The vision for the golf course at Old Toccoa Farm and its surrounding housing development began just in time for a financial crisis, and the first nine holes were not opened until 2015. Four years later, the Bunker Hill company of Dave Axland—better known as the longtime shaper and bunker wizard for Coore & Crenshaw—and Dan Proctor finally completed the full 18. Those who visit this scenic region in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Georgia may concur that late is certainly better than never.
That a course is available at all on such terrain is quite miraculous. It features nearly 300 feet of elevation change from its highest to its lowest point, running alongside the scenic Toccoa River, and gravity will have a significant role to play on nearly every hole.
No. 13 may play more than 600 yards, but the descent to the river may still seem reachable. Others will appreciate the eye-candy of the mountain range in the distance at the preceding par three, somewhat a mimic of the famous “Cliffhanger” at Greywolf. Some bunkers are banes, and others are blessings...preventing your ball from screaming into the wilderness.
Still, although this course is open to the general public for six days a week (call ahead), it was built for a membership of retirement age, meaning it maxes out at just 6,700 yards. Expect the majority of the difficulty to come from odd bumps and mounds forcing awkward lies, as well as green undulations from shaper Jack Dredla (now working full-time with the club to see it through its infancy).
Old Toccoa Farm is a classic mountain layout. The first hole is welcoming a short uphill par 4. Favor the right side off the tee. There are bunkers short right and back left and one across the cart path behind the green which seemed peculiar. Play right of the flag this green has multiple dead elephants and the contour is left. When I first saw this green, my reaction was holy cow this is going to be interesting, but it is the most severe green on the course. The 2nd is a downhill par 4 and even though it is about 50 yards longer than one it plays about the same. Favor the left off the tee and the green ahs two bunkers left front and one back. Take at least one less club on the approach, I ended up in the back bunker. The 3rd is a dogleg left, aim right of the fairway bunker as the hole tilts left. Left of the fairway will result in a bogey at best. The 4th is a driveable par four that leans right. If you are not going for it, do not hit driver. Ideal ball flight is a high fade just left of the fairway bunker. Anything right of that will kick thru the fairway and anything left of that will be thru the fairway. Fun hole, yes, I birdied. The 5th is a tough long uphill par four, the number one handicap hole. Off the tee favor right center, the green is perched on a ledge with bunkers short right and left. Left is death. The 6th is a long downhill par 4. Favor the left side and you will catch the downgrade and have a flip wedge to the green. The first par 5 parallels the river. Favor left of center off tee to avoid the right fairway bunker. Big hitters can get home in two the rest of us should favor the right and have an attack wedge. The first par 3 is short and downhill, take one less club. The hike to the 9th is all uphill. It is a short par 4 that leans right. Whatever you do, do not fly the green.
The back starts with a straight forward par 4. Favor the right off the tee as the contour goes left. The green is on a ledge with a right front bunker. The 11th is a short uphill par four. This hole slopes hard left, off the tee aim at the left side of the right fairway bunker. Take an extra club on the approach. The gimme par 3 12th is 116 yards downhill and is rated the number 12 handicap? Long and left are NG, but seems squirrelly to me. The 13th is a beast of a par 5 at 626 yards, albeit downhill. Favor right center off the tee as the grade goes left. On your second shot go right, there is a colony of bunkers left. Consider taking one less club on your downhill approach as long is death. The 14th is the longest par 3 at just over 200 yards. The tee shote is a wee bit out of a chute with greenside bunkers right and left. This green is shared with 16. The 15th is a long par four, aim at the middle fairway bunker off the tee. River right the entire way with fairway bunkers left. A stream bisects the fairway about 100 yards in front of the green. The 16th is a short par 4 that is rated the easiest hole on the course. Favor the right off the tee to take the left fairway bunkers out of play to set up your attack iron approach. The 17th is an uphill dogleg right. Big hitters can cut the corner, but you have to get it high quickly. Aim down the middle to ensure that you are not blocked out to another green that is sitting on a ledge. The 18th is a reachable par 5. Favor left of center off the tee. The fairway does split about 100 yards in front of the green with a BAB right. If you are going for it, favor the left. Otherwise, I think the right, even though it is lower it provides the best scoring angle.
