KNOWN widely throughout the USA as the ‘Peach State’, Georgia is also plentiful with sweet treats throughout its diverse landscape.
From the craggy Blue Ridge Mountains – part of the Appalachian Mountains – in the north of the state, to the plateau range of the Piedmont, to the coastal plains leading to the Atlantic Ocean in the state’s south-east, Georgia boasts a range of geological gems.
For golfers, Georgia is best known as the home of The Masters, with the famed and fabled Augusta National Golf Club proudly housed just two-hours east of the state’s capital.
One of the most famous and exclusive courses in the world, Augusta National remains high on most, if not all, golfers bucket lists.
Yet while tens of thousands of golf fans flock to Augusta annually in April for the season’s first major, there are other first-class golf and culturally-rich experiences to be had within hours of Magnolia Lane.
We’ve highlighted four different style Georgian layouts to be celebrated the next time you find yourself in the great Peach State.
EAST LAKE GOLF CLUB – ATLANTA
ONE of the state’s most appealing courses resides in its capital, Atlanta, just two hours drive from Augusta National.
The wider Atlanta Metropolitan area is home to more than half of Georgia’s total population, while the city itself is a bustling melange of American culture, sports and parks and gardens.
Nestled just outside its impressive city skyline you’ll find East Lake Golf Club. The home of the PGA Tour’s season-ending TOUR Championship since 2005, East Lake is no stranger to the attention of golf-lovers.
Opening in 1904, it is a classically designed layout that has had the hands of famed golf course architects Donald Ross (1913) and Rees Jones (1994) laid upon it.
A bevy of native Georgian trees frame many of the private club’s immaculately manicured fairways, while its lake comes into play on several holes to add not just a greater golf test, but a visual delight, too.
The club should also be commended for its philanthropic programs such as its support of the East Lake Foundation – a program that promotes education opportunities for locals, as well as aids affordable housing and job opportunities to East Lake residents.
CUSCOWILLA ON LAKE OCONEE, EATONTON
IN BETWEEN East Lake and Augusta you’ll find yourself at another impressive lake, namely Lake Oconee, a man-made reservoir today surrounded by several opulent golf communites.
One of the finest of those havens is Cuscowilla, a residential course in Eatonton that blends so elegantly into its surroundings, it feels like its been here forever, depite having only opened in 1997.
Who could be surprised with that, though, considering it was designed by the masters of subtle integration themselves, the team of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw.
And in true Coore-Crenshaw fashion, here they encourage walking the course, the way the game was meant to be enjoyed, so golfers can take in the relaxing experience in full.
Cuscowilla just oozes ‘Georgia’ with its soothing views over Lake Oconee, the way the course meanders through native grasses and around nature-fused bunkers, and its featuring of iconic, towering Georgian pines on many holes.
An exclusive, private club, Cuscowilla offers the opportunity for outsiders to experience its stunning wares annually during Masters week – an opportunity not to be squandered if you ever get the chance.
OCEAN FOREST GOLF CLUB, SEA ISLAND
IN ORDER to experience a more ‘coastal Georgian’ golf round, you’ll need to set your sights about three and a half hours’ drive south of Augusta to Sea Island.
Here you’ll find one of the more visually spectacular layouts going around.
Ocean Forest Golf Club, an outstanding Rees Jones-designed course built on prime links land, opened for play as a private course in 1995.
What immediately jumps out at Ocean Forest is the seamless manner saltwater marshes, freshwater wetlands and natural sand dunes intermingle with tall local plantations – including Georgian pines – to create two nines of diverse beauty.
With a handful of holes bordered by towering pines, hitting over narrow creeks to slick greens protected by white silica sand bunkers on the front nine – much like Augusta National gems – you won’t soon forget you’re in Georgia. So, so pretty.
That said, the closing stretch coming back in – which opens up and runs along the Atlantic Ocean’s edge – is especially eye-popping. But with those bonus visuals comes the added challenge of hitting into the wind. Good luck.
SEA ISLAND GOLF CLUB, ST SIMON’S ISLAND
JUST 20 minutes further south sits Sea Island Golf Club – one of the most tranquil settings in all of Georgia.
Two courses adorn this naturally spectacular site. The first is the Seaside course, a par-70 championship layout redesigned by Tom Fazio in 1999.
It is a more traditional link-style course with immaculately kept fairways and greens bordered by sand dunes and native grasses.
Despite the fact you’ll have to endure some pretty fierce wind here on occasion, the Seaside layout is certainly a fun test in a breathtakingly beautiful setting. This is southern hospitality at its finest.
The second course, the Plantation, is set to reopen in October when Davis Love III and his brother Mark Love have completed its renovation.
Add a world-class Golf Performance Center, first-rate practice facilities, several intimate dining options, and ‘The Lodge’ – a AAA-rated luxury retreat perfect for couples wanting the five-star treatment on their golf holiday – and you’ve pretty much found the equivalent of golf heaven.
OTHER THINGS TO DO
FOR lovers of the outdoors and nature in general, Georgia is a state for thee.
Waterfalls, streams, canyons, open savannah and incredible mountainous rock formations are dotted throughout the Peach State.
At 1,458m tall, Brasstown Bald is the highest point in Georgia, and its viewing platform makes for some incredible sunrises and sunsets.
A half-hour drive east of Atlanta you’ll find Stone Mountain, an ancient quartz-monzonite rocky dome, and the most visited site in Georgia. The carvings of three Confederate figures – and an otherwise checkered history – has made Stone Mountain a contentious site of recognition in recent times.
Then there’s Providence Canyon (referred to as Georgia’s ‘Little Grand Canyon’) in the state’s south-west, considered on of Georgia’s ‘Seven Natural Wonders’. The flora in this region as well as the crisp clear night skies – perfect for students of any level of astronomy – attract visitors for events held here annually.
In many ways, Georgia is the master of the outdoors. Ø