Peachtree is about as perfect as an inland/parkland golf course can be found in the USA. As I played the course for the second time on March 26, 2021, I was struck by how strong the course was from the very first hole to its finish. There are perhaps only a couple of “average” holes on this course which are on the back nine. This is a credit to its designer, Robert Trent Jones. Peachtree was Mr. Jones’s first big design and he produced a masterful golf course. The front nine also benefited from input from Robert Tyre Jones (Bobby Jones) who hit shots on the holes. His illness struck him just after the front nine opened for play, so he did not play the back nine.
We played it on a very wet day, with the first tee time of the day. There was no sunshine during the round so the course did not get much assistance in drying out. We played the medal tees at 6659 yards but our host estimated the course was playing closer to 6900 yards, which is too long for me, although my two playing companions had the length to handle it. The Atlanta area had both tornados and thunderstorms the day before ending around 5AM, dropping several inches of rain. For example, we barely found my third shot on the second hole, a downhill par 5, which I was certain had cleared the stream short of the green. We could not see the ball until I nearly walked on it with about one quarter of it visible while the rest was embedded.
I knew I would not likely score well given the length unless I had my best day ever of chipping and putting. Therefore I concentrated on looking at the course, particularly the greens.
Peachtree has many positive qualities. There is the beauty of the setting. It has marvelous green complexes. The terrain is rolling and often hilly leading to unexpected surprises, variety and beauty. The wonderful routing perfectly moves one around the land offering a splendid mixture of doglegs and up and downhill shots. The greenside bunkering is very good. The course is tranquil despite one’s score. The par 3’s are particularly strong.
The one item that seemed inconsistent with the course itself comes in the form of a letter that is on display in the clubhouse written by Bobby Jones where he describes the course as not having as dramatic of change in land movement as at Augusta National. That did not make sense to me, having played both courses. Perhaps Mr. Jones was trying to find a way not to critique either course due to his affection for both. Maybe he desired not to be boastful to be fortunate to be associated with both clubs. I decided instead to think of Augusta National as having “smoother” changes in terrain other than on its fifth and sixth, while at Peachtree the land movement is more abrupt on more holes. For me the question became: “which course has the better land?” In the end I could not quite make up my mind. Peachtree and Augusta National sit on nearly perfect rolling/hilly land that add a tremendous amount to the strategy and variety of shots that one has to hit it order to play well.
Many people say that Peachtree is the closest course in the USA to Augusta National. After having played Bluejack National, which I do not consider to be close to Augusta National, I would agree with this statement. Both courses were built on the site of former nurseries. Both have excellent conditioning. Part of that comparison is due to the opening holes at both staring with pars of 4-5-4-3 with the second at both playing downhill and the fourth at both playing across a valley. Both finish on an uphill par 4. Another similarity is the landscape with the numerous stately pine trees, dogwoods, and azaleas. Both courses feature large greens, many of which are elevated. Both courses are on relatively large pieces of property with Peachtree being set on 250 acres. In this regard Peachtree is very much like Augusta National in the feeling of having a lot of room where the holes do not impede on another and allowing for ample, long views across the course. Both courses having rolling fairways although Peachtree seems to have more swales and undulations leading to fewer level lies and often a sidehill lie. Both routings are excellent with a good mixture of long and short holes regarding each par, and a good mixture of straight and dogleg holes. The doglegs move each way at both.
As mentioned, one senses solitude and calm when on the grounds at Peachtree despite it being close to a heavy development of houses, busy roads, condominiums, a church, and retail establishments. It is an oasis that is wedged in between all of the surroundings, with the club’s land occupying the shape of a piece of pie. There is a natural sound barrier to the course as much of it sits on lower ground and has a thick line of trees that define the boundaries of the property. I have driven on all of the busy roads surrounding the course, Peachtree Road, Johnson Ferry Road and entering the club from Ashford Dunwoody Road. Once one has parked their car it is almost as if you hear nothing but fellow players and birds. Yet the surrounding heavy development is a key differentiator to Augusta National. Augusta National has the funds to purchase the surrounding land to expand its footprint. That option is no longer available to Peachtree.
