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|The Seaside Course at Sea Island Resort has hosted every local legend from Bobby Jones to Louis Suggs. (Tim McDonald/WorldGolf.com)|
You'll probably sweat a lot when you visit the Georgia coast and maybe swat away a few bugs, too. But whatever obstacles you must overcome are worth it to play some of the area's most interesting golf courses.
The Southeastern part of the state is easy to reach for visitors, who can fly into Jacksonville, Fla. and make the hour-long drive north. The Golden Isles require at least six hours in a car from metro Atlanta, but is definitely worth the effort.
Here are five must-play golf courses to visit on the Georgia coast:
Without question, the Seaside Course at the Sea Island resort is the finest public or resort golf course in Georgia. You'll pay a premium price, but you'll be met with pristine conditions, gracious hospitality and a round you'll enjoy more than any other in Georgia this side of Augusta National. Tom Fazio did a masterful redesign in 1999 on the layout that has hosted every local legend from Bobby Jones to Louis Suggs.
The Georgia PGA Section rotates its annual championship between the three Sea Island courses. In 2008 it was held at Seaside and was won by Clark Spratlin, a former college roommate of caddie extraordinaire Jim "Bones" Mackay. Spratlin said he had been eager to win a tournament at Seaside since losing the Georgia Amateur there in 1989.
It doesn't have the cache of its older brother, but the Plantation Course at the Sea Island resort can hold its own with almost anyone. With bigger fairways, it may be a bit tamer, and it has some wonderful views of the Atlantic Ocean. A Walter Travis design - with some fresh brush strokes by Rees Jones in 1998 - is a great runner-up selection.
The best golf course on St. Simons Island, the Hampton Club, is owned and operated by the King and Price Resort, although they're on opposite sides of the island. The section of the Joe Lee-designed course that plays through the marsh makes this a very memorable destination. Conditions are always superb and this is a great consolation prize for those who aren't able to pay the big bucks to play either Sea Island course.
Oleander, Jekyll Island:
Don't miss the Oleander Course at Jekyll Island Golf Club. It's close enough to the ocean to feel the breezes on this dogleg delight. Of the three layouts on the island, this is the one the locals seem to prefer. That's high praise for the Dick Wilson design, which hosted the Georgia high school championships for more than two decades. It's an affordable option to Sea Island and St. Simons.
Davis Love III put a lot of thought into the Laurel Island Links course, which requires players to plot their way around the course. There are plenty of marshes to negotiate, so it's important to be accurate. And Love must have money invested in a company that manufactures sand; there are plenty of bunkers, especially around the greens. Conditions are typically good and rates are amazingly low for a golf course of this quality.
A word of warning: Consider avoiding this area during the week of the annual Florida-Georgia college football game. Rates will be inflated, and tee times (and hotel rooms) will be hard to come by.
August 28, 2009
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.
Do you like to practice? If you're a two- or three-bucket golfer who can chip and putt till the sun goes down, there are several great places to practice in Florida. Bonus: These practice facilities are situated at top-notch golf courses and resorts.
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