Designed by Willard Byrd, then updated by Bob Cupp and Jack Nicklaus, this is a hidden gem in the Atlanta area, now that the BellSouth Classic is a distant memory. And when I refer to it as a hidden gem, I am also talking about the approach to it, via Atlanta Country Club Drive, going uphill and winding through a lovely neighborhood of housing, until one turns and goes down the boulevard like entry road with the clubhouse as the backdrop.
There is much to like here, particularly the par 3’s, or which the sixth and thirteenth are very memorable as they play over water, with the thirteenth one of the prettiest and dramatic inland par 3’s one will ever play.
I disagree with the overview to this course, as I felt the eighteenth to be less dramatic than depicted. However, my statement is from the point of view of someone who does not have the length to try for the green in two whereas a player who can hit a tee shot 275+ is likely to have a thought of going for it in two. For the longer player, it is a more strategic hole.
The course begins hilly, but then flattens for several holes, before returning to hills again throughout much of the remainder of the course. It is a difficult walking course due to the hills, but certainly not impossible. One does not remember the flatter holes as well as the hilly ones, and at times the hills are a bit too much and can detract from a good sightline if one is slightly out of position.
The routing takes excellent advantage of the land movement as well as incorporates water very well. Greens are placed perfectly on the other side of Sope Creek. Holes are routed around the several ponds on the course where one has to consider whether to take on a longer carry or play away from them towards other hazards.
While the housing can be a distraction as some of it is near to the course, the housing is beautiful.
The course measures 7139 yards from the Classic tees, par 72, rated 75.6/147. The Gold tees are 6782 yards rated 73.9/143. The Blue tees are 6420 yards rated 72.4/138. We played a combination of the Gold and Blue; 12-6 Blue overall. I felt the ratings were slightly higher than I would have thought, but not by much. One can easily get into trouble on the course, particularly on the water holes, and also due to some of the fairways being heavily tree lined.
1. Par 4 – 408/404/373. This course plays over a downslope but the tee shot will land on an upslope and not get much roll-out due to the steepness. The hole is heavily tree-lined on both sides and also well-bunkered off the tee with the first bunker on the right and then flanking bunkers another 30 yards up perfectly positioned for the average length player. Longer hitters will fly the bunkers off the tee. The ground tilts to the right so the preferred line is left middle as the ball should kick to the right. The green is placed into higher ground with a substantial false front. As the green is angled to the left side there is a front bunker and then a front back (right side) bunker. The green has two tiers and is speedy. The hole has a fall-off at the rear before the ground rises again. It is a good starting hole requiring four good shots to make a par.
2. Par 5 – 587/558/536. You cross over Atlanta Country Club Drive to arrive at a tee box that is elevated and playing out of a chute of trees. The hole has an early bend to the right where tee shots will land. As such there are bunkers on the outer corner, the first one to catch the average length player and the second to catch the longer hitter. For those trying to cut the dogleg the trees are thick down the right side and there is a series of rises and falls that could lead to an uneven stance if one’s ball does not kick to the left back into the fairway. The second shot needs to either stay short of a bunker 80 yards from the green on the right or play to the left of it. This is another fine green complex with three bunkers on the left side set about 4 feet below the surface of the green, and then a single bunker on the right middle. The bunkers pinch the front of the green. The green tilts towards the lower ground to the left and has a back tier. I thinned my third shot just a bit and the ball rolled nearly to the back edge of the green, not ideal for a front right pin and it was an early three putt. I liked this hole for the drama it provided on all of the shots, particularly the tee shot.
3. Par 3 – 194/190169. This hole plays a club less as it is downhill perhaps as much as thirty feet. The left side has mounds and ridges that will likely keep a ball from crossing over the cart path. It is an odd shaped green, bulging out to the right but then turning left. There is a front right bunker, left side bunker and a back right bunker protecting a green that is sharply sloped back to front with a left side spine and back left and back right smaller plateaus. It is another nice hole.
4. Par 4 – 421/410/396. You cross over Atlanta Country Club Drive again to find the tee of the beginning of the flat part of the course. Three ponds are on the left side of this hole from the tee to the green. The ponds also provide a buffer to the houses that sit on the other side of these ponds. There are scattered trees on both sides of the fairway. The hole slides slightly to the left to bring the water in play so the architects placed a right side bunker before a collection of trees for those trying to play too conservatively. The left side of the green is set right against the pond. A bunker on the right front of the green forces one to take on the water. There is also a clever placement of a bunker on the back of the green for those hitting a bit harder to try to take the water out of play. The green has a higher shelf on the right side, more pronounced on the back of the green. It is a nice hole.
