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|Country Oaks Golf Course in Thomasville has $25 green fees, including cart, on weekdays - its strongest lure. (Tim McDonald/WorldGolf.com)|
Country Oaks is one of those Georgia golf courses where the cheap green fees make up for its shortcomings.
THOMASVILLE, Ga. - Country Oaks Golf Course is like that mean, little kid down the street when you were growing up. He had an attitude because he was small in stature, and his family was sort of poor. Everyone on the block, even the bigger kids, was scared of him because of the whippings he'd inflicted on them.
Country Oaks is only 6,200 yards from the tips, but it is a tough 6,200 yards. And like the unruly little neighborhood bully - unwashed hair, torn clothes - the layout isn't in particularly great shape.
"I don't really like it," said J.J. Jacobs, who's lived in Thomasville for 35 years. "But, it's very reasonable, and it's close. It's the hardest course I play. My son won't even play it. He goes elsewhere."
Nevertheless, Jacobs is a regular at Country Oaks, mainly because of the price and proximity. Green fees of $25, including cart, for an 18-hole layout can go a long way toward helping to overlook a track's weaknesses.
Its difficulties are many, starting with the shot that starts the whole thing - your drive. The fairways are narrow, and landing areas are frequently squeezed by thick trees on one side or both. The driving corridors are awkward, with hazards of various sorts intruding - bunkers, water, rough - so that using your driver will often get you into dire situations. You rarely have a wide-open, swing-away look.
Then there are the greens. They are unusually difficult for a small, municipal course. Country Oaks has some multi-tiered greens, and almost all of them have harsh slope and undulation and frequently fall off to other hazards.
Like No. 1, which has a tight fairway with water behind its two-tiered, undulating green, or No. 4, a short, dogleg-right par 4 with a well-guarded, sloped green. No. 13 is a mid-length par 4 that requires either a long draw - a shot many amateurs don't have - or a long iron to the safe part of the fairway.
Country Oaks can be a fun play if you get your mind right beforehand. Bring some extra balls because with the tightness of the fairways and thick trees, you will likely lose some. Be wary of the big stick.
There are some short par 4s that are drivable, like the 314-yard 14th, which has all sorts of trouble if you try and miss, like a fairway that dwindles to almost nothing and a long bunker that fronts the green. Or No. 17, a 318-yarder that features a creek that cuts across the fairway about ¾ of the way down.
The par 3s don't give you a break either. No. 2 is a short one-shotter with a green that drops almost straight down to water, with woods behind. The green is mounded in back, but if you're long, it's a tough putt coming back because of the harsh slope, particularly with the pin in front.
No. 6 is another par 3 over water with a hard-sloping green, and No. 16 is 198 yards from the back tees. The good news is that all the par 5s can be reached in two with well-placed shots.
Thomasville is one of the prettiest cities in south Georgia, with an emphasis on roses. In fact, it is nicknamed the City of Roses - it's said the city has nearly 8,000 roses in all - and holds an annual rose festival every April that attracts rose-lovers from all over the world.
It has, like most rural Georgia areas, plantations that can be viewed by the public. The downtown district proudly boasts its historical pedigree, and you can see an oak tree said to be more than 300 years old.
The best way to experience the city is probably by staying at a bed and breakfast. The 1884 Paxton House Inn in the historic district is within walking distance to downtown and gets rave reviews. Others include the Dawson Street Inn and Serendipity Cottage.
March 14, 2008
Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
There are many stay-and-play options in the Baltimore/Washington, D.C region, but none can match the combination of upscale amenities at a reasonable price, the private-course conditions, the diversity of courses and the Interstate convenience of Turf Valley in Ellicott City, Md.
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