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Lake View golf course renews link with nature at Callaway Gardens resort in Pine Mountain, Georgia

Tom SpoustaBy Tom Spousta,
Callaway Gardens' Lake View Course - Hole 10
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The par-3 10th - with its 163-yard carry over water - is the signature shot on the Lake View course at Callaway Gardens. (Courtesy of Callaway Gardens)

PINE MOUNTAIN, Ga. -- The Lake View golf course at Callaway Gardens is not about posting a score to clubhouse. This resort course is not about bragging to your grillroom cronies about the 33 you shot on the back nine. Nor how you would have broken par and threatened the course record if not for the red fox that distracted you into a triple bogey at No. 5.

First off, par is 70 at Lake View, a design effort between Dick Wilson, J.B. McGovern and Cason Callaway, patriarch of the 13,000-acre Gardens. And the player this scenic layout was made for isn't the type to shoot in the 60s.

At 6,031 yards, Lake View is more about enjoying the journey through the azaleas and magnolias, the oak and sweet gum trees, of this pristine vacation destination. It's the ideal golf course to play while the family is away watching the Birds of Prey Show at the Discovery Center or the kids are frolicking down at Robin Lake Beach.

Lake View gives you mostly wide open looks from the tee boxes and has a good mix of deceptively tight fits, particularly as you near the greens. Most have tricky ridges and two to three tiers, which act as the course's primary defense system. The highlight is the stretch of holes from Nos. 7-14, which wind around Mountain Creek Lake.

That said, since you're not going to post a 68, soak it all in. You might even learn something just by looking at the tee markers. Etched in stone are 18 little vignettes, running storyboards giving lessons in wildlife and conservation, two elements of Callaway Gardens' mission since it opened in 1952.

At No. 5, both the "Red Fox and Gray Fox may be seen trotting across fairways and along woodland edges." At No. 14, the marker tells of how "Bluebird nest boxes provide important homes for these delightful cavity nesters and serve as 150-yard markers along the golf course." Oh, and did you know Bluebird boxes must face east? Bluebirds love the morning sun and won't nest facing any other direction.

Luckily, I was paired with Lee Penland of Ellijay, Ga., whose keen eye for nature spotted nine wild turkeys roaming through the brush and woodland, among other fauna and flora tidbits he passed along. An 18 handicapper, Penland fit Lakeview like a bluebird nest facing east.

"This course is a lot more playable for me," said Penland,
who was getting in a quick round while his wife attended a teachers conference here. "They're fair with you off the tee and make it a little tougher on the approach shots. I really like being out on a course like this. It's relaxing, kind of like getting back to nature, and fun to play."

Lake View Course at Callaway Gardens: The verdict

You're not going to roll up many shots at Lake View. The only forced carries are over bunkers fronting greens and a couple little creeks cutting across fairways.

The par-4 11th (374 yards) illustrates that. A stand of trees and brush are angled along a lake on the left. Two large pines hover on the right side about 40 yards from the green. Individually, each looks harmless. Together, they create a smallish gap where you need to thread a short iron. And then another bunker fronts the green, forcing you to carry that short approach to a raised green.

No. 7 opens the stretch of lake holes with a splash. You can't see even a hint of the green from the tee - only the lake. Don't worry, the water is 300-plus yards away. The green is tucked into the trees on the right and sets up for a scenic approach.

Lake View's par-3 10th is the signature shot, 163 yards over water and all carry toward Kingfisher Outfitters in the background. Built in 1951, it was the Gardens' first clubhouse, and now houses a restaurant and store with outdoor gear (all your fly fishing needs are filled here, too). The 11th tee box sits off its front porch in a unique set up.

Yardage markers could be more visible and plentiful, but that's a minor inconvenience. The 17th hole, a downhill par 4 with an almost 90-degree dogleg left, seems like a strange fit.

Lake View ends with - what else? - an impressive dogleg right with Wren Lake as its dominant feature. You can't see the water from the 18th tee box, but as you head down the fairway, a statuesque green sticks out into a pond and makes for an exhilarating finish.

Golf instruction at Callaway Gardens

Lake View and its sister golf course, Mountain View, share the same clubhouse and full practice facilities, including a seven-target range. Lessons and clinics are available.

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Callaway Gardens' Lake View Course - Tee MarkerCallaway Gardens' Lake View Course - Hole 7Callaway Gardens' Lake View Course - Hole 18

Veteran golf writer Tom Spousta keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation. He has covered golf and other sports for USA Today and The New York Times. Tom lives on a Donald Ross-designed golf course in Sarasota, Fla.

Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.

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