One of the most romantic cities in the country is Savannah, Georgia, the ‘Hostess’ city. Springtime is the most enchanting when the azaleas, dogwoods and redbuds fill the city with color under moss-draped oaks in the 22 squares, around the historical homes, Forsyth Park and the Bonaventure Cemetary. The revitalized downtown has come alive with new hotels, restaurants to please any palette and Savannah Arts and Design(SCAD) School taking over closed and dilapidated buildings and turning them into refurbished working classrooms or dormitories. The 100 acre Bonaventure is Savannah’s largest cemetery strewn with oaks shading a plethora of colorful azaleas, stunning sculptures and historic headstones. At one time it was home to the bird girl “Little Wendy” statue featured on the cover of the book “Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil” which is now housed at the Telfair Academy- a must-see.
On a recent visit everywhere I looked SCAD was buying up buildings and expanding their campus. It was remarkable. I have always loved visiting Savannah with its riverfront shops and restaurants. Years ago when visiting I would always stay at a different Bed & Breakfast to feel more into the flavor of the ‘oldest city in Georgia’, which has easy access off I-95 traveling north from Florida or coming south from anywhere along the east coast. The proprietors of the B&B’s would typically turn me on to a local bistro or dining place where I could enjoy some local fare.
The best way to see the city and its historical sites is on a tour either in a comfortable air-conditioned bus, open-air bus, or on a horse-drawn carriage. If you have the stamina, you can do a walking tour, best done in the early spring, late fall or early winter. When cotton was king, Savannah was the major port of call and today is the single largest and fastest-growing container terminal in America with the Savannah River flowing into the Atlantic Ocean just east of the city.
Besides being a tourism draw, the accompanying golf courses in the area provide a broad selection of opportunities to play our great game. Here is a cross-section of some of the public courses to enjoy while visiting Savannah.
For visitors flying into Savannah, you can’t beat the location, which directly borders the airport. Those who enjoy watching planes taking off or landing will get plenty of opportunities playing Crosswinds that has an airplane in its logo. Located just off I-95 north of the city, it is one of Savannah’s most convenient courses and also among the more affordable, with modest rates considering the good quality of the layout, which is in a non-developed setting.
The golf course is 6750 yards from the back tees, 6131 from the blues and a friendly 5594 from the whites playing its length with the shorter and seemingly more inviting back nine, not the soft touch you might expect considering the modest yardage totals. Although Crosswinds is a parkland- style layout with generous fairways, there are ample opportunities to find trouble with hazards in play on at least half the holes including three of the five par 3s and four of the five par 5s. Trees on several holes can impede approach shots if you land on the wrong side of the fairway. The large Tifeagle greens have a bit of undulation, many with no bunkers at all.
One of the more interesting holes is the par 3-16th which is surrounded on three sides by a reverse horseshoe-shaped waste area. Both nines finish with side-by-side par 5s with hazards on opposite sides of the fairway leading to a shared green fronted by a pond. It’s a challenge to steer around the trees along the left edge of the 590 yard ninth, and to stay left of the pond in the lay-up area on the 18th, making the two holes a scenic if perilous way to conclude either side.
Southbridge Golf Club
About 15 minutes south on I-95 from the Airport at the intersection of I-16, the 1400 acre Southbridge residential community touts an 18 hole semi-private golf course that is considered one of the best tracks in Chatham County. Designed by renowned architect Rees Jones in 1989, Southbridge is brilliantly routed around beautiful water hazards, gorgeous Georgia pines and moss-covered oaks. Large undulating Tifeagle greens guarded by grass mounding and strategically placed bunkers provide a fair test and an enjoyable round of golf for players of all skill levels.
The par 72 course stretches out to just shy of 7,000 yards with five sets of tees to allow everyone a fair game, with water coming into play on all but two of the holes. From the gold tees the course is rated 74.1/134 and the reds garner a 70.1/117 which challenges all players to stay in the short grass and play smart. The understated clubhouse, with Vickery’s restaurant and pro shop, can hold family functions and full-field tournaments with catering available. Southbridge is also home to the Cindy Jones Golf Savannah Golf School. Cindy is PGA Professional and has an assortment of classes to meet the needs of new players, youth and members seeking that little tweak in their game.
