An introduction to Atlanta
In our public golf courses series, this time we venture down to the lively and popular city of Atlanta in Georgia.
Atlanta has some pretty special golf courses in and around the city, yet alongside this its public golf offering also packs a punch.
Amongst these we have golf courses designed by iconic architects, a golf course on a vineyard and even the ‘Pebble Beach of the South’.
Without any further ado, let’s explore the best of them.
|Groups||Bobby Jones Golf Course|
|Value for money||Cobblestone Golf|
The best public golf courses in Atlanta
|1||Cobblestone Golf Course|
|2||Stone Mountain Golf Club (Stonemount)|
|3||Lanier Islands Legacy Golf Course|
|4||The Frog Golf Club|
|5||Chateau Elan, Chateau Course|
|6||Echelon Golf Club|
|7||Bear’s Best Golf Club|
|8||Cherokee Run Golf Club|
|9||Bobby Jones Golf Course|
1. Cobblestone Golf Course
Such a tough call to make with the breadth of public golf on offer around Atlanta. But Cobblestone Golf Course is up there for me as the best.
The club is tucked away on the shore of Lake Acworth which is a 45 minute drive from downtown Atlanta. The 30 miles means Cobblestone is close enough to the city, but at the same time, far enough away from the hustle and bustle.
It is a Ken Dye design which originally opened for play in 1993, undergoing a major revamp in 2001. It is owned by Cobb County and this really is an example of municipal golf at its best.
The greens are Champion Bermuda, there are gorgeous lakefront views and brilliant white sand bunkers.
So good is the course, it has earned ample praise over the years. Golfweek, Golf Magazine and Golf Digest have all lavished rightful accolades along the way. Essentially it all boils down to Cobblestone Golf Course being one of the best public golf courses in the nation.
2. Stone Mountain Golf Club (Stonemount)
In a unique setting approximately 20 miles east of Atlanta, is the impressive 36-hole complex Stone Mountain Golf Club.
On the shore of Stone Mountain Lake, it is also located in the shadow of the infamous Stone Mountain landmark. This is a large and imposing exposed granite mass as well as a popular park used for hiking and fishing…definitely not your average setting.
There are two championship courses, the Stonemount and Lakemount. Yet on this occasion we’re focusing on the Robert Trent Jones Sr. designed Stonemount course.
It opened for play in 1969 and stretches out to around 6,800 yards. Granted not the longest in today’s standards, but length isn’t the main challenge, precision is.
There are tight pine-tree-flanked fairways that need to be hit from the tees. Strategically placed bunkers only add to the challenge whilst rapid greens ensure there really is no respite.
It should come as no surprise the Stonemount course is chosen to hold many high quality amateur events. A great public-access course and really decent value.
3. Lanier Islands Legacy Golf Course
Less than an hour north of Atlanta is the Lanier Islands resort. This is a stunning getaway of over 1,200 acres of natural beauty.
There is a whole range of activities to enjoy including boating, hiking, beaches, a waterpark, spa…you name it.
Yet alongside all of this is the spectacular Legacy Course. It was designed in the 1970s by Joe Lee and then in 2009 renovated by Billy Fuller, former superintendent of Augusta National.
The routing meanders along the shores of Lake Lanier, the largest lake in Georgia. Subsequently on pretty much every hole there is water. Stunning views, but a heck of a lot of water.
On the occasion the course makes its way inland, there is a surprising amount of elevation change. This shakes things up and ensures there are very few easy holes.
Over the years it has been littered with praise and awards. Golf Pass and Golf Advisor have both recognised it with their respective seals of approval.
4. The Frog Golf Club
The furthest away from downtown Atlanta is The Frog Golf Club, 40 miles west toward Villa Rica. But it more than merits inclusion here.
This demon of a layout was designed by the legendary architect Tom Fazio and opened for play in 1998. Since then the accolades have come in thick and fast including most notably Golf Digest awarding it 4.5 stars.
So highly rated, it was chosen to host the Georgia Open as well as various other high-profile tournaments.
There is an overriding sensation of pure serenity with nothing but thick forest intertwined with the generous fairways. No wonder the site has been certified as an Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary. Likewise, not a single residential building is visible at any point, adding to the feeling of tranquility.
The routing is pretty straightforward but is elevated by first-class conditioning. Water is present on a handful of occasions, but shouldn’t really come into play.
5. Chateau Elan, Chateau Course
The destination for golf and wine lovers in Georgia, Chateau Elan is a special place to visit. As a weekend getaway, Chateau Elan is just perfect, of which you can find out more in my post about golf resorts in Georgia.
But aside from the quality of the resort, there are 45-holes of superb golf onsite. There are two 18-hole championship courses, the Chateau and the Woodlands, as well as a 9-hole Executive course.
