At Dogwood Golf Club in southwest Cobb County, change sometimes occurs at a leisurely pace.
Dogwood opened for play in 1968 with nine holes and added a second nine several years later. The original Penncross bent grass greens lasted more than 45 years before finally being replaced last year, with the club going to mini-verde Bermuda, a more climate appropriate surface that matches or exceeds the quality of bent grass.
The change has elevated the status of one of the Atlanta area’s more unique golf facilities, even though the club remains little known in metro area golf circles outside its surrounding area.
Dogwood’s distinction is its status as both a private club and a daily fee course. Dogwood is open to public play Monday through Thursday, but play is limited to members and their guests Friday through Sunday.
The club’s members play primarily on weekends, allowing the course to accommodate daily fee players during the week, along with a number of charity and company events.
Andy Schival, one of Dogwood’s owners and the club’s general manager, says allowing the public to play the course during the week “keeps our dues structure low,” with Dogwood ranking at the top of the list of the metro area’s most affordable clubs.
“We have a lot of perks for the members,” says Schival, mostly regarding savings in the pro shop and dining facility. The perks, however, do not include much in the way of non-golf amenities, as Dogwood is strictly a golf club, with no pool or tennis courts.
“We’re a golf club, not a country club,” Schival says, describing his membership as “middle income.”
Even without country club amenities, Dogwood is “family-oriented,” says Schival, with the club hosting matches for a number of local high school golf programs.
During the week at Dogwood, you’re likely to come across “a lot of seniors and people that don’t want to play on the weekend,” Schival points out. Some of the members also get out at times during the week, and with the club’s membership down a bit from the high of the pre-2008 financial troubles, Schival says the weekend tee sheets “are not overcrowded.”
The affordable dues structure and the addition of the new greens will help Dogwood return its membership numbers to pre-2008 levels, with the enjoyable nature of the course layout and accommodating atmosphere surrounding the club also helping in that regard, along with its accessible location.
Dogwood is located between the communities of Austell and Powder Springs, south of Marietta and west of Smyrna. Douglasville is also nearby, and the suburbs of east Cobb and north Fulton are within easy driving distance via Barrett Parkway or Georgia 120 and Powder Springs Rd.
With many area courses either corporate or government-owned, Dogwood is one of an increasingly rare number of Atlanta courses that is locally owned and operated, which helps give it some of its down-home charm.
Prior to the replacing of the greens, the last major projects at Dogwood were course upgrades in the 1990s and the addition of new some tee boxes in the mid-to-late 2000s that added some length to a course that is on the short side by modern standards, the front nine at least.
In recent years, Schival says the greens had become the main source of concern, but with the new surfaces and some renovation work to the greens complexes by Atlanta area golf course architect Bill Bergin “our players are more satisfied. Now we have the combination” of quality greens and quality fairways.
Even when the greens may not have been rolling their smoothest, Dogwood has been known for its lush fairways, and now the course has putting surfaces to match its overall condition. Bergin has handled renovations at Sky Valley, West Pines and most notably Dunwoody and Pinetree Country Clubs in Georgia, as well as Chattanooga G&CC and Maggie Valley CC just outside the state.
Bergin softened a few of the greens a bit and also added some contour to others. The back to front slope found on many of the greens is not quite as prevalent as it was previously, but the putting surfaces still provide a reasonable test.
Although it is longer than it used to be, Dogwood measures a modest 6,500 yards from the blue tees and 6,060 from the whites. The senior tees are a friendly 5,390 with the forward tees 5,075. The course is rated at 71.2/126 (blue), 69.3/122 (white) and 66.4/115 (green), with the forward tees 69.7/119 for women.
Among the more prominent characteristics of Dogwood is the considerable disparity in par, yardage and difficulty between the two nines. Both the original and second nines have holes that are now part of both sides, which accounts for the scorecard par of 37-35. Although the front nine has three par 5s and the back nine just one, the back nine is a few yards longer than the front, although that may change with a minor addition in length to the second hole.
The front nine offers more than its share of scoring opportunities, with a trio of mostly friendly par 5s and several par 4s of modest length. The back nine starts with the shortest par 4 on the course, but the degree of difficulty picks up once you reach the 11th tee and continues until you clear the creek that crosses the fairway and impacts the tee shot on the 18th hole.
Dogwood is a relatively narrow tree-lined layout, although there are several holes with parallel fairways that will allow some considerable inaccuracy off the tee. That is the exception more than the rule, however, and the first order of business at Dogwood is to keep it in the fairway on the holes where wayward drives will be penalized.
Most of the par 4s and 5s on the opening nine turn slightly in one direction or the other, with positioning off the tee key to set up unimpeded approach shots, as a few of the holes feature trees along the edges of fairways that can impact play.
The first hole is an example of that, but at less than 350 yards from the back tees with no sand in play, it offers the chance to get your right started successfully with a little accuracy.
The first five par 4s (including the short but tight 10th) are 375 yards or shorter from the tips, with the three par 5s on the front nine also on the short-to-medium side. There is little water in play on the nine, with a creek crossing the fairway on the par-5 second that is mostly out of play and the same creek fronting the green on the par-3 third.
The second is one of just a few holes at Dogwood with a front bunker that has to be carried to reach the putting surface, with the greens complexes on the gentle side. Some of the greens are minimally elevated, but the general absence of bunkers and mostly friendly bordering terrain does not put a great deal of pressure on the short game.
The front nine includes two more short-ish par 4s, with the tee shot on the fourth having to thread its way through a narrow chute, while the eighth features a fairly pronounced dogleg left. The “longest” of the 4s on the opening nine is the seventh (375), which is moderately narrow with thick trees and sand down the right side and sports a relatively small target.
Tree lines are very much in play on holes five and nine, the longest of the par 5s in the 520-to-525 range. Trees at the corner of the dogleg right ninth can be a concern, but they are not thick enough to prevent recovery shots.
The sixth is the shortest of the par 3s, and at just 156 from an elevated back tee, does not pose much of a threat.
The back nine starts with a short (306 from the blues) par 4, but with the driving range and OB tight to the right and a road within reach on the left, driver is not needed and may not be advisable from the tee. Bunkers front a small green and put a little pressure on the short approach, which will be one of the last short shots you’ll face on the nine.
The 11th (372) is the next shortest par 4 coming in, but the yardage is deceptive. With water surrounding most of the fairway and trees tight to the left, an accurate lay-up is required, leaving a lengthy, slightly uphill approach to one of the larger greens on the course.
Three of the other four par 4s on the nine measure 420, 425 and 430 from the back tees, with water fronting two of the three greens, most notably on the daunting 15th. A creek well short of the green on 13 is not as great a concern, but the narrowness tee to green is. The 14th is not as long (385), but the uphill nature of the second shot makes it one of the tougher holes on a nine that also includes a pair of par 3s measuring at or just over 200 yards from the tips.
Dogwood closes with a par 5 that is similar to the ninth and features a creek bisecting the fairway that is in play off the tee and requires a decision whether to attempt to carry it. A layup off the tee and a decent second will still leave you a reasonable third shot, with the green one of the few protected by front bunkers.
With its non-developed, compact setting, Dogwood is also a friendly course to walk, and its grill offers a full breakfast menu and some of the best hot dogs, hamburgers and club sandwiches you’ll come across at a golf course facility.
For information on Dogwood, call 770-941-2202 or visit www.dogwoodgolf.org