By Mike Blum
In recent issues, Fore Georgia has spotlighted daily fee golf courses in north and west Georgia. In this issue, we feature courses in Atlanta and adjoining areas, mostly north of the city.
We have broken down the Atlanta courses by counties – Fulton and Forsyth (North), Cobb and Cherokee (Northwest), and DeKalb and Gwinnett (Northeast). The Northwest and Northeast courses can be found on pages 18 and 20.
Some metro Atlanta courses have been featured in previous issues, with the stories available on our web site. We will spotlight courses south and east of the city in upcoming issues.
Bobby Jones: One of the City of Atlanta owned courses located just north of downtown. It’s among metro Atlanta’s shortest and friendliest layouts, falling just a bit short of 6,000 yards from the back tees, playing to a par of 71. The course is relatively tight, with several trees positioned within fairways to increase the demand on proper placement. The course is quite hilly for a layout so close to downtown, with some significantly uphill approach shots. Creeks that wind through the property account for most of the modest challenges on the enjoyable, traditional design with a few twists along the way.
Echelon: The course opened in 2006 as a private club with a different name (Georgia Tech Club), but has since changed to semi-private status with a new name and new management. One thing that hasn’t changed is its demanding nature, with the outstanding Rees Jones layout among the state’s toughest tests, particularly from the two lengthiest sets of tees. The par-5 11th is one of the strongest holes around, and is one of a handful of
very difficult holes.
From the blues and whites, Echelon is a challenging but playable test, with the hilly nature of the terrain a factor, although some elevated tees help reduce the effective yardage. The terrain also impacts the greens complexes, with a number of putting surfaces carved out of hillsides, impacting short game shots more than putting, with the surfaces relatively gentle but on the quick side.
Hampton Golf Village: Among the tougher driving courses in the metro area, the Clyde Johnston design features a number of demanding par 4s that account for most of the course’s difficulty, including one of the strongest finishing holes around. Some relatively rugged terrain makes up a good part of the challenge, but other than the four or five stout par 4s, the layout is not overly demanding. The par 5s have some length and hazards, but are not particularly difficult, with the par 3s on the tame side despite some carries over wetlands areas.
Lanier Golf Club: The course was scheduled to close for August and most of September to convert its greens from bent grass to Dwarf Bermuda. Originally a private club when it opened in the early 1970s, Lanier has been embroiled in a battle over its future since the proposed sale of the club fell through, resulting in its change to a daily fee facility.
The highly regarded Joe Lee layout remains a strength, with more emphasis on accuracy than power. Some short par 4s offer scoring opportunities, but there are no soft touches, with the subtleties of Lee’s layout making it an enjoyable, moderately challenging course. Among the highlights is a terrific opening par 5, one of the few with water seriously in play.
The Manor: Like Echelon, originally a private club that is now semi-private after a change in ownership and management. The two courses have filled the upscale daily fee niche in the North Fulton area vacated by While Columns, and like Echelon, The Manor ranks with the best courses in the metro area in both the quality of layout and course conditioning.
The interesting Tom Watson design is a little friendlier than Echelon, with relatively generous landing areas and a modest number of hazards in play. However, the greens complexes represent a serious challenge, with Watson using the surrounding terrain to create some testy short game shots while also impacting the excellent putting surfaces. The downhill nature of a number of holes reduces the yardage a bit, but the standout group of par 3s has some length and bite even though just one has water in play.
North Fulton GC: One of the metro area’s busiest courses, the venerable and respected layout at Chastain Park has been aided by an upgrade in the quality of the formerly sub-standard putting surfaces. A solid course tee to green, North Fulton is on the short side by modern standards, but includes a trio of strong par 4s that could be more than many players can handle from the tips. The par 5s are vulnerable but require some precision, but it’s the lengthy par 4s that offer the challenge on the gently rolling layout that produces a nice mix of uphill and downhill shots with a decent number of hazards in play.
RiverPines: Consistently among the most popular facilities in all of Atlanta, RiverPines also features a quality practice facility and a 9-hole par-3 course with strong appeal to juniors and novice golfers. The excellent par-70 Denis Griffiths design includes one of the better collection of par 4s in Atlanta, varying considerably in length, difficulty and style.
Some of the par 4s, particularly early in the round, require both accuracy and length, with hazards in play both off the tee and in proximity to the mostly ample greens. The par 3s are a mostly unimposing group, with one of the two par 5s (No. 17) among the most perplexing risk-reward holes in the metro area.
St. Marlo: Another excellent Griffiths design, St. Marlo is among the best daily fee courses in Atlanta, although its name (St. Marlo Country Club) location and setting has led many metro golfers to assume that it’s a private facility. The gated entrance, clubhouse and course conditions say private club, but the course is public.
One of the best mixes of holes around, Griffiths’ layout includes several of Atlanta’s longest and most demanding par 4s, along with a mostly inviting group of par 5s that includes one of area’s quirkiest but most entertaining holes (No. 9). The par 3s rate high both for visual appeal and challenge, with a pair of short but potentially penal par 4s among the area’s best of that genre. Both the landing areas and quality putting surfaces are on the generous side, with the overall layout offering a very fair but sufficiently challenging test.
Trophy Club of Atlanta: An area fixture for the past two decades, the semi-private club sports one of the friendlier layouts around, but can provide more of a challenge than the modest yardage. The Steve Melnyk/D.J. DeVictor design is reasonably tight off the tee, but some perplexing putting surfaces have denied many players from shooting the low score they were hoping for.
There are plenty of scoring opportunities, with several short and inviting par 4s and a trio of par 3s of minimal length. The par 5s are not especially long, but hazards that guard the greens on three of them can produce some crooked scorecard numbers. The most dramatic hole is the long, downhill par-4 eighth, which features an intimidating second shot over water that makes it among the area’s toughest two-shotters.
Executive courses: Atlanta and Sandy Springs both have quality executive courses. Charlie Yates, which is located next to East Lake, is an outstanding short course (3,357 yards, par 58), with conditions not that far short of those at its famous next door neighbor. There are several very strong par 3s, with a number of fairly inviting short iron holes and a quartet of par 4s between 265 and 330.
Steel Canyon in Sandy Springs has a little more length (3,874 yards, par 61), with a 500-yard par 5 and a five par 4s. A few of the par 3s are surprisingly demanding for an executive course, particularly the long and narrow eighth, with the course’s setting on a former landfill providing some challenges for designer Mike Riley. Among the tougher executive courses in the area, with the changes in terrain resulting in some interesting shots.