Introduction to Augusta
In this blog post we’re going to explore the best golf courses in Augusta, Georgia.
Let’s be honest, even non-golfers recognise the name Augusta due to The Masters. This annual tournament that is held at Augusta National Golf Club is one of the four majors in professional golf. Winning the green jacket, which is traditionally awarded to the winner, is considered one of, if not the, highest achievements in golf.
But unless you happen to be one of the lucky ones and score a ticket for the event, there are still plenty of reasons to visit the city.
What was once Georgia’s state capital, you have the best of both worlds in Augusta. Big city life with small city charm. Tree-lined avenues lead to beautiful museums and galleries. Numerous gardens, antebellum mansions and outdoor activities can all be enjoyed.
One of the most popular places in the city is Riverwalk, which runs alongside the Savannah River. Close to downtown, with ample green spaces and gorgeous picnic spots make this a hit with tourists and locals.
But for now, let’s jump into exploring the best golf courses near to Augusta.
The best golf courses in Augusta, Georgia
Augusta National Golf Club
Let’s be honest, we simply have to start this list with Augusta National Golf Club. It would be untoward to consider anything but. This great club has a reputation that is known worldwide.
Alongside the Old Course at St Andrews, it is arguably one of the most recognised golf courses. This is because every year it is the home venue to The Masters Tournament, which it has held since 1934. The field is much smaller than other tournaments, and this is because it is an invitational event.
The course only opened a year before hosting the first Masters event, in 1933. The course design was a collaboration between the former grand-slam winner Bobby Jones, and Alister MacKenzie.
MacKenzie was one of the leading golf course architects of the era, and alongside Jones they created this spectacular course.
Over the years, the Augusta National course has benefitted from numerous modifications. Some of the greatest architects of their era have been entrusted with making improvements.
The likes of Tom Fazio, Robert Trent Jones, Jack Nicklaus and many more have added new bunkers, reshaped greens, enlarged water features, amended mounding, you name it.
For many years it has ranked as one of the best golf courses worldwide, let alone the U.S. Precious few get to play here, and those who do cherish it forever.
West Lake Country Club
One of the finest private golf courses in Augusta, West Lake Country Club is located just a few miles from Augusta National.
Just to the north of the city, the course is located within an upmarket golf community which is family orientated. Unsurprisingly, there are a number of amenities onsite, many of which you would expect to find at a private member-focused club.
The course at West Lake is impeccable. A superb championship course designed by Ellis Marples, it opened for play in 1968. Marples, one of Donald Ross’ proteges, has designed a handful in the Augusta area. But West Lake is without doubt one of his finest achievements.
The layout weaves through a 700-acre mature woodland, with very few fairways running parallel with one-another. And those that do, are separated by enough dense woodland they are barely visible. There is water in play on seven of the eighteen holes.
There are plenty of large houses lining the fairways. But again, they are well hidden and rarely encroach on the course. It really is you and nature.
Despite being a private club, the course does open its doors during Masters Week offering a number of premium packages to experience the course. You’ll need to apply through their website if interested.
Augusta Country Club
One of the oldest golf clubs in the United States, certainly the first to be established in Augusta, is the Augusta Country Club.
It is officially recorded as having been established in 1899. Although earlier records show it was certainly operating at least a year or two earlier. It was first called Bon Air Golf Club, changing its name to The Augusta Country Club in 1921.
So close to Augusta National, you can literally hear the roars on Masters weekend. At its furthest point, you’ll be able to hit an approach shot over the same Rae’s Creek which runs through Augusta National.
The championship course people play today was designed by Donald Ross in 1927 and is sublime. As we’ve all come to recognise and witness watching the Masters, there is plenty of movement in the land. This flows right through Augusta Country Club with a huge number of uphill and downhill shots.
Course conditioning is paramount and second to none. Whilst the greens have a reputation for being exceptional.
It was in 2000 that Brian Silva, who excels in renovating Ross courses, was commissioned to restore the course. This has put August Country Club firmly back on the map.
During Masters Week, the club does permit a certain number of reciprocal privileges. Get your pen and paper out and start writing!
Champions Retreat Golf Club
Last but certainly not least of the private clubs, is the superb Champions Retreat. Some might argue let’s leave the best till last, but with Augusta National on the list, that’s a big call.
But here at Champions Retreat, it is unique in as much as it is the only club worldwide which features golf courses designed by Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer. Three of the most successful golfers to have ever played, each with a design here.
The club actually emerged in 1999 and alongside the golf, the concept was to feature luxury accommodations hidden amongst the vast site.
There are 27 holes of golf weaving through the 375 acres of wetlands and hardwood forests. Georgia pines dominate the landscape in the dreamlike and verdant surroundings.
Each of the three nines are; The Bluff, designed by Jack Nicklaus; The Creek, a Gary Player creation and finally The Island, Palmer’s contribution.
With the various sites contrasting one another so dramatically, rumor has it the three of them drew lots to see which parcel of land they would get. Although it really shouldn’t have mattered as the whole site is spectacular.
