risk a long carry over a creek just in front of a green with trees tight to both sides. The wise play is a lay-up to set up a wedge approach to a long green with front pin positions that can test your nerve and distance control ability from close range.
The two entertaining par 5s on the back nine provide players who are rarely able to reach par 5s in two with opportunities to take a shot. The 14th is only 462 from the blues with an ample fairway that winds left to the green around sand, brush and rocks. You can go directly at the green after a well-struck drive or play safely around to the left while trying to avoid one of the bunkers in the landing area.
The 18th is similar in design, but includes a tree line that is in play down the right side. Trees and brush between the landing area and green have been removed over the years, also allowing for a direct line to the hole, but with considerably more risk than the 14th. A pond sits in front of the green and has to be carried if you play around an array of bunkers to the left. If you go for the green in two, the pond is left of your target, but anything pulled will find an extension of the hazard, with the green providing just a sliver of width from that angle.
The club has twice hosted the GSGA Public Links Championship, most recently in 2018, and the winning score both times was a shot or two over par for 36 holes. But the course is very playable for even the distance challenged from the Augusta tees if you play prudently and avoid miss-hits in the wrong spots.
Located in a non-development setting within the Georgia International Horse Park, which hosted the 1996 Olympics equestrian events, Cherokee Run is among the most pastoral sites for a golf course in all of Atlanta, with the rock outcroppings adding to its flavor. Considering all it has to offer, Cherokee Run features affordable rates, particularly for seniors or those willing to tackle the somewhat hilly terrain without the use of a cart.
Andy Bowman, like Moon a familiar face on metro Atlanta’s east side, is Cherokee Run’s head pro and lead instructor, with the club featuring an expansive practice area. Cherokee Run also has one of the better grills in Atlanta area golf, and also serves Sunday brunch.
For information on Cherokee Run, call 770-785-7904 or visit www.cherokeerungolfclub.com.