5. Par 4 – 451/392/365. The third pond from the previous hole continues to be a factor off the tee on this hole, with another pond then snaking its way back towards the green. As such this hole is nearly a continuous double dogleg going first out to the left but with the green set to the left it seems to bend even further. Scattered trees go down the right side and two bunkers are placed on the inner corner. Longer hitters can fly these bunkers but if they go too far left they could find the water unless they are lucky enough to hit one of the four trees on the left in the bulge of the fairway or find a single bunker that is hidden in those trees. The green is relatively flat with a long bunker down the left side and a smaller one on the right rear.
6. Par 3 – 205/184/159. We played the 159 tees deciding not to walk back to the longer tees. This is a beautiful par 3 playing across Sope Creek with much of the front and the right side set hard against the creek. I thought I had made another hole-in-one with the ball landing three feet dead in front of the green coming to a rest a foot right behind the middle of the pin which was near the front. This hole is excellently defended both by Scope Creek as well as four bunkers surrounding the left continuing around the back of the green. Scope Creek sits about seven feet below the green and the backdrop to the green is all trees. It is a very terrifying from those longer tees. Yet the hole is very tranquil as you see only nature.
7. Par 4 – 370/340/317. This is a fun hole. Unless one is trying to drive the green due to this hole being a dogleg right, the smart play is to play down the fairway with Sope Creek to the right. The question is how far down the fairway does one play? You tee off over Sope Creek and from the tee a tree on the right looks closer than it actually is. Yet the fairway runs out as it is stopped by trees. There are thick trees left offsetting Sope Creek and that single large tree to the right. A drive down the left side will kick back to the right. One has to get the distance correct in order to take that tree out of play as it can block the line to the green with sits on the other side of the creek. I laid up, but laid up too short and had the tree in my line. I had to get over it but did not have a club that could reach the green. I ended up just short of a front right bunker. My playing partner played it smartly further down the fairway and had an open look to the green on the other side. The green is tilted towards the water with a narrow back third as another bunker back left and a bunker at the rear of the green pinch the green. I chipped close to save par while my partner had a ten feet putt that slide harder towards the water than he anticipated. It is a strategic, pretty and fun golf hole.
8. Par 5 – 560/505/492. I liked this hole despite my three putt. You play over a pond to a fairway that rises substantially before it begins to have a more gradual ascent to the green. The hole goes to the right and a large inner corner bunker squeezes the landing zone for the average player. Longer players will carry this bunker. The fairway is flanked by trees all the way to the green with higher ground on both sides serving as a funnel back to the fairway. The approach shot to the green has to consider a central bunker placed about 30 yards short of the green with two bunkers right front and one on the left front. The rear of the green has both uneven and higher ground. There is also a knob on the right side just after the bunker which creates a back right shelf and a two tiered green. The green tilts both back to front and left and right. It is another solid golf hole.
9. Par 4 – 415/368/366. This was my second least favorite hole on the front side for two reasons. The ground is a steady climb upward to the green. This is a sharp dogleg left and the inner corner bunker I think is in the wrong spot as the trees on the left provide enough defense. After the tee shot, the approach shot continues sharply uphill leading to a semi-blind approach. There are bunkers on the front corners of the green set well below the surface, likely the deepest bunkers on the front side. The green is very large with a central horizontal spine and a bit of a false front. The rear of the green is a semi-bowl due to higher ground. I liked the green complex to this hole.
10. Par 4 – 480/455/431. This hole plays shorter as it is a steady downhill slope to the green. The hole moves to the left with an early bunker on the left side and a more difficult deeper bunker on the right side which likely catches more balls than the one on the left. The left side of the fairway has the thicker trees. The green complex is very good with a small stream snaking its way across the fairway about ten yards short of the green. The green is somewhat raised with lower ground on all sides and a bunker on the four corners. There is a define swale just off the right middle of the green and two tiers with a middle green separation. This is one of the more interesting green complexes on the course.
