By Mike Blum
One of the favorite stops for Atlanta golfers and visitors to the area for decades has been Stone Mountain Golf Club, which offers two distinctly different courses for its diverse clientele.
Having two thoroughly disparate but complementary layouts gives area daily fee golfers and Evergreen Marriott Resort guests an option of which of the two they want to play.
The more traditional Robert Trent Jones Sr., Stonemont layout has been around almost 45 years and has been considered among the metro area’s finest daily fee courses since it opened.
The newer Lakemont 18, which debuted in stages during the 1990s, is an entertaining resort-oriented layout designed by Georgia native John LaFoy, and provides a contrasting experience to its sister course.
Because of its overall absence of length in comparison to Stonemont – along with its strong scenic appeal — Lakemont attracts more of the out-of-town visitors to Stone Mountain Park, with Stonemont a favorite of locals and lower handicappers.
In actuality, Stonemont may be the friendlier course of the two to less experienced players, lacking the hazards and forced carries that are more prevalent on Lakemont.
Scott Eibling, Stone Mountain’s Director of Golf, says about 55 percent of those who play at the 36-hole facility choose Lakemont, with that number largely a result of the preference of visitors to the park.
Both courses offer wonderful visuals along the way, with the mountain in clear view from a number of holes early on the Lakemont nine, along with several on Stonemont, most notably the par-3 16th.
The first six holes on Lakemont wrap around the lake, with the back nine featuring some dramatically rolling terrain, along with a short but treacherous par 4 with a quarry pond separating fairway and green.
Lakemont is significantly shorter than Stonemont, measuring just 6,444 yards from the tips and barely over 6,000 from the whites, playing to a par of 71. Stonemont, a par 70, is 6,863 yards from the back tees, 6,479 from the blues and 6,129 from the whites. The red tees are a stout 5,460, with one of a number of relatively lengthy par 4s playing as a par 5 for those teeing it up from the reds.
While Stonemont has only two holes with serious hazards – excluding some drainage ditches off a few of the fairways – Lakemont features six holes where water is a major concern, along with several others where trouble is well within range from the tee.
For those who rate the difficulty of courses by how many balls they are likely to lose, Lakemont’s number of hazards and denser tree lines place it higher than Stonemont in that category.
Lakemont is rated at 71.5/134 from the blue tees, 68.5/129 from the whites and a friendly 68.3/121 from the forward tees. If you drive it in play, it offers far more scoring opportunities than Stonemont. But if you spray it off the tee or miss-hit a shot in the wrong spot, it can be a more penal layout than its sister course, which is generally considered the stronger of the two.
The first six holes on Lakemont feature some of the most splendid sights you’ll encounter on a golf course, with four of the six playing over or around the lake, with some great views of the mountain on the other side.
However, that stretch of holes also includes some of the toughest among the 36. The par-5 opener begins with a tee shot that has to carry a finger of the lake. with he twisting hole turning left than right as it approaches the green, guarded by the lake on the left and a rock outcropping and trees on the right.
A solid drive and lay-up removes most of the danger, but lengthier third shots that have to negotiate the problems on both sides can get your round off to a rocky start before you reach the tee on the long but hazard-free, par-3 second.
A long, straight tee shot on the par-4 third is required to avoid a daunting second over a creek, with the green surrounded by the lake on the other three sides. Survive the stout start, and you should get a smile from your scorecard at the end of the day.
The inland fourth, which sports a relatively narrow fairway and well-bunkered green, and short, dogleg right fifth, which plays back to the lake, are relative par-4 breathers, before another lengthy par 3 closes out the group of lakeside holes.
At 221 from the blues and 195 from the whites, the sixth is comparable in length to the second, but with water short and left and trees uncomfortably close on the right, there isn’t much room to miss. The hole was formerly a short, quirky par 4, but was converted into a par 3 due to the tiny amount of available landing area between the lake and trees.
Following another narrow but otherwise stress-free par 4 and an inviting downhill par 3 of minimal distance, the nine closes with a par 5 that requires considerable accuracy on both the tee shot and lay-up before an uphill third to a large, well-guarded green.
