An introduction to Georgia
The Peach State is the largest state east of the Mississippi, bordering the Atlantic Ocean to the southeast. It borders five other states, Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina.
The topography of the state is diverse to say the least. Starting in the northwest you have the Blue Ridge Mountains, part of the Appalachian Mountain range. These move southeast to the coastal plain which is characterised by wetlands, marshes and swamplands.
The capital city is Atlanta, host to the 1994 Olympics and located up in the higher terrain of the state. It is around Atlanta where many of the best golf courses in Georgia are located.
There is another smaller city named Augusta which you may have heard of! It sits on the Georgia/South Carolina border and is home to many top class golf courses, including Augusta National.
The city of Savannah is beautiful, located on the Georgia coastline and one of the oldest cities in the States. In the old town there are quaint cobbled streets, historic buildings and parks which attract millions of tourists annually. There are many great golf courses near Savannah too.
The best golf courses in Georgia
Peachtree Golf Club
The Peachtree golf course was a design collaboration between Bobby Jones and Robert Trent Jones. It opened for play in 1947.
This project wasn’t long after Jones’ successful collaboration with Alister MacKenzie creating the iconic Augusta National. And at Peachtree, Bobby was keen to produce similar results and use many similar qualities.
Robert Trent Jones however (no relation to Bobby), was a very different character to MacKenzie. Putting it politely he also had strong ideas as to the design and qualities. Subsequently, his mark is felt far more here at Peachtree than Jones’.
The site is special, and there are many similarities to Augusta National. Tall pines dominate across the undulating terrain. During the spring and summer months, you’ll inevitably see the azaleas out in bloom.
At the time of opening, the course stretched to 7,200 yards, incredibly long for middle of the 20th century. But arguably a forward-thinking move by Trent Jones to future proof the course. The greens are huge and are well protected by all different types of hazards including water and bunkers.
Peachtree is without doubt, one of the finest golf courses in Georgia. It is unanimously considered one of the finest golf courses in the nation.
Atlanta Athletic Club (Highlands)
Ranked one of the top ten athletic clubs in the United States, the Atlanta Athletic Club is truly impressive. It boasts an olympic sized swimming pool, multiple tennis courts, both indoor and outdoor and a number of other facilities. From a golf perspective, there are two championship golf courses and a nine-hole par 3 course
The origins of the club go way back to the 19th century, 1898 to be precise. As the club grew in size and its membership started slowly moving north of Atlanta into the leafy suburbs, the club moved with them to the current site in Johns Creek.
Of the two championship golf courses, the Highlands course is the one which ranks highest. In the 1960s, at the time of moving to its current location, Robert Trent Jones designed a 27-hole layout. Yet today, the Highlands course is made up of 9 of Jones’ original design, and 9 holes designed by Joe Finger in the early 70s.
Over the years the Highlands has hosted some of the most high profile golf tournaments. These include the 1976 US Open, as well as the PGA Championship, US Amateur Championships and the Arnold Palmer Cup.
The fairways are flanked by tall pines and other mature trees. Whilst in the spring and summer, the dense foliage is covered in a litany of blossoming flowers. The site is hilly, which makes for some pretty impressive approach shots and shaped fairways. The greens are generally undulating and fast.
Sea Island Golf Club (Seaside)
The origins of Sea Island date way back to the 1920s, with 18 holes designed by the legendary Charles Alison. This is an architect who made his name as one half of the duo, Colt and Alison.
A further nine-holes were created by Joe Lee in the 70s, and today’s signature course takes nine-holes from both Alison and Lee. Tom Fazio, a man with his name against so many of the nation’s finest golf courses, was brought in during the late 90s to update and modernise the course.
The is a special site, an ocean-side links built by dredging tidal marshes of the Brunswick River. The natural beauty is unparalleled, with sweeping dunes and native wildflowers and grasses bordering most fairways. Depending on the day, wind can play havoc with the scorecard, only enhancing the challenge on offer here.
PGA Tours events have been held here including the PGA Tour’s RSM Classic which was a FedEx Cup event.
Ocean Forest Golf Club
On the northern tip of Sea Island, a serene parcel of Georgia land, is the wonderful Ocean Forest golf course. This is right where the Hampton River meets the Atlantic Ocean, as exposed as it gets.
The course was designed by Rees Jones and Greg Muirhead in 1995 and was the brainchild of Bill Jones III. What opened for play was a linksland course, essentially as close to a seaside links as possible.
The natural sand dunes give this a distinct character and there are some superb holes. The divine 10th hole is a 545 yard par five, where hitting the fairway is a must. But not just hitting the fairway. Getting as close to the right hand side as possible is critical to hit the green in two. But the precision needed to hit the green and stay out of trouble is also essential. This really is a fantastic hole, as are so many on the course.
So highly regarded was the Ocean Forest course, within just six years it was hosting the Walker Cup. This was the first course to have hosted it so soon after opening.
Atlanta Country Club
The Atlanta Country Club was formed back in the 1960s by businessmen Jim Clay. He had a driving ambition to build a world class golf course and host PGA tour events in his hometown of Atlanta.
It was in 1964 the club officially formed with the golf course eventually opening for play in 1966, to high acclaim and recognition. Indeed, since it opened it has received high praise from all major golf publications as one of the top golf courses near Atlanta.
The ‘Atlanta Classic’, a PGA tour event, was held here for over thirty years in the late 20th century. Whilst other first class tournaments have also been staged here including numerous amateur events and the USGA Women’s Amateur in 1971.
Atlanta Country Club was designed by Willard C. Byrd, with in latter years Jack Nicklaus making some subtle amends. Century-old oak trees line most holes and water comes into play on numerous occasions. This is either in the form of a lake or small creek running at a cross-angle to the fairway or in front of greens.