Another key difference to Augusta National is that water is used more strategically at Augusta National with its pinnacle being the thirteenth hole. Where there is water at Augusta National, it is always to be considered as it is very much a part of the defense of the course. At Peachtree sometimes the water is merely there for visual purposes, not always to be part of the defense of the course. It is the use of water that overall likely makes Augusta National the superior course in the minds of many.
A final difference is that Peachtree does not emphasize fairway bunkers, instead allowing the land and a heavier reliance on trees to dictate the strategy and defense of the course. I recall only four holes having a fairway bunker at Peachtree.
As for the green complexes themselves, one could make the argument that Peachtree’s are superior. There is more interior movement on the green’s surfaces at Peachtree, although overall less slope. The greenside bunkering is as deep, approximately the same number, and well positioned. Both courses excel in the greens that are raised as well as the fall-offs that surround most of the greens.
Despite those many similarities, Peachtree plays very differently and looks very different to Augusta National. I could argue that it is a better overall course but I could see the argument the other way. For me, Peachtree is still one of the top two courses in the state despite my high regard for Ohoopee Match Club.
From the Championship tees the course is very long at 7414 yards, par 72 rated 75.9/142. The course likely plays longer due to the uphill holes getting limited roll-out versus the roll-out from the downhill holes. In addition, many of the greens are elevated often leading to as much as an additional club into the green. The Peachtree tees are a combination tee between the Championship and Medal tees at 7033 yards, rated 74.6/139. They are not many who play either of these tees. The Medal tees, which we played are 6659 yard rated 72.6/135. There are two sets of lesser tees going all the way to 5196 yards.
1. Par 4 – 410/370. This is a fine starting hole with the dogleg right being made sharper by the two bunkers placed on the inward corner of the turn. Longer players will fly those bunkers from the back tee but have to navigate a somewhat narrow opening between thick trees on the right and trees and out-of-bounds on the left. The second shot plays to an elevated green with two deep fronting bunkers on the corners. There are fall-offs on all sides of the green. The green is very undulated with hollows and plateaus throughout. While large, it is a difficult green. This green complex is one of the better ones on the course. While some golf courses open with a gentle handshake, Peachtree does not. This opener is more difficult than Augusta National’s and likely one of the best opening holes one will ever play.
2. Par 5 – 584/527/511, Like Augusta National, this long hole eventually plays downhill although at Augusta National the longer hitters can now reach the downhill part from the tee. However, the doglegs go in a different direction with Peachtree’s having a sharp break to the right where the fairway descends dramatically. The longer hitters might try for the green in two if they can reach the sharp downhill but the green has water placed near the front with it continuing down the right side and heavy trees and out-of-bounds to the left. There is a small amount of fairway after the water to the left/front of the green that could prove too tempting for the longer players. From afar this narrow piece of land looks like an island. For players of normal length, one plays to a ridge before the land begins to fall away. For the second shot, the smart play is to carry the small stream with one’s second shot and play to the fairway placed to the right of a long pond that begins about 100 yards short of the green. As mentioned, this pond fronts the right side and continues up the length of it. There are no bunkers on the hole. The green has a back to front tilt with a huge, sizeable interior hump near the front. The second green at Peachtree has plenty of movement but Augusta National’s is much more severe and is a far larger green. This is one of the holes at Peachtree where the water is very much in play and part of one’s decision-making. Much like Augusta National, it is a beautiful view standing up high and looking downhill towards the green. For me, getting to the green is more difficult at Peachtree but Augusta National has the superior green surface and the contour behind its hole is very good.
3. Par 4 – 433/382. I found this to be a difficult hole despite its nine index. The hole slightly bends to the left and has a single bunker on its front left. A creek comes into play off the left side for one’s second shot. The fairway has a fair number of bumps and ripples as it climbs to an elevated green. We had a back right pin position which is one of the few seemingly level spots on the green which features a large mound near the middle. It is a fine hole but certainly not as strategic as Augusta National where its wedge shaped green and sharp fall-off at the front put more of a premium on accuracy.
