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|The Providence Club is a fun play and offers enough of a challenge to keep low handicappers satisfied. (Stan Awtrey/TravelGolf)|
MONROE, Ga. -- The Providence Club is one of those places where visitors automatically are made to feel comfortable. From the moment you walk in, there's a feeling of warmth that is evident -- from the staff in the golf shop to the snack bar.
No wonder this modest course in the northeast Atlanta suburbs continues to stay busy.
The Providence Club is about 30 minutes from Athens and less than an hour from downtown Atlanta. It has established itself a nice niche and has worked hard to keep up with the competition. There are pricier options available, but the tee sheet stays busy -- particularly on the weekend. That's because the golf course is solid, the greens are outstanding and the service level in high.
In the summer of 2011 the club made the tough decision to shut the course down for two months in order to convert the greens from bentgrass to Champions Bermuda. That was in the middle of a series of hot Georgia summers that taxed some of the area's best bentgrass greens to the breaking point.
The Providence Club decided to make the switch and change all 18 greens at once. It was a financially taxing move but one that has paid off. The greens at the Providence Club are some of the best around.
"That was a big commitment, but it's been good," PGA Professional Dave Ayers said. "The greens are consistently nice. They're a little firm, so they're faster than they used to be, but there are almost no ball marks."
"These are the nicest greens around," Providence Club regular Mike Pucillo, of Bethlehem, said. "They're better than the greens at some of the other higher-priced clubs around here."
The greens are medium in size, aren't overloaded with undulation and roll true.
Crews have made additional aesthetic changes, too. They've cleared and cleaned up some of the natural areas and corrected some of the lake issues. Most recently they planted about 150 trees.
"As they grow and mature, they'll enhance the beauty of the golf course," Ayers said.
The Providence Club isn't a killer course. It plays just 6,576 yards from the back tees. But there's enough trickery and difficulty out there to make it a challenge for the good player and fun for the average-to-high handicapper.
"It's definitely a player's course," said Chris Teale, of Winder. "The new greens made a lot of difference."
The routing opens with a 505-yard par 5 that offers straight hitters a chance to make a birdie right out of the chute. Players who avoid trouble on the right can easily get home in two shots.
Players get a chance to gamble on the fifth hole, a 353-yard, dogleg-right par 4. Big hitters can try to hit a high fade over the trees that stretch to the corner in an attempt to drive the green. Those who come up short will end up in the woods or in an unplayable position. Those who are content to hit it to the crook in the dogleg will find themselves with a short iron into the green.
"We are still waiting for the first hole-in-one on no. 5," Ayers said.
Both par 3s on the front are designed around water. The 186-yard third skirts the water, and the 154-yard seventh plays downhill with a pond behind it to snatch any long shots.
The ninth hole is the centerpiece of the front. The 469-yard par 5 asks players to drive over a pond from an elevated tee. From there the hole plays uphill to the green. There's plenty of room in the fairway, but there are enough trees lurking on the right to make it interesting.
Seven of the nine holes on the back nine are played across the street that runs through the subdivision but have the same sort of wooded presence. The 12th is a 507-yard, dogleg-left par 5. Players who get too cute in trying to trim the dogleg can leave themselves blocked out and in trouble.
The 13th is a short, downhill par 4. At 340 yards it's quite drivable for a good player from the back tee. Regardless of the tee you choose, a solid drive will leave you with a wedge into the green.
"I really like the 13th," said Russell Stinchcomb, of Athens. "If you hit it good you can drive the green."
The two closing holes are difficult. The 436-yard 17th is a tight driving hole, and anything not struck well will leave a long shot from an uphill lie. The 546-yard 18th requires you to walk a tightrope down the right side, but the area in front of the green opens up and is receptive to approaches. Finishing with a couple of pars here will make the refreshments taste a little colder after the round.
The practice range is plenty wide, but is too short to accommodate long hitters. But the conditions are generally pretty good. Likewise, the putting green is plenty big and rolls very similar to the 18 greens you'll find on the course. The pro shop is well stocked, and the snack bar offers enough goodies to keep everyone happy.
Ayers is the consummate professional. He's best known for spending 30 years at Mystery Valley Golf Course in Lithonia, one of the most-played venues in metro Atlanta. He's been at The Providence Club since 2007 and is one of the most tireless advocates of junior golf in the area. He's a gifted instructor with a knack of making the game easy to understand.
Providence Club is a semiprivate facility that offers a regular membership package and a premium membership package, where cart fees are included.
The Providence Club is a place you can go and be comfortable.
It's a fun play and offers enough of a challenge to keep single-digit handicappers satisfied. Conditions are typically better than average, and the greens are outstanding.
Don't expect a lot of brass and polish. It's not that kind of place. But if you're looking for a solid golf course with extremely playable conditions, The Providence Club is the course for you.
August 26, 2013
Stan Awtrey spent 25 years as a sports writer with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He is editor of Golf Georgia, the official magazine of the Georgia State Golf Association, and writes a weekly column for PGATOUR.com. His work has appeared in dozens of newspapers, magazines and Web sites.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
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