By Mike Blum
There is a certain image attached to the term “municipal golf course” that is not exactly flattering.
Any preconceptions you have about “munis” will be shattered after one visit to Cobblestone Golf Course, one of the state’s premier daily fee facilities and one of the country’s top-rated municipal courses.
During its almost two decades of operation, Cobblestone has been ranked as one of the Top 100 public courses in the U.S. (Golf Magazine), one of the top 100 Municipal courses in the U.S. in 2010 (Golfweek) and as Atlanta’s No. 1 daily fee course in various polls.
Cobblestone is owned by Cobb County and managed by Affiniti Golf Partners, and has earned its lofty reputation thanks to an outstanding and scenic layout, quality course conditions and a natural and undeveloped setting.
Designed by Ken Dye (no relation to Pete) and Joe Finger, whose names are connected to several other nationally regarded layouts, Cobblestone is also among the state’s more challenging daily fee courses, but has been softened a bit over the years.
The “love grass” that bordered many of the fairways when the course opened as The Boulders (the name change was legally required) was removed early on, making it a much less punishing course off the tee. Some bunkers have also been removed, but Cobblestone’s layout has changed little since it opened.
The main difference between when the course opened in 1993 and the present is the putting surfaces, which were changed from bent grass to Champions Bermuda in 2010. The greens were restored to their original sizes, but some of their contours have gradually diminished over the years.
Cobblestone’s original design included greens divided into two or three distinct partitions, which placed significant challenges on putts from a different level as well as making many chips and pitches a real adventure.
Thanks to the mounds and deep bunkers that border many of the greens, Cobblestone still presents serious short game challenges, but is not quite as demanding as it once was after you reach the putting surfaces.
Cobblestone is on the short side by modern standards, measuring just 6,759 yards from the tips and 6,272 from the blues. That’s a bit deceptive, since the course plays to a par of 71 with five par 3s.
The layout includes two entertaining par 4s measuring under 300 yards from the blues, a pair of par 3s of modest length and a short-ish group of par 5s (with one exception), all of which play downhill. But there are also five very stout par 4s and a par 3 that exceeds 200 yards from the blues.
Cobblestone’s variety is among its strengths, with one memorable hole after another, helped to a large degree by its location along the shores of Lake Acworth. Almost half the holes border the lake, which makes for some wonderful views but also makes for some very dangerous shots, especially when the pins are cut perilously close to the water’s edge.
Other than four of the par 3s and the tee shot on the short par-4 fourth, there are no forced carries, and none of those par 3s is especially lengthy. But you don’t have to stray that far off line to find hazards on the holes where water is a serious factor.
Cobblestone is a relatively generous course off the tee, with many of the fairways bordered by mounds that can re-direct your tee shot back into the short grass. However, the rolling nature of most of holes will leave you with a variety of uneven lies, particularly when you get a little close to the mounds off the fairway.
Fairway bunkers are at a minimum (some of the originals were removed), and it usually takes a significantly off-line tee shot to find the tree lines, which have been thinned sufficiently to allow recovery shots. The real challenge begins with the approach shots, which have to deal with the sizeable and deep bunkers guarding the greens, which are
configured to maximize the impact of the sand, mounds and water around them.
There are a number of holes where it takes a considerable amount of skill and nerve to shoot at flags that offer tiny targets with ample amounts of trouble within close proximity.
Because of the size, depth and positioning of many of the greenside bunkers, you can expect to face some daunting shots from the sand, either due to the length of the shot or the water looming not far beyond the flagstick.
Cobblestone is rated at 73.2/137 from the black tees and 71.0/130 from the blues. The white tees measure 5,843 yards and are rated at 69.0/126, plenty of challenge for golfers who don’t regularly shoot in the 80s. The forward tees are longer (5,400 yards) and more challenging (72.3/129) than most, but the tees on the par 3s are positioned to minimize or avoid the carries over water.
Because of its relatively compact nature, Cobblestone is a rare modern course that is easily walkable, with no extended distances between greens and tees. The absence of development and what General Manager Terry Harnage describes as “magnificent views you don’t find on other courses” adds to the appeal of walking.
Harnage says the most common response the Cobblestone staff receives from first time visitors is their surprise that the course is a public facility. Among that group is actor Dennis Quaid, who made frequent visits to the course while in the area working on a move project.
Cobblestone is among the busiest public courses in the state, even though its rates are not as inexpensive as that of other courses hosting a comparable number of rounds. The course offers four different levels of cards that can be purchased on an annual basis and provide discounted fees and pro shop charges. Cobb County residents get a slight break, making the costs very reasonable for a course of Cobblestone’s quality.
The course is located in Acworth just off U.S. 41 north of Barrett Parkway. For information, call 770-917-5151 or visit www.cobblestonegolf.com.