Under-rated and Under-played in the Peach State

Any Web site or travel brochure can pick the most recognizable golf course in Georgia…it is on all of our Bucket Lists.  Augusta National has to be at the top of everyone’s list but with the exception of an elite few,  it will always remain a dream. Playing some of Georgia’s hidden gems is within easy reach of everyone at three of Georgia’s State Park Golf Courses in South Georgia.

Georgia State Park Golf Courses offer the best variety and value around. The courses feature natural settings and picturesque surroundings to test your golf game, and the relaxed atmosphere welcomes golfers of all ages and skill levels.

When Brian Boeling, Director of Operations, invited me to come and experience what got him to leave Florida, I welcomed the opportunity. I had no idea what I was about to experience. I had heard about all three of the courses managed by Coral Hospitality but nothing that would make me say I’ve got to go and play those courses. My expectations were to say the least, not very high. I knew the areas where the courses were located and decided it would be a good getaway no matter, so I planned to spend a few days in Georgia and have a working vacation.

Day 1 – Georgia Veterans Course at Lake Blackshear Resort

georgia veterans memorial golf courseLocated 10 minutes west of I-75 in Cordele, GA Georgia Veterans Course at Lake Blackshear Resort is a relatively flat parkland-style layout with somewhat narrow tree-lined fairways that requires some accuracy off the tee. With a beautiful lodge overlooking Lake Blackshear, this was going to be home for the next few days.

The course, designed by Denis Griffith, has a reputation as one of the best state park courses in Georgia, with good reason. The layout offers a fair test, but it’s still player friendly and appeals to a wide range of skill levels. Play smart and don’t try and over do it and you should score well. Expertly placed mounds, water hazards, and sand bunkers define the holes and enhance the challenge.

The course has some challenging holes, including two of of Griffiths’ favorite par 4s. The first is Number 8, a mere 339 yards with a large elevated green protected by plenty of bunkers in front.  Then Number 12 at 369 yards, a deceptive little hole with two well placed bunkers on the left  has a little roll in the fairway, which pinches in short of the green and includes an overhanging tree on the right that can obstruct approach shots from that side of the fairway. Both sound easy, but don’t let the descriptions fool you, these are two of Griffiths’ favorites for good reason. Choose your shots wisely and you might escape with a couple of pars, play a little too aggressively and you might not like what you get.

The 18-hole Veterans Course at Lake Blackshear Resort stretches 7,059 yards from the tips. The course rating is 72.1 and it has a slope rating of 130. Rolling greens, strategically placed bunkers, tree-lined fairways and a little bit of water make for an exciting day of golf. Four sets of tees provide for a very enjoyable round of golf for any caliber of golfer. You can’t go wrong playing here.

The Lake Blackshear Resort offers a variety of accommodations, including 14 guest rooms within the lodge, 64 private villas and 10 lakeside cabins. All offer appealing views of the lake, as does the resort’s restaurant.

Favorite Holes

Number #6; The hardest hole on the front side. Hitting the fairway is a must, for trees and bunkers guard both sides of the fairway. Choosing the right club for your second shot is very important for your approach into this uphill, two-tiered green..

Number #13: Hardest hole on the back nine. A very long par-4 that requires a perfect tee shot to a fairway you cannot see from the tee. Your second shot is played to a narrow, kidney shaped green that again cannot be seen from the fairway. This is one of the holes that will make you come back, you will either play it well and want to do it again or need to play it again to show the hole you are better than that!

Number #15: The signature hole at Georgia Veterans. A sweeping, dogleg-left par-5 with a tee shot requiring a precisely placed shot out of a chute of trees. Laying up for your second shot will leave you a short iron to this small, two-tiered green.

Day 2 – Meadowlinks Golf Course at George T. Bagby

meadowlinks golf georgiaMeadowlinks is tucked away in southwest Georgia in the George T. Bagby State park on the shores of the Walter F. George Reservoir.

