Harbor Club first opened for play in 1991, with a handful of tree-lined fairways touching the shoreline of scenic Lake Oconee. The nines have been reversed a couple of times since then and the green of the 18th hole has been re-positioned so the course now features a more dramatic opening group of holes and a great finishing stretch, ending with a treacherous par four 18th hole where a creek threatens both the tee shot and approach to the home green.
Harbor Club offers a fantastic mix of holes, with a quintet of strong par fours balanced against an equal number of shorter two-shotters, two of which are driveable for big hitters while the other three can be reached in two with a short iron approach shot. Tee shot landing areas are reasonably generous and putting surfaces are not too undulating, with mainly gentle slopes and breaks.
Standout holes here include a trio of par fours with an average length of around 340 yards from the back tees: water hugs the right side of the 374-yard 3rd hole; the risk/reward 7th requires an offset tee shot over a lake inlet; and the 312-yard 15th has sand in play right and left off the tee with an unseen water hazard at the back of the green to catch over-hit approach shots.
It is amazing at much golf is located in the area in and around Lake Oconee. And so much of the existing attention is paid to the several courses at Reynolds and clearly the work of Coore and Crenshaw at Cuscowilla.
Harbor Club is often vastly undervalued because they neither have the marketing hype which Reynolds bumps out constantly nor the star power that C&C provide given their golf course design efforts.
Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish were a superb duo for the years they worked with one another. They really emphasized playability but not to the point of dumbing down the finished efforts.
The Harbor Club does have homes scattered about the property but the routing and the manner by which the holes work their way is carried out so well.
Driving the ball is a big-time item at the Harbor Club. Once cannot be missing too far to either side and in this day of smash mouth golf where power can be overly rewarded -- that inclusion is what elevates the experience.
Weiskopf / Morrish created a number of courses where hole variety is central in their finished efforts. Adjustments are a common reality and golfers are always being pushed to stay on their toes. The talented duo does not beat golfers over the head with harsh insertions -- there's alternatives provided but to score low you have to earn it -- nothing's given away.
The outward half works you into the round with the fairly benign 1st hole. That changes with the difficult long par-3 2nd. The outward half gives golfers plenty of opportunities to score and it's best to do so because the inward half is very quick to take it back.
The short par-4 7th is a scenic wonder -- beckoning players to make a bold move while still permitting other routes for success.
The back nine ramps up matters considerably. Some will opine that the tree canopies can be pulled back a bit and I won't quibble with that. But as I said at the outset - it's good to see accuracy get included as a high priority item. The final three holes end the round in spectacular fashion. The long par-4 16th requires the wherewithal to work the ball from right-to-left off the tee and to approach from the left side for the best angle. The short par-3 17th is 180 yards but it takes a high caliber deft touch to secure the green for a birdie putt.
The concluding hole at Harbor Club belongs on the short list of great hole from The Peach State. The split tees add so much versatility and the naturalness of the hole's presentation is a powerful emotional connector. The menacing creek works its way the entire length down the right side - tempting players to get as near as possible in order to provide for the optimum angle into the green. The putting surface sits on the far side of the aforementioned creek and the test for the approach is utterly straightforward and daunting. Truly, a capper before working one's way to the 19th hole.
Harbor Club is certainly a layout to play when in the area and a clear triumph by Weiskopf and Morrish.
M. James Ward