Improved Gwinnett course enjoyable, affordable
Before the concept of upscale daily fee courses became prevalent, golf in metro areas like Atlanta was largely divided into two camps – those who were members of private clubs and those who played most of their golf at community-oriented public courses.
The proliferation of upscale daily fee facilities has had a huge impact on both camps, with many of the older public courses gradually fading from view before quietly closing up shop.
Some of the courses that pre-dated the upscale daily fee concept still exist in the Atlanta area, but their numbers are dwindling. Among those still in operation is Collins Hill Golf Club in Lawrenceville, which has had its ups and downs over the years, but has been on the rebound since Cornerstone Golf Partners assumed management of the Gwinnett County-owned facility several years ago.
Prior to CGP taking over the day-to-day operations of Collins Hill, the club suffered through stretches of minimal maintenance and financial concerns, but course conditions and the club’s future prospects have improved considerably since the management change in early 2011.
“This is not the old Collins Hill that a lot of people still think exists,” says Scott Hare, the club’s General Manager and Director of Golf. “We’ve done a lot of things to make the course better, and everybody who has played here previously talks about how much better the course is.”
Hare says the club has added programs for both its members and daily fee visitors, with an expanded junior program coming this year. Collins Hill GC is located within close proximity to one of the state’s largest high schools, which shares the club’s name, as well as the rapidly growing Georgia Gwinnett College, which conducts a few physical education classes on golf at the course.
Collins Hill is located within a long-established suburban community just a few miles off Georgia 316 in the heart of Gwinnett County, and has typically drawn a large percentage of its play from the surrounding area. The course is easily accessible from Forsyth and North Fulton as well as DeKalb, and ranks among the best values in all of Atlanta, with a thoroughly enjoyable, well-conditioned layout that packs a surprising challenge considering its modest yardage numbers and course rating.
“People like Collins Hill because it’s a challenging course that’s always in good shape and is reasonably priced,” Hare says. “That’s why people continue to come back.”
Collins Hill has been around since the 1960s, and was formerly known as Springbrook Golf Club. The course is located just off Collins Hill Rd., on Camp Perrin Rd., which divides the course in two. The front nine and practice range is on one side of the road, with the clubhouse and back nine on the opposite side.
Among the most noticeable improvements to the course in recent years has been the installation of Champions Bermuda greens, which have added to both the appeal of Collins Hill as well as increasing its challenge.
The putting surfaces are generally on the small side, but feature a decent amount of slope due to the rolling terrain throughout the property that provides Collins Hill with much of its character. There are no pronounced tiers or ridges on the greens, but their natural contour results in some significant side-to-side and back-to-front tilts that can make putts across or down seemingly gentle slopes a serious challenge.
Many of Collins Hills’ greens are perched slightly above bordering areas, and hole locations cut along the edges can produce some extremely delicate short game shots, as well as some interesting putts. You can expect your share of longer-than-expected second putts considering the modest size of most of the greens, but the quality of the putting surfaces offers an opportunity to hole putts that trickle away from the cup to six, eight or 10 feet.
Collins Hill plays to a par of 71 and is listed at just 6.217 yards from the blue tees, 5,725 from the whites and 4,854 from the forward tees. A fourth set of tees measuring 5,338 yards have been added, with the yardage numbers rarely a concern. The course is rated at 69.4/132 from the blue tees and 67.1/123 from the whites, with the slope numbers more indicative of the test Collins Hill poses relative to its yardage.
There is a sizeable disparity in yardage between the two nines, with the par-35 front nine measuring 600 yards shorter from the tips than the back, which is a par 36. The yardage differential is almost as pronounced from the white tees (470), with the gap less than 200 yards from the forward tees, even though the back nine plays to a par of 37.
The front nine would appear to be the more inviting of the two, with the six par 4s all 370 yards or shorter and three of them in the 320 range from the back tees. Both par 3s and the lone par 5 are also on the short side, but the absence of length does not translate into lack of difficulty.
Just about every fairway is tightly guarded on both sides by trees, and even tee shots in the fairway may end up obstructed by the tight tree lines on some of the holes with gentle but potentially problematic doglegs. Several of the fairways also feature a significant amount of roll, and you can expect a few uneven lies along the way, preceding some delicate approach shots to small targets with drop-offs along the edges.
Because of the absence of serious length, accuracy is a greater asset than power, with longer hitters not needing driver on most holes. If you can keep it between the tree lines off the tee, you will be rewarded with some scoring opportunities. But that also requires some precise short iron play to avoid difficult pitch shots or perplexing putts if you wind up in the wrong spot on the more challenging greens.
The downhill nature of a number of holes on the opening nine makes them play even shorter than the already modest yardages. But if you get a little aggressive on some of the tee shots, you run the risk of rolling through the fairway or winding up in an awkward lie.
The par-4 second doglegs right with a fairway that slopes to the left and a landing area shielded from view by the terrain. The narrow fairway on the short third plunges sharply downhill as you near the green, setting up a short but touchy uphill second shot.
At just 110 yards from the back tees with no water or sand in play, the fourth is listed as the No. 17 handicap hole. But if you come up a little short with your tee shot, don’t be surprised to watch it roll way back down the steep hill leading up to the green. If you manage to land your tee shot on the green but are unfortunate enough to end up above the hole, any putt hit with a little too much force is capable of scooting past the cup and right back down the hill.
The most demanding hole on the opening nine is the sixth, which is only around 320 from the back tees, but has trouble left, right and long off the tee, followed by an angled approach shot with a hazard and thick foliage just short and left of a very shallow putting surface.
The par-4 seventh begins with the only forced carry over water on the course, with the slightly uphill approach to an elevated green producing a testy pitch if you’re off a little on the second shot.
The lone par 5 on the nine is the ninth, which plays longer than its yardage thanks to a sharply uphill third shot over sand that covers the front of the green.
An inviting, downhill par 5 opens the back nine, which gets a lot more daunting once you reach the tee on the par-4 11th. The hole has ample length (441/407), a fairway that slopes sharply from left to right and a lake that is very much in play for shorter hitters on the second shot. Bunkers flank a small-ish green with a decent amount of slope, making for one of the tougher par 4s you’ll encounter in all of Atlanta.
Fortunately, the remainder of the back nine is not nearly as demanding, although it also features the longest par 3 (16) and par 5 (17) on the course. The nine also has a few more par 4s of modest yardages, with the dogleg right 12th including another fairway with plenty of slope and a green with a particularly dicey back left pin position.
The home hole starts with one of the narrowest tee shots on the course, and ends on a relatively large green with a pronounced back-to-front tilt, wrapping up a solid three-hole finishing stretch.
With sand and a creek short and right of the 16th green, the hole is the strongest of Collins Hill’s par 3s, with the down-and-up 17th the toughest of the par 5s with both length and positioning a concern.
Although the terrain is reasonably hilly, Collins Hill is among the most walker-friendly courses in Atlanta, with the club also sporting one of the more inviting atmospheres among the metro area’s daily fee facilities, along with some very affordable rates
For information on Collins Hill, call 770-822-5400 or visit www.collinshillgolfcom.