Distance is a non-factor on the entire back nine at Lakemont, which requires a winding but pleasant cart ride through the trees to reach the 10th hole that is in close proximity to several holes on Stonemont’s front nine.
Avoid the rocks and trees bordering the fairway at the 10th and the water that must be carried on the second shot on the 11th and you should be able to get off to a positive start on the back nine. The par-5 12th begins the stretch of holes with significant elevation changes, with accuracy again a necessity off the tee, along with a quality lay-up to prevent a sharply uphill third over water off a potentially uneven lie.
The nine is relatively tame after that, with the downhill par-4 14th scenically framed by trees, and the short par-4 17th offering one of the best scoring opportunities on the course, but also one of the most likely greens to three-putt because of its size.
Stonemont is rated at 73.7 from the black tees, 72.0/128 from the blues and 70.4/124 from the whites. Because of its length, the reds are a strong 73.5/130
Like Lakemont, Stonemont begins with a demanding first hole, but length, trees and plenty of roll from tee to green are the concerns, not water. Ranging from 425 to 450 from the back three sets of tees, it is all the hole you want and then some for an opener, with an elevated green that can produce some testy pitch shots adding to the challenge.
Unlike Lakemont, Stonemont’s next two holes are not nearly as daunting, with the short par-4 second (270 to 290) a great birdie chance if you can steer clear of the large fairway bunker down the left side. The downhill, dogleg left third is a mostly inviting par 5 if you can stay out of the trees on either side.
Among the challenges on the hole is one of several putting surfaces that does not appear to have an abundance of slope, but will produce some putts with significant break. The greens on Stonemont are more challenging than those on Lakemont, which are mostly on the gentle side.
Considering the tee-to-green demands of Stonemont’s layout, the subtle but serious test found on the greens makes Jones’ nicely-crafted design a truly worthwhile all-around challenge that remains playable, even for the distance-challenged who tackle it.
A series of solid par 4s in the 400-yard range and a tour-length par 3 follow, with the most interesting hole on the remainder of the nine the downhill, sharply dogleg right. The hole concludes with an uphill approach off a likely uneven lie to an extremely wide green fronted by a by a bunker that gets plenty of play.
Water is in play left of the green on the par-3 10th, but it takes a big-time hook to find it, with bunkers along the right side of the putting surface more of a concern.
The most serious hazard on the back nine is a creek winding in front of the green on the slightly uphill par-4 11th, with short or errant tee shots resulting in a lay-up.
The closest thing to a breather on the incoming nine is the par-4 12th, which is downhill and on the short side, but also features a pair of trees dead in the middle of the fairway in the landing area. A close encounter with them alters the nature of the No. 18 handicap hole on the course.
Four of the last six holes are par 4s that average around 390 from the whites and 405 from the blues, with some mostly generous fairways but a variety of approach shots that have to deal with bunkers and some difficult to reach pin positions.
With Stone Mountain in the background, the par-3 16th is a hole that almost demands a camera click from the tee. The wonderful visual aside, the hole is among the most deceptive on the course, with a wide, shallow green fronted by sand extremely difficult to hold. The thin strip of foliage between the green and 17th tee, located just behind and below it, is a magnet for balls hit too low or too far.
Stonemont concludes with a narrow, straightaway par 5 that rewards accuracy, as well as those who have discovered that the green funnels approach shots along its left side back to the middle.
With a relative break from the weather so far this year, both courses in their best condition in some time, particularly the bent grass greens, although the sizeable number of Canadian geese that have settled on the property have given the maintenance staff a different set of challenges.
Even with the entrance fee to the park, greens fees remain very affordable, with a special $25 walking fee for Stonemont generating some interest on the compact layout with only two holes featuring uphill treks of note.
And there aren’t any other courses in Atlanta which offer the entertainment options after a round to match Stone Mountain, which makes it a great family outing with golf a part of the day.
(See Stone Mountain, page 6)
2 distinct options
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