Summer Grove head golf professional Wyatt Detmer has seen the ebb and flow of golf on Atlanta’s south side at varying stages, and is currently getting a different view of the state of golf in his area.
Detmer was the original head pro at Orchard Hills, a daily fee course in Newnan that opened in the early 1990s and enjoyed a successful run before the course was sold for commercial use in 2016.
With Orchard Hills no longer a competitor, Summer Grove has regained its status as the top daily fee facility in southwest metro Atlanta after a number of years as a private facility under the Canongate umbrella of golf clubs.
Summer Grove opened for play as a daily fee course in 1999, but went private when it became a Canongate club in 2006. Chicago’s Jemsek family, which initially developed Summer Grovc, returned the club to daily fee status in 2013, and Detmer returned to Newnan as Summer Grove’s head pro late last year after several years at Callaway Gardens.
Prior to going private, Summer Grove was one of the most highly regarded daily fee facilities in all of metro Atlanta, but its time as a private facility still has some in the Atlanta golf community thinking of it as a private club.
Detmer stresses that Summer Grove is a fully public course now, although the club has a growing membership and exists as semi-private facility with quality grille and events for its members.
Summer Grove is again offering what it did during its first stint as a daily fee access facility – a first rate, enjoyable layout in quality condition with reasonable rates and a friendly atmosphere.
The design of Summer Grove brought together both the Jemseks and Roquemores, the family that created the Canongate clubs. Joe T. Jemsek, the grandson of the patriarch of the family that has had a huge impact on public golf in Chicago, was Summer Grove’s architect along with Jeff Burton, who married Lee Roquemore, the daughter of Canongate’s founder.
Burton helped design the last group of Canongate courses along with Rocky Roquemore, Lee’s brother, and Summer Grove may be the best of his efforts, deftly meshing the sometimes clashing aims of challenge and playability.
With an exception or two, Summer Grove is not a lengthy layout, and the course’s slope rating, an indicator of its difficulty for non-scratch golfers, is surprisingly modest across the board. The course is listed at 6,954 yards from the tips and also includes gold (6,637), blue (6,227) and white tees (5,856), with the forward tees 5,128.
Partly due to the absence of serious length (with the few notable exceptions), the course rating/slope numbers for Summer Grove provide a somewhat deceptive picture of the challenge the layout presents. Summer Grove is rated at 73.5/133 from the tips, 72.2/130 from the golds, 70.6/125 from the blues and 68.8/120 from the white tees. The forward tees are rated at 70.4/118.
There has been a recent change that will impact two of the holes depending on what day you play the course. After the removal of a few trees, the club is able to switch the tees on holes 2 and 9, altering par on the two holes. That will come as a relief for those who have struggled to handle the long, par-4 ninth, one of the tougher holes in all of metro Atlanta.
For the most part, Summer Grove is a very generous course off the tee, with just a relative handful of holes requiring much accuracy. The tree lines are typically well removed from the playing corridors, with the dogleg left par-4 sixth and the scenic, tempting par-5 11th two of the small number of holes where there isn’t an ample amount of available fairway.
There also isn’t a great deal of length, apart from two extremely stout par 4s that conclude each of the nines and one par 3 from the back two sets of tees.
The ninth and 18th holes don’t have a great deal in common other than their par and difficulty. The ninth ranges from a very healthy 394 yards from the white tees to 441 from the tips and is as flat as a proverbial pancake. A thin tree line down the right side is within reach, but the main concern is a creek bordering the left edge of the fairway that is in play for longer hitters and snakes in front of a green that does not offer much of a target.
The narrow putting surface is set at an angle from the fairway, making approach shots from the right side especially daunting. Even if you successfully clear the creek, a pesky bunker and slight drop-off left of the green makes for testy short game shots, with thick foliage further left a concern for those overly concerned with the creek.
The hole should be a little less daunting as a par 5, but not by much.
The 18th offers a splendid view from a significantly elevated tee, and while water is not a real concern, the sheer length of the hole is. The hole measures 479 from the black tees and 453 from the blues, with fairway bunkers left and right pinching the wide landing area a bit.
Like the ninth, the bigger challenge is the second shot, which has to clear a group of bunkers short of the green. The ample putting surface features a considerable amount of slope, and given the length of the approach, is likely to result in a putt of serious length with plenty of break.
Summer Grove’s typically excellent greens provide a healthy slice of the course’s challenge, especially on the last three par 4s (15, 17 and 18). Both 15 and 17 include a number of bunkers dotting the fairways, followed by uphill approaches to greens with pronounced upper and lower tiers.
The putting surface at 15 is divided right and left, with the 17th including a steep ridge running through the middle of the green. Good luck if you end up on the opposite side from where the cup is cut.
The par-4 fifth also sports a green with a decent amount of slope, but that is not the main feature of the hole. At just 323 from the back tees, it is the shortest of the par 4s, but with water lining the entire right of the hole and zealously guarding the green short and right, it is not as inviting as its minimal yardage.
Bunkers down the left side are in reach for those playing away from the water, and if you over-club on the short second to avoid a splash, a sand shot or long, curling putt to a front pin uncomfortably close to the water can be a scary proposition.
Water is also very much in play on a pair of par 3s, beginning with the scenic, all-carry fourth. The 13th is the only par 3 of length, measuring 228 from the tips and 217 from the golds. Water borders the entire right side, but the hole is considerably shorter with a friendlier angle from the blues and whites.
Three of the par 5s also are on the hazardous side, with the mostly unassuming second the lone one of the four without serious trouble along the way. It will play very differently as a lengthy par 4.
The green at the eighth is surrounded on three sides by water, and plays as a three-shotter for just about everybody, ranging from a healthy 514 from the white tees to 555 from all the way back. A creek that bisects the fairway can be a concern for shorter hitters, with the greenside water not a major problem for those with just a wedge left for their third shot.
Both par 5s on the back nine are just over 500 yards from the back tees, but each offers risk to go with the reward.
The 11th is among the tightest holes on the course, with water down the left and a tree line in play to the right. The water extends all the way to the putting surface, which slopes towards the lake and makes for some touchy short game shots when the pin is placed in close proximity to the hazard.
The 14th begins with a tee shot over water at an angle that allows you to decide how much of it you want to carry. Longer hitters can definitely reach the green on the dogleg right in two, but trees along the right side can block access to the putting surface for those approaching from the right side of the fairway. A creek that winds just in front of the green swallows up pulled shots from long range for those going for the green from an angle.
Even with the number of hazards that have to be negotiated, Summer Grove is not an overly demanding layout, although the ninth hole is definitely capable of inflicting major damage to your scorecard.
The club has hosted the Georgia Women’s Open on several occasions and yielded some reasonably low scores. But you will have to play well to post a good number, even with the lack of serious length and mostly wide corridors.
Summer Grove opened with zoysia fairways and rough, but Bermuda is now competing with the zoysia, creating a unique grassing situation, but one that does not negatively impact play.
The club is conveniently located just a few miles off I-85, exit 47, just across Highway 34 from the large Yamaha plant in Newnan.
For information, call 770-251-1800 or visit its web site: www.summergrovegolf.com.