Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains just south of the North Carolina border, Sky Valley is truly a piece of paradise to live and play in. Sky Valley is the northernmost, highest and coolest town in Georgia. When Atlanta is sweltering at 90+ degrees in the dog days, folks here are enjoying a cup-of-joe on the porch overlooking the mountains and valley at a cool 60-70 degrees. The average elevation of Sky Valley is 3,500 feet above sea-level. I was here over Labor Day and didn’t perspire once. In fact one evening I wore a long sleeve shirt to make sure I didn’t get a chill.
This cozy community is the perfect place to stay for a week, for a while or forever. There are options within the 3 square miles of Sky Valley. There are 65 timeshares that can be rented to test the waters, the greens and the abundant recreational opportunities. Many residents have chosen to build a second home to just live here in the summertime and through the fall foliage, while many have decided to call Sky Valley their permanent abode. There is a condominium complex with its own heated pool if you care not to build. Homesites run from down in the valley to the peaks of the mountains. I took a tour with POA President Steve Mason and his wife Jan, full-timers, who showed me beautiful homes tucked away in the forest, others sitting on the edge of hills and yet others in low-lying comfortable living sites. They gave me a homeowner’s perspective and why they fell in love with the place.
There are plenty of activities to keep folks busy in Sky Valley. There are tennis courts, pickleball courts, bocce, horseshoes, and a Jr. Olympic heated swimming pool for the active-minded. Next to the pool are locker rooms, fitness center, sauna and jacuzzi. There is a community garden, a butterfly garden, and Mud Creek Falls cascading 85 feet down to an easy mile-long walking trail for the nature-minded. Many of the residents have taken up Croquet. I had an opportunity to participate in a practice match on their beautifully manicured croquet lawn with my hosts Membership Chair Gordon Brand, Cheryl Beckert and Rayne. Although it is definitely a competition, it is as much a social activity at Sky Valley, bringing friends together to enjoy a sport for everyone to play. The Croquet Club participates in competitions with other communities in the area. For a little excitement, you can try out Highlands Aerial Park for a high flying zipline about a mile away.
The gathering place in the community is the beautiful 23,000 square foot clubhouse that opened in 2013 and just completed a major expansion this year. When you walk in the front door you are greeted by an enormous natural stone fireplace, exposed ceiling beams and hardwood floors that offer a warm and rustic ambiance. PGA Head Professional Steve Heher, who also owns a home at Sky Valley, gave me a tour of the new facilities that include the new well-stocked 2500 square foot pro shop, Clubroom and Wildflower Room for club meetings and games. After croquet, we all strolled over to the Clubhouse Terrace overlooking the 12-acre lake and the 18th fairway and enjoyed a lovely al-fresco dinner prepared by Chef Scott Truax. Chef Scott and Clubhouse Manager Elizabeth Truax utilize ‘farm to table’ ingredients whenever possible to develop their delectable menu selections. Saturday night I enjoyed a wine tasting dinner with my hosts Howard and Cheryl Beckert in the Lakeside Room with outstanding vintages and perfectly prepared food pairings by Elizabeth & Scott.
Sky Valley Country Club is a semi-private club formed in 2012 when a group of founding members bought the course and clubhouse. The golf course was originally designed by Bill Watts and in 2007 ASGCA member Bill Bergin did a major renovation adding nearly 600 yards in length, greatly improving the condition of the par 72 layout with bent grass from tee to green, and stretching the championship calibre course to just shy of 7,000 yards. Designer Bergin says, “Sky Valley is a delightful mountain golf experience that can be testing as a player could want. The course ebbs and flows between challenges and opportunities with ample elevation changes.” There are six sets of tees to make your golf trip through nature an enjoyable one. They have over 300 year-round and seasonal members. The practice facilities are located between the ninth hole and the first and include a sizable driving range with targets and a large practice putting surface. Director of Golf Heher is available for lessons.
I got to play with three members, Ed, Harry and Jim who helped give me the lay of the land and where not to hit the ball. Listening and doing don’t always work out. The first hole is a 541- yard par 5 dogleg right around a hill to an open fairway and a pond to maneuver around with a chance at birdie. My first Wow moment was standing on the 2nd tee overlooking the downhill double dogleg 445-yard par 4 with the green tucked to the left.
Sky Valley was developed from an old farm and one of the remnants from years gone by, a chimney, stands sentinel in the third hole’s fairway. The par 3, 166-yard fourth requires a shot over a pond to an elevated green. The #1 handicap hole is the uphill 455-yard par four, 5th, which took most of us 3 shots to reach the green. One thing that I noticed as we played the front nine, the soft sounds coming from the babbling brook that winds its way throughout the course. The beauty and serenity at Sky Valley are second to none. The sixth hole, another uphill par 4 that doglegs left is another birdie opportunity. The next par 3, the 204-yard 7th has another pond to cross to an uphill green. Good Luck! Take a moment to enjoy a great view of the valley below on the longest par 5, the 597-yard 8th which needs some smart play to avoid the lake as the fairway turns right as it continues down the hill. The 424-yard par 4 9th, another dogleg right, brings you back to the clubhouse where you can refuel at the Turn Cafe.
The golf course which is the highest in elevation in Georgia is in great shape and the greens are quick and true. After a freshly made pimento cheese sandwich a la Augusta and a cool one, we were off to the back nine. The tenth hole, a 541-yard par 5 begins your journey reaching up to the sky. Finally, a par 3 with no water, the 185-yard 11th has all the length needed to challenge your tee shot. The scenic dogleg right twelfth is an opportunity for a good score if you stay in the short grass. The fescue rough can be challenging at times but makes a nice separation from the beautiful bent grass fairways. Thirteen, the second handicap hole will take all you can muster to reach the green at the top of the hill on this dogleg 422-yard par 4. The shortest par 5, the 500-yard 14th makes up for its yardage as you continue skyward. It’s a Kodak moment when you step on the tee at the signature hole, number 15, that drops almost 100 feet. I finally showed my playing partners I knew what I was doing when I went hole hunting and landed on the green on the easiest par 3. Sixteen is another scoring opportunity at only 334 yards downhill. Returning down to the valley, the par 4 17th has another elevated tee looking down the fairway with the lake left, and the 18th is a formidable closing hole that crosses the lake to a pin tucked left near the clubhouse.
What a stunning round of golf on an exceptional design. This golf experience alone is worth the drive to Sky Valley. There are a variety of memberships available at Sky Valley. For more information contact the business office at 706-746-5302, extension 6 or 7. Sky Valley is a member
of the Georgia Golf Trail, a selection of premier resorts and golf courses throughout the Peach State, home to the legendary Bobby Jones, the Masters and the FedEx Cup Championship.
Normally I call the golf course the centerpiece of the community and not to take anything away from the extraordinary layout, but what really inspired me was The Chapel of Sky Valley that sits on a knoll in the middle of the community. The Bavarian-inspired church has a wooden beamed interior with chandelier lighting and a large steeple pointing to the sky. All day long the bells chime the time and every evening ‘Taps’ is played. If I can borrow some lyrics from Oscar Hammerstein: “The hills are alive with the sound of music. The hills fill my heart with the sound of music. My heart wants to beat like the wings of the birds that rise from the lake to the trees. My heart wants to sigh like a chime that flies on a breeze.”
You need to experience this piece of paradise. Go to SkyValleyCountryClub.com to learn more.