There hasn’t been a great deal for daily fee golfers on Atlanta’s south side to celebrate in recent years.
Several former semi-private clubs converted to private status after being acquired by the Canngate family of courses and a few others have shut down.
However, there is one piece of very good news, especially for those in proximity to Newnan.
Summer Grove, which was one of the most highly regarded daily fee facilities in all of metro Atlanta before joining the Canongate stable of courses in 2006, returned to public status when the club’s original ownership re-acquired the Newnan club.
The Jemsek family, nationally known for its commitment to public golf course in the Chicago area, is again the owner of Summer Grove, and will be assisted by Affiniti Golf Partners, an Atlanta-based club management company that operates a sizeable number of the top daily fee courses in Atlanta, as well as around the state and parts of the Southeast.
Summer Grove opened for play as a public course in 1999, and retained that status until becoming a Canongate private club in 2006.
The Jemsek family plans to keep Summer Grove public, making the club one of just a handful of quality daily fee courses in southwest metro Atlanta.
“That’s always been the Jemsek focus,” said Katherine Jemsek, who helped operate the club before Canongate acquired it. “We think Summer Grove has a lot to offer golfers in the Atlanta market.”
Having Affiniti manage the club will give Summer Grove an Atlanta tie to area golfers, and with Affiniti’s local connections and reputation for operating first class facilities, the transition back to daily fee status should be a smooth one.
Summer Grove will again be able to offer what it did in its first stint as a daily fee 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 family of clubs. Joe T. Jemsek, the grandson of the patriarch of the family that has had such a huge impact on golf in Chicago, was Summer Grove’s architect along with Jeff Burton, who married Lee Roquemore, the daughter of Caningate’s founder.
Burton helped design the newer 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.
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.
Although the ninth is not listed as the toughest hole on the outgoing nine — the moderately long and potentially perilous par-5 eighth holds that distinction) — it is the most demanding hole on the course and one of the strongest par 4s in Atlanta, if not the state.
The hole 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 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.
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, a tree line in play to the right and a lone tree in the middle of the fairway that can impede your path to the green. 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.
“We have to re-introduce the course to the public,” Katherine Jemsek says. “But that’s not as demanding as opening a new course. The market is more competitive and golfers are looking for quality and value.”
Summer Grove ranked high in both categories during its first stint as a public course, and Jemsek says that won’t be any different this time. The club has retained its maintenance staff, which has overseen some changes over the years. 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.
In addition to being available to the public, Summer Grove will also offer several levels of membership, and will be open seven days a week. 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 visits its web site: www.summergrovegolf.com.