Mention Atlanta Country Club and the BellSouth Classic springs to mind or maybe the AT&T Classic. Wasn’t the tournament called the Atlanta Classic when it was first inaugurated in 1967 and Bob Charles was the first champion? Anyway, the “Classic” is no longer held at Atlanta Country Club, in recent years the (now defunct) tournament moved to TPC Sugarloaf, but Atlanta Country Club will always be fondly remembered as THE “Classic” venue.
During the Civil War, on this parcel of land in Cobb County north of Atlanta, the shots came from rifles rather than golf clubs. The Chattahoochee River and the historic banks of Sope Creek were battlegrounds of the North and South with the future of the Republic in the balance. Thankfully times have changed. For the visiting golfer your greatest challenge will be to find a friendly member to sign you in.
Willard Byrd originally designed Atlanta Country Club in 1965 and Bob Cupp and Jack Nicklaus later made modifications to the layout. Majestic pines and aged oaks line each and every fairway and more than half the holes on the course feature dangerous water hazards. Bent grass greens and Bermuda fairways help to make the whole experience not only challenging but also rather well groomed.
Everyone knows, or ought to know, about the closing hole at Atlanta. The 18th receives the accolades and quite rightly so as it’s perhaps the finest closing hole in the USA and certainly on par with Pebble Beach’s finale. The Atlanta par five closer is a natural amphitheatre which turns hard left from the tee where a pair of lakes wait in hopeful anticipation to welcome your tee shot. Measuring a little more than 500 yards, it’s not a long hole by today’s measurements but it’s a supremely strategic hole, especially if the pin is cut in a wicked Sunday position. Host to the inaugural Players Championship in 1974, Atlanta Country Club may not be the longest course, but it's steeped in history, is tight, demanding and a supremely strategic test of golf.
Atlanta Country Club is a complete gem from the staff to the clubhouse, facilities and ultimately the course. While designed in the 1960s, it has a throwback look and feel, to a time before cell phones and text messages.
The first hole is welcoming a slight dogleg left with fairway bunkers on the elbows. The approach is to an elevated green that is well protected by greenside bunkers. The par 5 2nd is a dogleg right and is very tight. Off the tee favor the left side, but don’t go crazy less you end up in the left fairway bunkers. On your second shot favor the right side but be wary of the fairway bunker on the right. The green is protected by 4 bunkers. The long par 4 4th is visually, virtually and in real life a tough hole. On the tee you see the water hazard left and when you look right a fairway BAB. If you navigate the drive successfully the approach is not for the faint of heart. The water hazard sneaks up to the left front of the green with the obligatory bunker right. It is deserving of it’s number one handicap rating. No rest for the weary, the 5th is a dogleg right with bunkers on the inside elbow and water sneaking into the landing zone on the left side. The water also sneaks in towards the green from the left, however, there is a BAB left greenside and a normal bunker right. The par 3 6th is an awesome golf hole. It has a look and feel of Augusta with the creek in front of a redan green with flowers on the hillside behind the green. Depending upon the tees it can play anywhere from 160 to 225 yards. The dogleg right 7th is a shot makers hole. A driver is not necessary, and anything on the left side will funnel back towards the fairway. There is a creek running along the right side that you ultimately must clear on your approach. A fun golf hole. The par 5 8th is reachable, but you will have earned it. Stay clear of the BAB on the right side of the fairway. For your second either lay up to your preferred wedge distance or try to clear the fairway bunker that is in the middle of the fairway about 50 yards short of the green. The front ends with a bang, a dogleg left up the hill to the clubhouse. Off the tee you must carry the water hazard and avoid the fairway BAB on the inside of the elbow. If successful, take an extra club on your approach to this elevated green.
The back starts where the front left off. The long downhill par 4 10th is a beast. I would encourage you to try to fly the left bunker off the tee. If successful, you will pick up an extra 40 yards and have a chance of getting home in two. For the rest of you, there is a creek in front of the green and I advise prudence. By the way, I think the 10th is also the toughest green on the course. You can catch your breath on the par 5 11th. It is narrow and long, but three average shots should have you putting for birdie. The13th is the signature hole, a short downhill par 3. A very pretty hole, your tee shot will go over rows of flowers, a creek that takes a right hand jog and protects the green on the left side with a retaining rock wall keeping the green intact and a covered bridge to boot. Regardless of what tees you are playing the short par 4 14th is a birdie oppty. However, with a creek in front of the green an element of risk is added. When the pin is front it is time to go pin seeking. Hopefully, you birdied 14 because 15 is a mcgilla. A long right sweeping dogleg with a creek hugging the right side don’t bite off more than you can chew. The creek bisects the fairway about 20 yards in front of the green to add to the challenge and of course the green is protected with bunkers left and right. A golfers golf hole where you can brag about making a par. The finishing hole is a super par 5. A dogleg left with a lake in play the entire left side. The shortest par 5 it is definitely reachable in two, especially with a natural backstop behind the green. If you want to play it safe favor the right side off the tee and your second shot
A fun golf course that will challenge your game. I highly recommend it.
Other than Peachtree GC, the greater Atlanta metro area is not blessed with commendable golf courses. The Atlanta Country Club, however, is a step above most clubs.
Although the original architect does not have a huge portfolio of recognised courses, the tree lined fairways, dramatic changes in elevation and dangerously difficult water hazards augment the quality of this course. There are many meandering creeks and streams that really come into play – whether they are kissing the edges of the greens, or running parallel to the entire length of the fairway! I found the course a good challenge and very rewarding.
There are many really attractive visuals at Atlanta Country Club, including amazing stone/rock work, colourful flowerbeds and really healthy trees, which highlight the tremendous attention to the detail here. The conditioning and player experience is superb.