The highlight of your round is the finishing 502-yard par 5,18th hole. A hard dogleg right with a large precarious bunker right at the corner, which if carried can set you up for a possible birdie provided you carry the pond on the right of the green with your second shot. Good Luck. One thing is sure, you will really enjoy playing the scenic and well maintained Southbridge Golf Club.
Club at Savannah Harbor
Situated between the Savannah and Back Rivers on Hutchinson Island just north of the historic area, The Club at Savannah Harbor is a collaboration between ‘Slammin Sam’ Snead and ASGCA golf course architect Bobby Cupp that has hosted the PGA Tour Champions Legends of Golf from 2003 to 2013. The Troon managed Club is my favorite place to golf when visiting the oldest city in Georgia, where I have always played on manicured greens and immaculate fairways throughout its tidal marshland locale, as part of the Westin Savannah Golf Resort & Spa.
The layout is rated the “#3 of the Courses You Can Play in Georgia” and maxes out at 7,300 yards with five sets of tees down to forwards at 5,200 to allow players of all abilities to enjoy their day at Savannah Harbor. Talk about social distancing-no problem here- you can rent a personal Golf Board to explore the earth and play golf unimpeded. The fairways are on the generous side, but almost every par 4 or 5 has at least one bunker in play, with thin tree lines and marshes that border some of the holes an occasional concern. With gorgeous views of the flora and fauna and the city’s riverfront, The Club at Savannah Harbor is part of the GEORGIA GOLF TRAIL and the place to play.
The magnificent 22,000 square foot Clubhouse features their beautiful award-winning golf shop stocked will a full line of apparel and accessories, the latest Callaway rental clubs and a PGA professional service staff for special events and instruction. It also houses the ‘Legends Bar & Champions Grill’, full-service locker rooms, formal and informal dining rooms along with a board room for small meetings, and the ‘piece de resistance’- The Heavenly Spa By Westin, where my wife has spent countless hours getting pampered.
Savannah Country Club
An original Donald Ross design dating back to 1927, the course has undergone several name and extensive design changes over the years.
Formerly known as Savannah Inn and Country Club, later the Sheraton Savannah Resort, then Wilmington Island Club. In 1979 it hosted the GSGA Championship and was the annual site of the Georgia Open for years, then in 2006 hosted the GSGA 4-Ball Championship. The construction of a new clubhouse and major renovation to the course restored some of the shine to this gem. In 2018 O.C. and Brianna Welch bought the Club and renamed it to restore the sense of history while adding a modern upscale approach to dining and events.
Playing to a par of 71, the Country Club measures 6715 yards from the tips, with four sets of tees to make it enjoyable for everyone. The course has a relaxed coastal setting with fairways bordered by a variety of coastal trees and bermuda rough, greens that are well-bunkered and water coming into play on half the holes. A very enjoyable and challenging round provided you keep it in the short grass.
The new owners are restoring the Club to its former greatness, making Savannah Country Club the envy of the locals and Wilmington Island community. Other amenities include 6 Har-Tru tennis courts, a lovely pool with lifeguards, a fitness facility and a ballroom for special events and golf outings. They have initiated new membership programs, but it is still a semi-private facility.
Did you know Savannah has a beach? I have been coming here for half a century and just recently found Tybee Island, the easternmost barrier island in Georgia along the Atlantic Ocean shoreline just 20 minutes from downtown Savannah and 15 minutes to Savannah Country Club. On my most recent visit I stayed at Hotel Tybee, the award-winning 208 room expansive beachfront hotel with island-style Southern hospitality voted “Best Place to Stay” by South magazine and “Best of the Best Hotel” in the coastal empire in 2019. The hotel is celebrating 130 years in 2020 and new owner Brett Loehr is making improvements throughout the property. Amenities include private balconies on beachfront rooms, two pools. a Tikky bar, the Grandview Conference Center available for meetings and weddings and comfortable accommodations in a friendly atmosphere.
Hotel Tybee is part of the Georgia Golf Trail, a collaboration of the Peach State’s best resorts and golf courses.
For more information visit ExploreGeorgia.org/Savannah/Golf.