11. Par 5 – 580/545/517. You cross over Cherry Hill Drive to get to the tee. This hole seemed to go forever, weaving its way up and down as the fairway rises and falls. The protection to the green is the possibility of an uneven stance as well as thick trees on both sides. The housing off to the right on this hole and the tenth is stellar. As you near the green there is a well-placed bunker twenty yards short on the left for those longer hitters as the ground kicks a ball towards it. The green is narrow at the back with flanking bunkers. A final bunker is at the front right. There is a valley short right of this green that will lead to a blind shot. I liked the hole for its rolling fairway.
12. Par 4 – 423/418/401. This dogleg left is a fine hole with three outer corner bunkers forcing one to aim a bit more left than desired towards thick trees. The green is angled to the right opposite the direction of the fairway with a front right bunker eating into the green creating a lima bean shaped green. This is another deeper bunker.
13. Par 3 – 153/151/141. This is one of the most beautiful par 3’s one will play that is not on an ocean or has mountains as the backdrop. From an elevated tee of perhaps 60 feet, you play down to a green that is framed by trees and two bunkers on the right built into the mounds surrounding the green. The green is angled to the right consistent with the shape of a stream. The green is two tiered with the break in the middle. It is a speed green back to front. As we were delayed on the hole we hit two tee shots each, playing only our first. My first went right of the bunkers on a mound to a front pin where I holed out from 38 feet away. Sometimes there is no rhyme or reason to golf. This is easily the most visually memorable hole on the course and is the fourth hole to this point that is fun.
14. Par 4 – 329/323/310. Another fun hole where the longer players might try to drive the green but they have to cross over a stream that fronts a somewhat thin green. The question on the tee is how long one wants their approach shot into the green to be; what distance do they prefer? There is a bunker down the right side set into a bit of a mound. The stream crosses in the front then continues down the right side. The other bunker is at the left side of the green providing some protection for those that might be tempted to try for it off the tee. This bunker also produces a narrower back half to the green.
15. Par 4 – 446/424/414. I felt this to be the most difficult hole on the course. This hole plays as a dogleg right with higher ground down the left side kicking balls to the right. A stream goes down the entirety of the right side before crossing diagonally in front of the fairway about 35 yards short of the green. I hit a drive that stayed on the hill down the left leading to an uneven stance which sent my second shot to the right of the stream on the right. I managed to extract the ball amongst the rough plants, wedged on and one putted for a five. The green is excellent with large fronting bunkers on the corners and various tiers and inner swales. If not for those two par 3’s, this is likely the hole I would remember the most.
16. Par 3 – 199/196/183. This is the least memorable hole on the course crossing over Pine Valley Road. From an elevated tee you cross an early stream that fronts the tenth. You play across this lower ground to a green that is slightly above the tee box. The green is very tilted back to front with subtle movement to either side. There is a single bunker to the right and two to the left.
17. Par 4 – 420/416/392. This hole plays straight although the green is angled off to the left. Much like the tenth, this fairway rolls up and down to the green. The land before the green and to the right side occupy lower ground with the right side leading to a bind shot. The green has bunkers on all four corners with a lot of different slopes. It is a strong hole.
18. Par 5 – 498/493/458. The finishing hole plays across a pond to land that rises. As a shorter hitter, I could not carry the rise in the land therefore I was always going to lay up. A second pond is very much in play for the longer hitters if they try to over-draw a ball around the trees on the left side where the first pond ends. A bunker is placed on the highest point of the rise in the fairway on the right which I thought was unnecessary. The second pond is irregular and both pinches into the fairway for the second shot as well as going to the front and right side of the green. For me the play was to lay up and have my ball sit on flatter ground nearer the first half of the second pond leaving a shot of about 130 yards to the green. I suppose others would play down the right side but the fairway tilts a bit towards the water and is narrower. Longer players will easily go for the green in two. The green has three bunkers spaced around it and is sloped towards the water. I felt the hole to be more visually appealing than memorable. Yet I could see where others would praise the hole.
Atlanta Country Club offers everything in its routing. It takes full advantage of the terrain that was available. It has flat holes, it has uphill and downhill holes, it has holes that roll, it features water in the form of streams and ponds, and it has an appropriate number and placement of bunkers. It is kept in good shape. Several of the holes are memorable. The doglegs go in different directions. The green surfaces often use different tiers and rely less on hollows and inner mounds but overall offer a good challenge. Many of the green complexes are very good with interesting contouring just off the green in the form of small valleys, knobs or mounds.
I would rather play here than at East Lake in the Atlanta area.
Date: May 03, 2021