On a recent trip to the Peach State, I had the opportunity to visit one of Georgia State Parks’ eight golf courses. Between Highway 82 and US 1, on Georgia Highway 177, near Waycross, Laura S. Walker State Park is situated just north of the mysterious Okefenokee Swamp (the land of the trembling earth) and is an enjoyable retreat for fishing, camping, hiking, boating and golf. It is the only Georgia park named for a woman. Recently, the park added six new Sportsman’s cabins that sleep six, so golfers can enjoy a group overnite with rounds on the challenging golf course.
The Lakes was designed by Steven Burns and opened in 1996, utilizing the local sand for the many waste areas and bunkers throughout the course. There are small ponds, three natural lakes and rolling fairways within an untouched piece of land where the chirping of the birds, an occasional growl from an alligator and the wind whispering through the forest are the only sounds you hear on the 18 hole, par 72, 6600 yard layout. No homes-just Mother Nature at her finest.
This is a golf course than can be enjoyed by the beginning golfer as well as challenge the better player. The front nine is a bit tighter than the back. You have to pick your spots on the outward nine for your approach shots to the greens, where almost every par four and five are a dogleg one way or the other. Both par 3’s on the front are straight away shots, but the smallish greens demand accuracy. The par 4 ninth hole is the #1 handicap hole with a lake skirting the entire right side of its 451 yards from tee to green.
There are very nice practice facilities at The Lakes. The large driving range is located between the 10th and 18th fairways. There is a practice putting and short game area to work on your scoring game. David Sikes, a PGA Professional, is the Golf Course Manager and is available for golf lessons and clinics by appointment. David and his friendly staff are there to make sure your golf experience at Laura S. Walker State Park is enjoyable, and can assist in group outings and customized tournaments. The pro shop is well stocked with golf apparel and equipment to purchase. The golf clubhouse reminds one of a little Augusta National, with the ‘Back Nine Grill’ serving light fare and beverages.
The back nine is more links style with wider more undulating fairways, a bit more bunkering and major waste areas on 15 & 16 to cut off the short side to the green. Approach shots are a little more testy on the inward nine. Like the front, the par 3s require accuracy and knowing where not to hit it. The only water on this nine comes into play on the par 4 18th, where the same lake you have to avoid on #9 is now on your left making the dogleg a bit tighter. The approach shot to the green needs to be on target to avoid the water and bunker on left and woods on the right. Visit LakesGC.com for reservations and information. Go Play!
The Lakes is a great aesthetically pleasing golf course with very reasonable rates and fun golfing experience. The Lakes at Laura S. Walker is part of the Georgia Golf Trail, a collection of top ranked destinations and golf clubs throughout the state providing top notch service and the best Georgia has to offer golfers from around the world. Get Georgia on Your Mind for Great Golf!