When Meadowlinks first opened to play in 1998, Golf Digest ranked the course as “the nation’s sixth best new affordable public course.” The Willard Byrd links-style design weaves through gently rolling countryside. The back nine features breathtaking views of the surrounding woodlands and on a clear day you can see Alabama. Two large pecan trees and an old pear tree crown the hill behind the 10th green, where golfers can enjoy one of the finest views in the South. A hidden gem awaits you on every shot.

Meadowlinks consists of an 18-hole championship golf course, a practice facility, and a fully stocked pro shop with snacks. Meadowlinks Golf Course  is located less than 5 minutes away from the state park lodge and marina.

The 18-hole “George T. Bagby” course at the Meadowlinks At George T. Bagby facility in Fort Gaines, Georgia features 7,007 yards of golf from the back tees for a par of 72 . The course rating is 73.5 and it has a slope rating of 133.

The Golf Digest ranking, the layout, the pace of play plus the on-site lodge and restaurant, make this a great golf destination.

Favorite Holes

Number #9; the number 1 handicap. It’s a par 4 but unless you hit a monster drive the safe play is to lay up in front of the creek with your second shot, reach the green in 3 and then 1 putt to save par. Just remember on this hole bogey is your friend.

Number #16: A great par 4. Teeing Grounds set you up looking through a tree framed alley across a small bottom area. This is another hole where you need to play smart. Make sure your second shot can clear the creek that sits 50 yards in front of the green or layup and hope for a 1 putt after you reach the green in 3 or you might be recording a 6 or more.

Day 3 – Wallace Adams Golf Course at Little Ocmulgee

little ocmulgee wallace adams golfOne of the hidden gems of the South, golfers who play a round at the Wallace Adams Golf Course at Little Ocmulgee (Little O) rarely forget the experience. The classic course is surrounded by loblolly pines, willows, and magnolias, in a gracious and secluded setting. A lot of similarities to Augusta National, in fact many refer to this course as a long lost cousin of Augusta National, they even have pimento cheese sandwiches in the Pro Shop.

A relatively short course, stretching only 6625 yards from the blue tees, the course is very player friendly, but again, don’t take anything for granted.

The front nine is tight and requires players to bring all of their shotmaking skills. The back nine designed by O.C. Jones of the renowned Robert Trent Jones Family, opens up but continues to present challenges with smaller sloped greens and doglegs on the fairways. The greens, all 18, are immaculate, as fine as any I have ever played. Most are guarded by bunkers right and left, but once you get on the putting surface, your putts will roll true and fast.

Wallace Adams Golf Course is probably the closest thing to Augusta National that most everyday golfer’s will ever get to experience. The only thing missing are the azaleas and I’ve been told those might be coming. This course is absolutely the most under-rated course I have ever played. The conditions are excellent, the layout wonderful and scenery is magnificent.

Best keep secret at Little O: For true Southern style home cooking visit The Fairway Grill at the lodge. Daily lunch specials will leave you full as a tick as you enjoy the view overlooking the 6th and 7th holes.

Favorite Holes

Number #1; A 360 yard, par 4, dogleg right, over water, presents a challenging start, but par is within reach.   A long drive can carry through the fairway on the right or reach the water on the left. A well-placed long iron or fairway wood off the tee will be rewarded with a short iron to the green.

Number #5: A medium length dog leg left, this time though the water is a little further away. The drive should be hit past the tree on the right and kept short of the mound. A drive too far left can be blocked by the pine tree. The green is wide but not very deep.

Number #18: A  525 yard par 5 shot-maker’s dream to end your round. Hit a slight draw off the tee and a slight fade on the second shot and you will leave yourself in great shape to reach the elevated green in regulation. Once on the green, you will be challenged to make par on the toughest putting green on the course.

The Verdict:

A great golf destination. No traffic, no crowds, just great golf, great accommodations, great food and even better hospitality. If you are looking for a Great Golf Vacation, you can’t go wrong with these 3 Georgia Peaches.  Play one, two or all three you won’t be disappointed. It is no wonder these Georgia State Park Golf Courses are known as “the sweetest deals in golf.” Stan Awtrey, 20+ year golf editor for the Atlanta Journal Constitution is fond of saying that the courses offer “no development, no distractions and no excuses.” We agree! Can’t wait to come back.

 

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