Both the Woodland and Chateau courses are top-class and wind their way through this magnificent property. The grounds are truly sensational and as verdant as they come.
But on this occasion we’re going to focus on the Chateau course which I think is more deserving to be on this list (although I know many people will argue otherwise!).
The course was designed by architect Denis Griffiths and opened for play in 1989. It may not be quite as picturesque as the Woodland course, but what it lacks in beauty it makes up for in bite.
From the back tees it is over 7,000 yards long, meandering across rolling Georgia fairways. 87 beautifully contoured bunkers guard large elegant bentgrass greens and on 10 of the 18 holes water comes into play.
This is a marvelous course and without doubt one of the finest public golf courses near Atlanta.
6. Echelon Golf Club
This semi-private golf club is located 20 minutes drive north of Alpharetta, approximately an hour north of Atlanta.
The course was designed by the legendary Rees Jones and opened for play in 2006. It was originally meant to be a private residential development, but the timing coincided with tough economic conditions, so those plans were curtailed.
Where this may have damaged the club’s long-term private ambitions, it has meant there are plenty of public tee times available throughout the day.
The 600-acre plot is divine, featuring gently undulating fairways and at times dense woodland. On the back-nine there are some striking elevation changes to contend with. But where this may challenge your golf, it does offer some stunning panoramic views to enjoy.
From the back tees the course stretches out to an impressive and not insignificant 7,558 yards. Water comes into play on a handful of holes so make sure you have plenty of balls and choose the right tee box!
7. Bear’s Best Golf Club
This is without a doubt, one of the more unique golf choices close to Atlanta, tucked away between Duluth and Lake Lanier.
Bear’s Best is an 18-hole layout which features the best replica holes from the circa 200 golf courses designed worldwide by Jack Nicklaus. There are holes from Gleneagles in Scotland, Muirfield Village in Ohio and Sherwood Country Club in California.
Yet make no mistake, this is no gimmick. The quality is exceptional and these are high-end green fees. The site is splendid, Audubon International Certified no less, with attention to detail on another level.
No wonder it has received high praise from the likes of Golfweek (Top 10 Georgia Courses) and other publications.
As mentioned before, the green fees are definitely on the upper-end. But with that you get to enjoy the experience of an exclusive club at a stunning facility. Make sure you leave some time to visit Jack’s Place post round and enjoy something off the grill.
8. Cherokee Run Golf Club
Cherokee Run Golf Club is a municipal layout run by the City of Conyers, just over a half hour’s drive east of Atlanta.
What is immediately obvious, especially for a muni, is what a beautiful site this is. There are gently rolling hills surrounded by thick woodland. There is also a fair amount of elevation change as the routing climbs out into Rockdale County.
Cherokee Run is an Arnold Palmer Signature Design, one of a few Palmer designs around Atlanta. Yet this is without doubt the sternest test of golf amongst them.
Water hazards, a small creek, waste areas, run-offs, this is no pushover. Indeed, Palmer has done a sterling job bedding the course into the surrounding topography and using already existing features in the land.
Zoysia fairways and Bermuda greens combine to elevate the standard of play. This really is a fabulous course and one deserving of the praise it gets. It is also fantastic value with tee times in the summer months starting in the mid-thirty dollars.
Go play ‘the Run’ as they say!
9. Bobby Jones Golf Course
Approximately 5 miles from Atlanta’s downtown is the unique and trailblazing Bobby Jones Golf Course. It is located in prime Atlanta suburbs just north of the city off the I-75.
So first things first, this is not an 18-hole layout, certainly not in the traditional sense. It is a reversible 9-holer which has been designed in a way that will inevitably encourage more people to get into the game of golf.
There are eight tee boxes on each hole allowing golfers of all standards the opportunity to enjoy the game.
As a 9-hole course, there is space aplenty, which is more than can be said for the original routing here. The original layout was designed in 1932 and was incredibly tight, featuring numerous blind-shots. But it was also dangerous with so many golfers crammed into such a small plot.
Fast-forward to 2016. Bob Cupp was commissioned to renovate the course and it was at that time the radical decision was taken to transition to the concept we enjoy today. This freed up the course and really embraced the concept of urban golf.
The challenge of where to feature rough was overcome by simply not including any! Not only does this encourage a quicker pace of play, but means you’ll never be chipping out of 2 inch rough. Most lies are relatively straight-forward except the undulations.
The dynamic pricing also ensures value can be had depending upon what time of the day/week you wish to play.
What is the Best Public Golf Course in Atlanta?
The best public golf course in Atlanta is Cobblestone Golf Club. The course is located on Lake Acworth which is a 45 minute drive from downtown Atlanta. It was designed by Ken Dye and opened for play in 1993.
How many public golf courses are there in Atlanta?
Within 20 miles of Atlanta, there are 20 public golf courses.