Golfing Georgia on your mind? WorldGolf.com tells you where to go

By Tim McDonald,

ATLANTA - Georgia may be north of Florida and southwest of Myrtle Beach, but it has its own share of golfing hot spots.

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In fact, the peach state has some of the best golf courses in the country, led by Augusta National, where they play a little tournament called The Masters every year.

The state has some dramatically different terrain, from the hills and mountains in the north, to the coastal areas that border the Atlantic Ocean to the swampy regions in the south.

This is what not to miss on a Georgia golf vacation:

Atlanta area golf courses

The Atlanta area has some first-rate courses. Unfortunately, many of them are private.

Augusta National. Enough said. One of the most revered golf courses in the world, and home to the Masters, probably the most revered golf tournament in the world. Chairman Hootie Johnson and the boys may be old-fashioned when it comes to gender equality, but they try hard to keep up with changing times when it comes to golf. They made changes to six holes before this year's tournament, involving holes 1, 4, 7, 11, 15 and 17.

Peachtree Golf Club. The bentgrass greens are the story here. They are fast, undulating and well-bunkered, and 10 of them are multi-tiered. A creek feeds several lakes on the course, bringing water into play on 14 of the holes. This is a classic Robert Trent Jones Sr. work that opened in 1947. It's 7,043 yards long with a slope rating of 139 from the back tees. Caddies are a must if you want to walk the course.

East Lake Golf Club: The home course of Bobby Jones, this course has an interesting history to go with its quality. Originally opened in 1908, Donald Ross re-designed it in 1913. But, it fell into disrepair when the neighborhood around it dissolved into gangs, guns and drugs. In 1993, a charitable organization bought it and the next year Rees Jones restored Ross' original layout. Now, all profits from the club go into helping the continuing revitalization of the neighborhood. It's 7,112 yards. The course has hosted 17 major championships.

Hawks Ridge is in Ball Ground, site of old gold mines along the Etowah River. It's a small, family-oriented town in Cherokee County (motto: "Where metro meets the mountains") just north of Atlanta.

Reynolds Plantation in Greensboro is a golf community on Georgia's "Antebellum Trail," on the shores of Lake Oconee.

Three of the courses at Plantation made it into Golf Digest's top-20 ranked courses in Georgia: Great Waters (11th), Oconee ranked (16th) and National (19th).

Southeast, coastal Georgia golf courses

Seaside CourseSea Island is actually on St. Simon's, a barrier island on the southeast coast that combines the primeval and the luxurious. It's like stepping back in time, but with a whirlpool and fancy fixtures.

Davis Love III lives here, and the island has eight distinct neighborhoods tucked away discreetly around the island, off the main roads that take you around.

Most residents have available to them the 54-hole Sea Island Club as well as the superb and private Ocean Forest Golf Club, ranked third in the state by Golf Digest.

Sea Island Club has three courses, including the excellent Seaside course. Originally designed by Harry S. Colt and Charles Alison in 1929, Seaside was given a thorough modernization by Tom Fazio in 1999.

Seaside is advertised as an ocean-side links course, and certain sections of the course do indeed have a wild, windswept feel to them, as the course climbs naturally over grassy dunes with their backsides up to the ocean breezes.

The Hampton Club Golf Resort is one of the best marsh courses from Florida north through Myrtle Beach and the Carolinas, in terms of the views.

That's because, at the Hampton Club, the views are from the marsh. Situated on the relatively isolated northernmost reaches of St. Simons, the Hampton Club pulses with the kind of raw beauty usually found on these islands of the southeastern coast, with ancient oaks framing the fairways. It's simply one terrific, camera-ready view after another.

North Georgia golf courses

From the plains to the highlands, you might think you're in Tennessee when you get this far north in Georgia, where the great Appalachian mountain range comes to its southern terminus, in the form of the Smokies.

Currahee Golf Club in Toccoa is ranked in the state's top-20 by Golf Digest, Currahee is 90 minutes north of Atlanta, and is situated on more than 1,100 acres with views of Lake Hartwell, the Tugaloo River and the Blue Ridge Mountains from nearly every hole. You can also see North and South Carolina.

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Cateechee Golf Club in Hartwell is considered one of the better courses in north Georgia. It has lush, rolling hills with great views, and is Audubon certified, known for its wildlife. The course is named after a Choctaw Indian maiden.

Highland Walk at Victoria Bryant in Royston. The course, part of the Victoria Bryant State Park, is easily the most difficult of the eight courses in the Georgia state park system.

Lookout Mountain Golf Club is in Georgia, but overlooks the city of Chattanooga, Tennessee. It's a private course so you may need to belong to a club that has reciprocal privileges. Designed by Seth Raynor, the bentgrass greens have hidden breaks and undulations, and the fairways are open.

Brasstown Valley Golf Club in Young Harris, Georgia. It's in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, two hours north of Atlanta. Designed by Dennis Griffiths, the course winds through wildlife preserves, ponds and streams and its framed by the mountains.

South Georgia golf courses

• There isn't much in south Georgia once you get away from the coast, other than the excellent Kinderlou Forest in Valdosta. The dominant feature of Kinderlou Forest Golf Club is an old borrow pit that comes into play early on. The course is difficult, measuring 7,781 yards from the back tees, a handful even for the long-hitting pros. An excellent, Davis Love III design.

September 25, 2007

Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management. The information in this story was accurate at the time of publication. All contact information, directions and prices should be confirmed directly with the golf course or resort before making reservations and/or travel plans.

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