The Island nine actually plays most of the holes (six) on an island in the Savannah River. It also arguably features the club’s signature hole, the par 4 fourth hole which is characterized by having a large oak tree poking out the middle of the fairway.
This is a private club although during Masters Week, they do invite a select number of patrons to enjoy the course. And many people will ask which are the two strongest nines. But truth be told, all three are just as special as the next.
The best public golf courses in Augusta, Georgia
Forest Hills Golf Club
Without a doubt one of the finest public golf courses in Augusta, is Forest Hills Golf Club.
No more than a 15 minute drive from downtown, Forest Hills has been a mainstay on the Augusta golf scene for around a century. The course opened for play in 1926 and was designed by one of the greats in golf course architecture, Donald Ross.
Forest Hills may not reach those same exacting standards, but rest assured it is not far off. As the name suggests, the layout weaves through elegant woodland. The fairways are relatively forgiving with many risk/reward opportunities through the round.
There is one lake which comes into play on two of the par 3s, the 13th and the 16th. Whilst on the whole the sloped greens can be tricky if your approach shot isn’t spot on.
In more recent years, Arnold Palmer visited the course twice for various renovations, those being in 1984 and 2003.
Immensely popular on Masters Week, yet no less loved the other 51 weeks of the year.
Bartram Trail Golf Club
Further out of town towards Patriots Park, some 40 minutes drive from central Augusta, is Bartram Trail Golf Club. This is yet another popular public course, and a favorite amongst the locals.
Columbia County is an area renowned for its rolling hills and dense woodland. And it is in this pristine landscape that the Bartram Trail Golf Course was routed.
Rick Robbins was the man responsible for the design, which opened for play in 2005. Robbins may not be the most recognised golf course architect. But he’s a man with an abundance of experience having worked with some influential designers including Robert Von Hagge.
He’s maybe better known for some of his designs in Asia, but there are some fine examples in the U.S. including Bartram Trail.
Due to the topography, hitting the right side of the fairway is critical. If not your ball will be bouncing wildly into ‘lost ball’ land. Despite the accuracy required off the tee, this is great fun. There is plenty of variety from one hole to another keeping things interesting.
The club recently changed ownership with the new owners promising some exciting changes and developments. Already considered one of the best public golf courses in Augusta, so it will be interesting to see where it goes.
The River Golf Club
For The River Golf Club, we’re actually crossing the state line into South Carolina. Funnily enough though, it is still the closest golf course to downtown Augusta!
The majestic Savannah River flows right alongside the east side of Augusta, with South Carolina the other side. If driving from downtown, you’d be at The River Golf Club in 10 minutes.
This is yet another golf course which gets super busy during Masters Week. But since opening in 1998, The River Golf Club has remained immensely popular throughout the year.
Although it doesn’t sit directly on the banks of the Savannah River, there is plenty of water in play. A huge lake takes prime position in the heart of the site. On top of that, I counted a good handful of other water hazards in play.
The acclaimed architect Jim Fazio was chosen to design the routing in this glorious wetlands area. Fairways are relatively forgiving, where there isn’t water of course. Whilst the greens are fast and true.
This is a great place for group bookings with a range of tee boxes to choose from. Likewise, the huge stately clubhouse is a great place to relax post round.
Pointe South Golf Club
South of the city on highway 25, take a left after twenty five minutes or so and you’ll arrive at Pointe South Golf Club.
One of the first things you’ll notice about Pointe South is the glorious setting.
The course was routed within a dense forest of mature dogwoods, pines and thousands of azaleas. The land gently rises and drops creating subtle elevations perfect for a golf course. And then add to that the various lakes dotted around the site.
Prime land for a golf course and clearly that was the view of Ken Rivers and Joe Clement who were commissioned to build the course in 1991.
From the back tees the layout measures 6,460 yards, so not too brutal. But a number of doglegs and narrow fairways ensure accuracy from the tee is critical.
Good value with tee times starting around the $40 mark.
Goshen Plantation Golf Club
To the south of the city, heading out past the Augusta Regional Airport, you’ll arrive in the neighborhood of Goshen. It is here you’ll find Goshen Plantation Golf Club, also simply known as Goshen Golf Club.
This is yet another Ellis Marples layout which opened for play in 1968. There have been a number of renovations but largely the original Marples creation is still there to be enjoyed.
Like many of the courses around Augusta, this is a beautiful and verdant site, characterized by swathes of woodland. Half way through the round the large Goshen Lake comes into play on a handful of holes. But generally this is about accurate ball striking and good course management.
From the back tees the layout measures 7,400 yards, which is undoubtedly why it is often chosen to host various regional and state tournaments.
It is also one of the best value places to come and play if you are looking for a tee time around Masters week.
What is the best golf course in Augusta, Georgia?
The best golf course in Augusta, Georgia, is without doubt Augusta National Golf Club. Designed by Bobby Jones and Alister MacKenzie, it opened for play in 1933, one year before hosting the first Masters Tournament. Ever since then, it continues to host the Masters Tournament every year, one of golf’s four major championships.