Formed in 1926, Athens Country Club is now a 27-hole golf facility, with the original eighteen holes laid out by Donald Ross. This layout was restored by Ron Forse in 2010, when a number of the shrunken greens were increased in size.
Tom Doak made a point of playing Athens Country Club in 2017 and awarded the course a rating of five out of ten. He commented as follows in his Christmas 2017 Confidential Guide update:
“The home town of the University of Georgia is much more interesting than I expected, but the city’s premier club is the rare Donald Ross course I think I would get tired of if I played it regularly. It’s a fairly hilly site and the fairways are all tree-lined, but the contours of the greens lack the flair of Ross’s best work.”
The town of Athens is located east of Atlanta in the state of Georgia. Athens Country Club was established in 1926 when legendary architect Donald Ross was engaged to design the course (The Ross Course). A further 9 holes was designed by George Cobb and is known as the North course
Ross was a 'no nonsense' architect, and it is his greens that set his courses apart. Inevitably over the years the mow lines on the greens result in the greens getting smaller, perhaps one reason why Ron Forse was appointed to renovate the Ross course in 2010.
I am no expert, and perhaps it is a result of impressive conditioning, but it did appear to me that some of the renovated greens were now just too severe..
My first impression of this picturesque parkland links was a favourable one The greens and fairways are framed by mature magnolia trees with azaleas scattered beneath them. A number of holes skirt around and over a central lake, and a large Southern style clubhouse completes the picture. It is all very grand!
And whilst the vistas are impressive, the course will challenge even the best. It delicately skips over several burns, positioned to test your nerve. The greens are intriguing, often with false fronts and challenging pin positions, and they are quick! Your short game better be on song.. Also the elevation changes on every hole make club selection difficult for those less familiar with the layout...
I had the pleasure of playing the course with two lady members, one of whom was quite a long hitter. But this course is not a test of how far you can hit it (which certainly makes a nice change for ladies) as several times she was unable to use her driver.
With tree lined fairways, bunkers, burns & lakes to avoid, Athens CC demands accuracy off the tee. And then it is most important you select the correct club to approach the green. The large elevation changes and false fronts makes this step more difficult than usual. Get this right and you will be rewarded ... putting will be a joy, although testing.
The Ross Course at Athens CC is just one of approximately 400 courses designed by Donald Ross and a very good example of his design principles.
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.