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|The greens on Hard Labor State Park's golf course are Champions Bermuda and in excellent shape. (Tim McDonald/WorldGolf.com)|
The Creek at Hard Labor is the most difficult of the Georgia state park golf courses. But with green fees this low and such a beautiful setting, it can make for a very enjoyable day.
RUTLEDGE, Ga. - The history of Hard Labor Creek outside of this little Georgia town is a little fuzzy, but the name is generally believed to have come from either slaves who worked the fields in the sweltering summer heat or the Native Americans who had a hard time fording the rushing, rocky stream.
There is no historical mention of the golfers who have fallen victim by the hordes by playing the golf course, the Creek at Hard Labor State Park.
They might have had a few other names for it, too.
It is indeed a difficult golf course, the most difficult of the Georgia state park golf courses. The first hole, a disorienting, downhill par 4 that bends and shifts like a garter snake, is said by many golfers to be one of the most treacherous in the great state of Georgia.
The fairway races down like a ski slope and away from you, and is exceedingly hard to hit if you don't have a controlled fade, with thick trees on both sides, and especially if you've never played the course before and don't know its nuances. It ends at a creek, which must be carried to get back up to the elevated green.
"I knew after that first hole I was going to be in for a long day," said Geoffrey Simons, of Alabama. "Good thing the rest of the course wasn't as hard."
No, it isn't, but it's hard enough. The Creek at Hard Labor isn't long at only 6,426 yards from the back tees, but it has awkward angles off the tee that, with all the elevation changes, can get you in a peck of trouble - those sounds you hear in the dense woods aren't hunters blasting their guns, they're the sound of golf balls smacking directly into a birch, sycamore, sweetgum or willow oak.
Many of the approach shots are no piece of cake, either, playing into difficult greens. I haven't mentioned the red clay bunkers yet, have I? Or Hard Labor Creek itself, which makes its presence known on five holes.
All this being said, the Creek at Hard Labor can be a very enjoyable day, especially with green fees in the $35-$45 range.
First of all, it's in a beautiful setting, in a state park setting of course, which means it's a pastoral, home-free layout.
It's laid out nicely in an upland pine and hardwood forest, with steep-walled creek bottoms and granite outcroppings. It also happens to be one of the best places to see wildlife in north Georgia, with ducks, geese on the man-made lakes, deer, turkeys, river otters, beavers, and, of course, yellow-rumped warblers.
There's also loblolly pine and flowering dogwood in this hilly part of the Piedmont, and it's a beautiful place to golf, especially in the fall and spring.
Oh yeah, it was also where "Friday the 13th: Part VI: Jason Lives" was filmed.
And, in truth, the slope rating is only 133, though that seems a bit low to me. Still, the course is playable, if you hit to the right spots, avoid all the trouble and know how to use elevation to your advantage; hitting to the right spot in the fairway can get you a lot of extra roll.
Accuracy is at a premium, and a heavy dose of course management will help your scorecard.
The greens are excellent. They shut down the course for a summer a couple of years ago to install Champion Bermuda, and they are in terrific shape, with a great deal of slope and only moderate undulation, with a couple exceptions. They also enlarged them by about 65 percent.
There are four sets of tees on the Denis Griffiths/James McCloud design, which opened in 2005.
The course is between Madison and Covington off Interstate-20, about an hour east of Atlanta.
You're here at the park, why not stay? The park has 5,804 acres and camping, cottages, two lakes with a swimming beach and boat rental, 24 miles of hiking and horseback trails and picnic areas.
There are several nearby attractions, like Lake Oconee, Oconee National Forest and Athens.
August 12, 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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