Chestatee Golf Club joined the thriving metro Atlanta golf market in 1999 at the close of a prosperous decade for the golf industry in the state.
The next decade included the events of Sept. 11, 2001 and the economic downturn of 2008-09, and like other courses throughout Georgia and the rest of the country, Chestatee suffered through some relatively lean times.
The club recently marked its 20th anniversary, and its excellent Denis Griffiths’ layout has not been seriously altered since it opened to very positive reviews two decades ago. Brian Ferris has owned Chestatee since it opened, and personable Georgia PGA head professional Todd Gilgrist is a respected club fitter who also serves as the PING tech rep for northern Georgia and southern Tennessee.
With its advantageous location at the foothills of the north Georgia mountains in Dawson County and in close proximity to Lake Lanier, Chestatee is one of the metro area’s more scenic designs, as well as offering quality course conditions, with a bunker renovation project expected to further enhance its conditioning.
Griffiths, an Atlanta-based golf course architect, has designed some of the state’s finest daily fee courses, with his long list of creations including Brasstown Valley, all three courses at Chateau Elan, Chicopee Woods, Crystal Falls, Crystal Lake, the Georgia Club, Georgia National, Old Union, RiverPines, St. Marlo and several Georgia State Parks courses. .
Chestatee is among his best efforts, offering an entertaining but serious challenge, particularly to those of us whose misses off the tee tend to drift to the right.
The preponderance of trouble at Chestatee lurks along the right side, with Griffiths providing a sufficient amount of room away from the trouble to avoid it, assuming you can leave your fade in the bag.
With an exception or two, length is not a serious concern, in part due to the number of elevated tees. There are only a handful of par 4s with substantial yardage, and a few of the seemingly healthy par 5s may not be quite as stout as the yardage on the scorecard indicates.
Chestatee’s overall length (it’s listed at 6,875 yards from the tips with gaps of about 400 yards between each of the next three sets of tees) is a bit deceptive, since the course plays to a par 71 with five par 3s, making it the equivalent of a par 72 in the 7,100-yard category.
None of the par 3s has much length, either, with a few of them playing significantly downhill. Most notable among the group are the short, over-water third, which features a well-guarded, two-tier green, and the gorgeous 17th, which offers an ample target with Lake Lanier clearly visible in the background for the first time during the round.
The 11th also requires a carry over water, but as a group Chestatee’s par 3s are among the tamer you’ll encounter, with the slightly uphill 7th the only one that might require more than a short iron for most players.
Both nines begin with elevated tee shots on par 5s that are not nearly as daunting as the listed yardage (590 and 580 from the tips), Each hole turns right after the tee shot, with the 10th among Chestatee’s collection of holes where right is wrong. The tree line along the right side includes a hazard just below the surface of the fairway, with any tee shot heading in that direction almost certain to result in a penalty stroke.
The approach shot must also carry a pond that fronts a small target and requires considerable precision with a short iron to provide a birdie opportunity, presuming you did not venture off course from the tee.
The opening hole is more inviting, with large mounds and a number of bunkers the only real impediments to a successful start. Griffiths gives you a chance to get something going early, as the par-5 opener is followed by a short and potentially vulnerable par 4 and the downhill par-3 third, where the water is only a concern if you suffer a serious miss-hit from the tee.
All four par 5s present scoring opportunities – even for the distance-challenged – but some accurate placement and strategic thinking will come in handy. The 9th angles left off the tee, with a creek snaking down the right side and very much in play on both the tee shot and second. The lay-up area is not very wide, with mounds left also having to be avoided to set up a short third to a wide, shallow green that is hidden behind a front bunker and features plenty of slope.
The rolling terrain at Chestatee impacts play in a variety of areas, including around the greens, where the ability to get the ball in the air and land softly can be very useful. The putting surfaces, on the other hand, are on the gentle side, with a few modest false fronts and divided levels that have only minimal differences between tiers.
The most intriguing of the interesting group of par 5s is the 16th, which provides two differing paths to the green. The safe route is down the left side, although a row of trees that divides the two corridors can be a problem if your second shot does not clear them to achieve the best angle for a short third.
The more direct but adventurous right side includes some severely rolling terrain, along with trees and sand. The approach angle is not quite as friendly, but for big hitters, it represents the best chance to get home in two among the par 5s.
As is the case on almost every Griffiths’ design, Chestatee sports a very diverse group of par 4s both in terms of style and difficulty. Three of the par 4s on the front nine are among the holes where water looms menacingly down the right side, most perilously on the two toughest holes on the course.
The 4th has length (450/430/410 from the three back sets of tees), water all the way down the right side that impacts both the drive and approach and a challenging green with some quick putts from above the hole with plenty of break.
The 8th is the No.1 handicap hole at Chestatee for a reason, and is one of the most demanding par 4s you’ll encounter. Like the 9th, the fairway angles to the left with a lake looming off the right edge of the fairway that will swallow up tee shots that drift just a bit.
Unlike the 4th, which eases up a bit if you hit it solidly off the tee, a finger of the lake just in front of the 8th green presents a challenge for shorter hitters to carry it with their second shots. For longer hitters, the main obstacle is a sizeable front left bunker that makes it extremely difficult to challenge any pin position cut behind it. At 430 yards from the White tees and 415 from the Golds (senior tees), it’s a virtual par 5 for the distance challenged.
Beginning at the 3rd hole, seven of the next nine have water in play to one degree or another, with the distant view of Lake Lanier from the 17th tee the only hazard in sight from that point.
The most interesting of the par 4s coming in are the downhill 13th and uphill 18th.
The 13th offers the opportunity to take a big rip from the tee to set up a testy downhill approach to a green surrounded by sand, with the rear bunkers keeping over-clubbed approaches from plunging down a hillside.
The length and uphill nature of the 18th makes it a demanding finishing hole, with a well-struck drive required to clear the crest of the hill. With the clubhouse in the background, the view for the approach shot is appealing, but you have to carry the ascending landing area to appreciate it.
From the back tees, Chestatee is rated at 72.7 with a slope of 140. The numbers are 70.9/136 from the blues and 69.0/131 from the whites, with the slope figures a reflection on the potential danger Griffiths’ layout presents. The Gold tees measure 5,600 yards and are rated at 67.1/126, with the forward tees just under 5,000 yards.
Thanks to its nicely-spaced sets of tees, Chestatee will provide a comfortable option for all skill levels. It also offers the choice of moving up or back a set depending on weather and course conditions, enabling players to decide how much of a challenge they are up for that day.
The course will be tested by some of the state’s top amateurs next year when Chestatee hosts a qualifier for the Georgia Amateur.
Chestatee is a semi-private facility, and is currently offering several membership levels. . The daily fee rates are reasonable for a course of its caliber, and for golfers in the north metro area, it’s an easy ride up Georgia 400 just a few miles past the outlet malls just off 400.
Gilgrist has been at Chestatee the past four years after working at the club prior to that. Cheryl Howard, the CMA General Manager, has five years of experience at the club, with superintendant Jeff Losee at Chestatee the last three years after also working at the club previously.
Chestatee is open seven days a week and also features a quality grille.
For information, visit the club’s web site at www.chestateegolfclub.com or call 706-216-7336.