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Grand finale elevates Oconee golf course at Reynolds Plantation in Georgia

Tim McDonaldBy Tim McDonald,
Oconee Golf Course - No.18
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No. 18 at Oconee is a classic risk-reward, hitting over water to a fairway that doglegs left. (Tim McDonald/GolfPublisher.com)

Reynolds Plantation's Oconee course in Georgia is a classic Rees Jones-designed golf course that has plenty of risk-reward options and uphill approach shots that make the shorter par-4s more challenging.

GREENSBORO, Ga. - The Oconee course at the Reynolds Plantation is named after the big lake that jumps up into view every now and then, both threatening and enticing you.

The lake envelops pretty much the entire plantation, and is much more foreboding here than at the plantation's Great Waters course, where it serves mainly as a somewhat-gaudy yet stunning backdrop.

Oconee boasts a classic Rees Jones layout, with plenty of risk-reward options, where you're hitting over sections of the lake and over corners of tree-lined and bunker-lurking doglegs.

The course has fairways that roll and twist, and even though you're frequently enjoying teeing off downhill, you're just as frequently hitting approach shots uphill onto elevated greens.

"That makes some of those short par-4s more interesting," said Head Professional Mike Davenport.

The course, which has hosted NCAA tournaments, has numerous water hazards; the lake comes into play on five holes and is there as window dressing on four others. It also has interior creeks and ponds and extensive bunkering.

"There's a lot of variation, short and long par-4s and some good risk-reward par-5s," Davenport said. "From the back tees, it can hold up to the college guys."

Still, it's playable for the hackers. There are few forced carries, for example, though that changes a bit as you reach the closing stretch.

A rocky stream meanders up the left side of No. 16 and your approach shot will span it to a green that sits at a left angle to the fairway. It's a tough shot with the pin tucked in the back right, hard by the stream, though there is a bail-out area left. The big green slopes hard back-to-middle and the front slopes moderately front-to-middle.

No. 17 tees off up to a hill; if you reach it, you'll get an extra 30 yards of roll.

And the closing hole features a tee shot over water - hitting over the bunkers up onto the fairway, avoiding the trees to the left and the fairway bunkers to the right.

"The course really sets up to a grand finale," Davenport said. "I would say 16 through 18 are simply awesome golf holes. In competition, a lot of strokes can change hands on just those three holes alone."

The Oconee course at Reynolds Plantation - The Verdict

All of Reynolds Plantation courses were dry in early November due to the drought, and Oconee was no different. Well-struck drives will roll forever, but errant tee shots will bounce off fairways like concrete into rough.

The greens at the Oconee course are fun, if you can manage to stay below the hole. They're well-sloped, but without any distinct tiers as some of the plantation's other courses feature.

The course is also known for its excellent collection of par-3s. The fifth is a beautiful, little downhiller with two willow trees framing a clear pond, the eighth is a long one-shotter where the front, flat surface of the green lets players roll the ball onto the green. The 15th is another lovely hole, with an inlet of the lake and purple mule grass giving it some colorful flavor.

Women like Oconee. Golf for Women ranked it fifth in the magazine's "50 Best Courses for Women," and Golf Digest featured it among its "10 Best New Upscale Courses" after Oconee opened in 2002.

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Oconee Golf Course - Rees Jones DesignOconee Golf Course - No. 16

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.

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