Cherokee Town and Country Club was established in 1956; its two separate facilities, the town club and the country club, are set twelve miles apart. The club’s two golf courses, however, are located a few miles north of Sandy Springs, close to Dunwoody.
One-year after the formation of the club, David Gill had an 18-hole course ready for the membership. Back then the route was named the Hillside, but later became known as the South layout.
In 1977, Willard Byrd built nine new holes on land to the north of the clubhouse and this became the Pineside nine. Joe Lee and Rocky Roquemore added nine further holes in 1986. These two nines were then co-joined to form the 18-hole Riverside course, so-called due to its close proximity to the Chattahoochee River.
The architectural provenance of today’s North course (formerly the Riverside) is therefore attributable to Willard Byrd and Joe Lee and his partner Rocky Roquemore, but it was Tom Fazio’s late 1998 revision that softened the join.
Cherokee Town has been listed alongside Augusta National as one of America’s most exclusive golf and country clubs, so you’ll need to hang on to Frigyes Karinthy’s “six degrees of separation” theory in the hope of befriending a kindly member.
My member host told me the North is the superior course to the South, but if one were able to take the front nine of the South and combine it with the back nine of the North, they would have the second best course in the Atlanta area behind only Peachtree but ahead of East Lake.
But as I had played Peachtree in the morning, I only had time to play the North in the afternoon. I do plan a return visit to play both the same day. While Peachtree played wet due to tornados and heavy thunderstorms the previous day going through the night, Cherokee sits on higher ground and the sun had come out. It still played soft with limited roll-out but closer to the listed yardage.
I enjoyed the course more than the two at Atlanta Athletic and would put in fifth in the area behind Peachtree, East Lake, Atlanta, and Hawks Ridge, although the Highlands course at Atlanta Athletic is more of a championship golf course. The North course at Cherokee Town and Country has much more movement in the land and while some of the holes have similar characteristics, there is adequate variety unlike the Highlands course where one feels as though they are playing the same hole again, particularly on the par 3’s.
I did agree with my host that the back nine is superior to the front nine. While the front nine is enjoyable, it does not have any holes that you will carry in your memory for long, unlike the back nine.
The course is 7170 yards from the Black tees, par 72 rated 75.2/143. From the Burgundy tees the course is 6696 yards rated 73.1/137. Due to the dampness of the course we played the Founders tees at 6368 yards, rated 72.0/134, which is a combination tee.
1. Par 4 – 403/385. Teeing off just to the left of the putting green, this hole plays level and is a dogleg right. Scattered trees line both sides of the fairway with a single bunker placed at the outer turn which narrows the fairway. There is a long bunker on the right side of the green yet due to the length of the green, the bunker only covers about half of the side. Surrounding the hole is good land movement with swales and hollows. The green has interior swales. I liked the hole as a starting hole.
2. Par 3 – 193/170. This hole plays shorter as it is downhill. A triangular shaped pond comes across the fairway about 30 yards in front of the green then angles to the right side. While the safe play is down the left there is a bunker at the back left of the green forcing one to perhaps aim a bit further right than they want. The safe shot is to the middle of the green. The green is not as tilted towards the water as one would find on many other holes so a miss to the left whether on grass or in the bunker has a good shot at recovery. It is a nice hole although not unique.
3. Par 4 – 445/413/334. From the back two tees this is a strong hole, but from our combination tee this is not a good hole despite it being fun. The back tees make the hole play as a dogleg left while the forward tees make it play straight. The hole plays slightly uphill with thick trees down the left and scattered trees on the right. There is a large bunker left that is not in play from the tees we played but is well placed from those back tees. Another single bunker is on the side of a hill that runs down the right side from the tee to the green. I really liked the green which has a small section at its front hemmed in by a large bunker on each side. The green widens at its back. The green has excellent interior movement. Going long over the green will lead to a fall-off behind the green and a potential semi-blind shot.
4. Par 4 – 435/398/382. This hole plays parallel to the third on slightly higher ground. The hole bends to the right with the green angled to the right. Scattered trees down the right side can impede one’s line to the green if right off the tee. There is a large bunker on the right of the green. I felt the hole needed a back left bunker given the angle of the green.
5. Par 5 – 565/544. This hole plays straight but then has a sharp break to the left where the trees on both sides form a narrower pathway. Off the tee there is also a bunker on the right to consider particularly since the right side of the fairway is the preferred line. As one nears the green there are flanking bunkers set 60 yards from the green. Trees on the left side pinch the fairway so the right side is preferred again for the second shot. The green has fronting bunkers and is slightly elevated with a run-off collection area off the right side. The green narrows at the rear but given the size of the green is should be easily hit with a wedge in one’s hands. The use of trees on this hole make it a compelling golf hole.
6. Par 4 – 422/398/385. Playing from the farthest point on the course from the clubhouse this hole climbs up a bit and sweeps to the left. There is a forced carry to navigate for the shorter hitters to reach the fairway with a skinny bunker on the right forcing one a bit closer to the heavy trees down the left side all the way to the green. The brave play is to hug the left side where one will get a favorable roll-out as the hill ends and there is a slight downhill to the fairway. This can cut as much as 60 yards to the green. The green has two deep bunkers on its left side where the land falls sharply away. The green is somewhat thin but long with a false front and small roll-offs at the right and back. The green has an overall tilt to the left with small plateaus in four areas. There is good mounding just off this green. I liked the hole because a good, bold tee shot is definitely rewarded.
7. Par 3 – 200/178/149. This hole plays downhill and is shaped like a lima bean with a front central bunker and a rear central bunker. A brave shot is to the middle of the green. The green has a central plateau but also tilts to the front. The front bunker is one of the deeper bunkers on the course. I liked this par 3 for its visual appeal and strategic placement of those two bunkers.