The course is hilly, with only a short stretch of holes in the middle playing out on relatively flat terrain. The par 3s are sensational, with particularly the sixth and the thirteenth stand outs.
OK, so what can you say about Augusta National which hasn’t already been said. The home venue of the Masters tournament. The Masters is one of the four major championships in golf and has been held annually here since 1934.
The course was the vision of former grand slam winner Bobby Jones, who teamed up with prolific golf course architect Alister MacKenzie to purchase this former plant nursery and design this outstanding course.
Fast forward to today and Augusta National is as exclusive as they get. It is also the only major championship which is held at the same venue year on year.
Over the years there have been many modifications to the original design. A roll-call of world class golf course architects all having tweaked the course to some degree. Robert Trent Jones, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Fazio amongst others.
Anyone who follows golf will know every hole in intimate detail so there is little point in describing the course. It is now ranked as one of the best golf courses in the world, let alone Georgia.
The Farm Golf Club
Up towards the far northern reaches of Georgia state, close to the state line with both Tennessee and Alabama, is the town of Dalton. Here is the exclusive golf club of The Farm.
This club really is in the sticks, far away and isolated from everything. But this gives the club a special feel. Coming here you really are here for the golf and nothing else.
The course was designed by none other than Tom Fazio back in 1988 and from the back tees it measures just short of 7,200 yards.
It is fair to say The Farm will challenge you. Consistent feedback is how demanding it is to get round with your dignity in one piece.
Water comes into play on a few occasions, like on the 2nd hole which has a lake running the length of the left-hand fairway. Many of the par 4s are long and fraught with danger, whilst most par 3s will lull you into a false sense of security, scenic but penal.
Ohoopee Match Club
Another course which is far from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, is Ohoopee Match Club. It is located in Cobbtown, a hundred miles west of Savannah and over hundred miles southeast of Macon.
There are 22 holes routed in this vast 3,500 yard estate characterised by dense forests, rolling hills and lakes. Gil Hanse was the man brought in to craft this delightful course through the strands of tall oaks. When it comes to working seamlessly with the natural environment, there is arguably no better architect than Hanse.
With the four extra holes, the course can be set up in all manner of ways, stretching from a par 69, just over 5,600 yards, to a behemoth 7,300 yard plus, par 72. The fairways are generally quite generous, but to reach the safe areas you must generally flirt with danger.
This is also a course you have to walk, a real pleasure versus so many of the buggy enforced courses elsewhere. Ohoopee Match Club is simply outstanding. This is golf course minimalism at its finest.
Golf Club at Cuscowilla
Between Atlanta and Augusta is the beautiful and scenic Lake Oconee, a reservoir built in 1979 surrounded by deep and dense woodland.
Surrounding the lake are some sumptuous golf courses, one of which is the stupendous Golf Club at Cuscowilla. The course was designed by the design duo of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw and opened for play in 1997.
This design duo have been the masterminds behind so many great golf courses including Streamsong Red, Cabot Cliffs, Sand Hills, Sand Valley to name but just a few. Yet just because Cuscowilla isn’t as well known, don’t let that detract from the quality that is on offer here.
Naturally, being surrounded by Lake Oconee, water comes into play on more than one occasion. Although there really is a variety of holes. Towering Georgia pines and beautiful native grasses are a constant backdrop.
One thing Coore & Crenshaw are renowned for, is their innate ability to make a golf course look like it has always been there, and this is true here at Cuscowilla. A great course well worth the visit.
East Lake Golf Club
Some would argue East Lake golf club is a sleeping giant, a once mighty course just begging to be fully revitalised.
The history of this club stretches way back until the beginning of the 20th century. Going right back to 1908 is when the first iteration of this course opened under the guidance of Tom Bendelow.
Over the years there have been many renovations and ‘upgrades’, with the likes of Donald Ross in 1913, George Cobb in the early 1960s and Rees Jones in the mid-90s. This was for many years arguably the best golf course in Atlanta’s outskirts. So high was its acclaim, it hosted the 1963 Ryder Cup where the United States brushed aside Great Britain & Ireland.
There is a strong sense of history throughout both the course and the clubhouse, where there is a collection of Bobby Jones memorabilia on display. The course itself is classic parkland, generous fairways but with numerous strategically placed bunkers. There are some decent holes with the 18th the signature hole, an uphill par 3 into the wind, a testing way to round off a tough round.
The Lookout Mountain Club
This is a private club located on top of the scenic Lookout Mountain, in northern Georgia. This is right on the Tennessee/Georgia border. So elevated is the course, there are numerous vantage points from where you can see right across the Chattanooga Valley.
Seth Raynor was the man entrusted with the design of the course which opened for play in 1925. The claim to fame here is that this is one of the few Raynor courses still in existence in America, and the only course he designed which sits on a mountain top. Which in a way is partly true, but disguises a core part of the story.
Raynor died just before the course opened and his assistant Charles Banks did his best to complete the design. Over the years however, a number of different events resulted in the course never actually realising its full potential, until in the mind-90s, the architect Brian Silva was brought in to revitalise the course, which he did using the original Raynor designs.
The course is an inland links-style layout, which spreads across the mountain-top. Strange as it is, it works phenomenally well. Rolling hills, gently undulating fairways and ridiculously rapid greens all combine to create this unique course.
It keeps under the radar but is 100% worth the detour to play here.
What is the best golf course in Georgia?
The best golf course in the state of Georgia is the iconic Augusta National Golf Club. The host venue to the annual Masters tournament, it opened in 1934 and was designed by Bobby Jones and Alister MacKenzie.
How many golf courses are there in Georgia?
In the state of Georgia, there are just over 350 golf courses, including a mixture of private and public. Most of the courses are located along the coast or around the major cities including Atlanta and Augusta.