This is a fun golf course. The river bottom holes are mundane. Tough walking course. Several members of the turf care team chatted me up as I marched along. It was about 6.3 miles and per my phone 90 flights. I would definitely pay to play it again.
Glad to see another Top100er at Toccoa, mainly to see your last point. I agree that the river holes are the least intriguing of the bunch, and yet in a conversation with one of the architects, he claimed quite the opposite! Just nice to have my sanity confirmed...
thx, the river holes are like piano concertos and the rest of the course is rock and roll
Your correspondent had enough on his mind in terms of real mountains, namely the Blue Ridge mountains of North Georgia, and the impact they were having on both his ball and his cart. On the latter note, obey all the warning signs posted along the path. On the former note, I was basking in the warmth of having found the fairway maybe 80 yards short of the green, albeit a green blind upon approach due to a sudden and steep tilt in the slope of this particular mountain. A well-placed wedge would mean a well-earned look at the first score of the day. That well-placed wedge, however, found an all-too-conveniently placed hump at the last patch of fairway prior to the green, which sent my approach to the far end of the putting surface.
The moral of this memoir on mounds: Mountain golf has been, in my experience, a question of gravity and extended yardages to counteract those forces of physics. Old Toccoa Farm has no lack of gravity, and yet it maxes out at 6,700 yards. This relative lack of distance means something is needed to challenge the skilled golfer. This mound was just one example discovered during my day at Old Toccoa. I noted that my playing partner, a member (it’s open to all, just call in advance for tee times) kept a notebook for jotting notes. He had been playing the new route for months and continued to find new facets (during our round, for example, the speed slot your correspondent found over the left fairway hill on No. 6’s downhill tee shot. You’re welcome, sir). This is a testament to the groundwork and shaping handled by Dave Axland (somewhat the face of the Coore & Crenshaw bunker experience), Dan Procter, and lead shaper Jack Dredla. Although this appears to be another case of the modern minimalist trend, I learned that many tons of dirt were moved to create that impression/experience. And, as if to make up for the bitter mound at No. 2, many greens were created with punchbowl characteristics and many bunkers strategically placed so that fewer balls are lost because of the gravitational elements at play. Scores may be high, but at least expensive balls remain in play, and not in the woods.
As for standout holes, there are a few. The aforementioned No. 6 dives down to the idyllic Toccoa River, and the range of bumps and dips in the fairway somewhat simulate a more whitewater experience. What mountain courses often lack in strategy, they almost assuredly deliver in scenery. Old Toccoa has ample replay value in the knowledge accumulated during a round, but it does not cast the player’s more shallow desire for scenic vistas aside. The Par 3 at No. 12 is the highlight of them, with the Blue Ridges continuing in the background. The highlight comes early for the bold match player however, as No. 4 is a very drivable Par 4. Downhill and 313 from the tips, the player must carry a centerline bunker and ride a rightward groove down to the green; short or poorly struck efforts at heroism may ride that slope into a pond, which will encourage the wiser among us to lay up short of the centerline and pitch down to the green. Let us just say, from my round, that I consider wisdom to be code for “lame” (my tip for your little notebook: The mound at the crest of the downslope is an obvious target from the tee, but it’s a trap. Or at least ends with your drive in a deep one, greenside).
The river, while scenic, leads to the only ho-hum holes on the course. The transition from the tumbling terrain that leads down to the plane is simply too dramatic, and—even with friendly quirks like the double green shared between Nos. 14 and 16—the plainness of these four holes is a break in the action. They are not especially poor holes, but rather a break in character from their compatriots. I hate to admit it but...maybe a few more irritating mounds to break my birdie chances would spruce these holes up a bit.