8. Par 4 – 421/394/379. This straight hole has a wide fairway yet if one goes too far to the left they will go down into a small valley where the end result is a severe sidehill lie and a blind shot to the green. There is a bunker with a steep face on the right side in play off the tee for the longer hitters. A second bunker is at the right front of the green with an interior tongue that create havoc if one is too close to it. The green is long and overly wide with two vertical spines running through it. This is the number one index on the front nine, but I thought two others holes to be more difficult.
9. Par 5 – 587/566/519. The front nine finishes back at the clubhouse next to the first tee. This is the longest hole on the course and features a continuous “stretched” bend to the left. There is an inner corner bunker for the tee shot that the longer players can carry from all tees. Thick trees line the left side but somewhat fade away as one nears the green while scattered trees are down the entirety of the right side. The second bunker is on the right about 40 yards short of the green, only in play for those trying to reach the green in two. I felt this bunker should be pulled back down the fairway. The green is perhaps wider than deep and slightly angled to the left, although of a large size, with a front left corner bunker. Going long over the bunker leads to a more difficult recovery due to a 3-4 feet fall-off and a green going away from you.
10. Par 4 – 358/328. This is a fun short hole playing downhill with the green set left like a fish hook. There are flanking bunkers at the sharp turn. The green is well bunkered with three including one on the right/back. The perfect drive is between the two bunkers, otherwise the trees on the left side will block one’s line to the green. Those trees reduce the fairway to about half of what you see from the tee. It is considered to be the easiest hole on the golf course, but I bogeyed it as we had a front pin behind one of those bunkers which I found.
11. Par 3 – 214/185/160. This hole plays longer as it is uphill. The hole has thicker trees on its left side. The main defense of the hole are the flanking bunkers with the right one being a bit deeper than the left, but the left one having a more difficult shot to stop on the green.
12. Par 4 – 429/408/390. For me, the course gets pretty good from him to the finish. This hole plays down a heavy line of trees that block the view of the pond to the right. There are staggered fairway bunkers with the closer one on the right. The green has a central front bunker that attempts to make one hit either a longer shot, or a shot to a side where there are fall-offs. A final bunker is on the back right corner. There is another fall-off to the left of this green which features good contouring and multiple pin locations, all of which are tricky beyond 20 feet.
13. Par 4 - 385/345. This is one of the more difficult driving holes on the course. The hole plays uphill with a pond down the right side and rolling land following the pond. The ideal shot is to the left with a long bunker awaits. About 40 yards after that fairway bunker are flanking bunkers with the left one placed inside the line of the fairway. The green sits above you with a long, deep bunker on its right side and a sizeable fall-off down its left. This is the number six index on the course only due to its shorter length, yet I thought it should be rated harder as the green had a lot of tilt to it.
14. Par 3 – 207/176. Likely the most picturesque hole on the course, This hole plays downhill over a pond with the green set just beyond the pond. There is a bit of a backstop at the back of the hole. There is a single bunker left that also serves as a bailout area from which recovery is not difficult unless the pin is in the front left. The most difficult pin position is on the right side of the green which is shallower than the left side. It is a good hole.
15. Par 5 - 514/495. This hole plays uphill to the green and features a pond going down the right side that curves away but unfortunately I hit my worst drive of the day and caught the far right edge. There is ample fairway here so the pond should not be an issue. Farther up the hill is a single bunker on the left side that due to the routing of the fairway becomes almost a central bunker. The second shot has to consider another central bunker placed about 80 yards short of the green. Farther up at the green are two front flanking bunkers. The green sits in a bit of a bowl and has three tiers to it, sloped back to front. For a short par 5, this hole has plenty of difficulty.
16. Par 4 – 427/400/381. The hardest hole on the back side is next, another hole playing slightly uphill with thick trees on both sides. There are flanking bunkers well placed for every tee depending on one’s length. The green has a single bunker on the front left which wraps around a small amount of the left side but more of the front of the green. There are falloffs on all sides, a bit more problematic if one goes off the left. The green is large but angled slightly to the right. The hole is difficult because the green has several sections to it.
17. Par 4 – 440/425/381. This hole plays as a gentle dogleg to the right with flanking bunkers again and a single bunker at the front of the green shaped like a ‘c.” I liked this hole despite being able to have a peek at the maintenance facilities on the left side mainly hidden by trees. The green is tilted back to front with a horizontal spine and several smaller depressions.
18. Par 5 – 525/487/465. This hole plays longer as it is uphill. The tee shot is to be played left if one believes they cannot carry the pond that cuts into the fairway coming from the right side. There is a bunker placed just beyond the pond that I think is unnecessary. This bunker is likely there to discourage players from having a straight line into the green as the fairway curves back to the right if one plays left of the pond. There are two staggered fairway bunkers on the left of which only one is necessary. I did not like the collection of bunkers off the tee but I did appreciate the central bunker 60 yards short of the green as one continues to play uphill to the green. The green has bunkers on the front corners and is raised back to front with a sizeable fall-off at the rear. The front left has a slight depression with a horizontal tier running through the green.
The North course at Cherokee Town and Country is a very playable course built on hilly terrain. One does notice the up and downs all that much as they make their way around. The back nine is stronger than the front nine despite the shorter par 5’s versus than those on the front nine. The par 3’s are memorable as they are varied and look different. There is good contouring to the greens and the course is kept in good condition. Putts roll true here and the breaks can be seen although not always quite played with enough. The pace of the greens is consistent.
My only criticisms of the course are with regards to the placement of a few bunkers, or adding a bunker on a couple of holes. In addition, the green surrounds could be made a bit more interesting with more contouring.
While I three-putted the eighteenth green from 18 feet for a bogey to lose the match 1 down, I very much enjoyed the course. If one is in the area, they should definitely seek it out.