Halfway between Atlanta and its more hallowed golf neighbor in Augusta sits another golf mecca, Reynolds Plantation. Situated on the 19,000-acre Lake Oconee tract, Reynolds may just be the finest golf destination there is. But don’t take our word for it—Golf Magazine recently selected the resort for its prestigious Platinum Medal.
The six courses here would be enough of a reason to visit—all top-notch tracks on every level. Add in the Ritz-Carlton Lodge (with its multiple dining options, world-class spa and first-class customer service) and Lake Oconee (with its kayaking, fishing and water sports), and you have a complete Southern-style getaway. (In fact, you may want to ditch your golf buddies and send for the whole family.)
But we were there for the golf—and what a sampling there is. The Landing (architect: Bob Cupp), the Oconee (architect: Rees Jones) and the National (architect: Tom Fazio) have all recently completed renovations, some of which include bunkering and new Bermuda grass. The National (27 holes) has undergone aesthetic changes and gotten new bunkers. It’s open for play this spring, with a groundbreaking on a new clubhouse to follow. Great Waters (architect: Jack Nicklaus), the Plantation (architect: Bob Cupp) and the members-only Creek Club (architect: Jim Engh) round out this all-star lineup.
New features and upgrades aside, the one thing all of these courses use to their advantage is the natural scenery and the size of Lake Oconee and its 374 miles of shoreline. Nicklaus’ Great Waters course (7,073 yards, par 72) uses that shoreline as an integral part of at least nine holes. The front nine is more parkland-style, with thick forests and plenty of pine straw for errant shots. The highlights on the back nine include a par-3 14th, the signature hole.
The final three holes are as good as they get. Head pro Jose Lopez mentions the long par-4 16th hole (457 yards) from the tips—and getting a bogey there was quite an accomplishment. The 17th is a full carry over a lake cove, and 18 is a birdie-able par 5 (if you avoid the lake trouble all the way up the left). A complete turf changeover, from the original bent grass to MiniVerde Bermuda, was implemented on all 18 greens in the past year.
The other course was equally as challenging—and just as visually rewarding. For the par 72, which plays to a maximum of 7,029 yards, Jones was back in 2013 for some redesign work (mostly aesthetic) to open up the holes and tree lines to take advantage of the lake views.
The par 3s here are most memorable, featuring elevated tee shots that look wonderful but can lead to a bogey or double-bogey very quickly. Lake hazards aren’t the only water feature, as many streams and ponds guard the greens, and there’s extensive bunkering. To promote playability and durability in the Georgia heat, the greens were transitioned in 2013 to the new Champions Bermuda.
Greens fees: $150-$260. 1000 Vista Drive, Greensboro, Ga., (706) 467-3131, www.reynoldsplantation.com.