4. Par 3 – 166/142. This is a beautiful hole from the tee, playing over lower ground where a pond is placed more for visual beauty than for defense. The real defense of the hole is the green which sits high above three fronting bunkers creating blind recovery shots from any of them. There is a central bunker at the rear adding to the defense of the hole. The green looks very thin from the tee but there is actually a bit of space here. It is longer certainly than deep. The ideal shot will clear the bunker by about two yards. It is a terrific hole and one that I think is superior to the fourth at Augusta National, although that one is more difficult due to its length.
5. Par 5 – 536/520. This hole has an early pond that is not in play. The hole plays about 30-40 yards longer than its length as it is uphill and has a very elevated green. The hole turns to the right with heavy trees down the left and scattered trees down the right. The key to this hole is at the green complex. Much like the first hole this is an outstanding green complex due to a central bunker fifteen yards short of the green and a deep bunker on either corner. The green is perhaps the most tilted back to front on the course and balls can easily be putted off the front where they will likely roll-out 30 yards. Going over the green leads to a nearly impossible shot to leave on the green given its tilt away from you. I felt this to be the fastest green on the course. It is a very good par 5.
6. Par 3 – 234/194. This long par 3 has early ponds not in play. The defense of the hole is the four surrounding bunkers with only the rear of the green without one. Between the front bunkers is a false front. The green is large and has a meaningful tilt to it likely making it one of the fastest greens on the course behind the fifth. It is a difficult hole, yet is the seventeen index.
7. Par 4 – 445/423. This dogleg right has a thick grouping of trees in play off the right side to discourage players from trying to shorten the hole. The hole plays both up and down to a slightly elevated green. The green complex is a good one, with a large, deep bunker on both corners and a small bunker on the left side. There is a substantial fall-off behind the elongated green. The green is split into sections with several interior spines and shelves. I played the hole very poorly but I loved the surface of the green. This is the number one index on the course and deserving of that rating.
8. Par 4 – 409/363. I liked this hole a lot as the hole seems to what to draw you down the right side but the smart play is to the middle of the fairway. The green is set off a bit to the right and also angled left to right. As such the two bunkers on the right become fronting bunkers that one must carry to hit the green. These bunkers are not as deep as some others, and one has a good chance of recovery from them although the green is tilted towards them.
9. Par 4 – 422/382. One of the few fairways with a bunker finishes the front nine, which finishes closer to the clubhouse than eighteen. The hole rises a bit to the green which sits in front a sort game practice area. There is another excellent green complex for the hole with a large bunker on the left beginning about fifteen yards short of the green edging into a second bunker behind. Many do not favor a back-to-back bunker near the green but I think it works very well here. There is a single bunker on the right front set a bit back from the green but looks closer than it is. The green is longer than wide with fall-offs on all sides and several hollows inside but also feels flattish. It is another strong hole.
10. Par 5 – 519/503. After stopping at the charming halfway house, you play from an elevated tee. For average length hitters, for their second shot they have to consider whether to lay up short of a stream or go over it to the left side of the fairway as the right side of the fairway has two bunkers beginning about 75 yards from the green. The green sits on the top of a hill/rise with a deep, large fronting bunker on the left side extending across to the middle front of the green. This is a very large green that when built was considered to be the largest green in the USA. It is a fun hole likely felt by longer players to be a potential eagle hole.
11. Par 3 – 220/180. This long par 3 has a bunker on both corners and plays fairly level. IOn most courses it would be considered a very good hole due to the green where just off the green there is good micro contouring.
12. Par 4 – 486/431. This hole is likely considered to be the best hole at Peachtree where a stream bisects the fairway making longer hitters likely to lay back of it. The tee shot plays through a chute of trees and as one strides down the fairway the hole reveals itself. The land drops sharply from the tee to the stream. The stream crosses at a slight diagonal. There is no reason to try to cut the corner of this dogleg right due to the stream angling away resulting in a longer shot to carry it as well as the right side has the thickest trees on the course. This is likely the second most visually appealing green on the course, nestled uphill surrounded by both trees on three sides as well as bunkers on three sides. The green tilts sharply left to right. If one does not catch the bunker on the right side their ball could roll off quite a ways, perhaps even into the trees or stream as the land falls quickly away to the right. It is as nearly perfect a golf hole as can be made. It is the number two index on the golf course.
13. Par 4 – 470/403/385. This straight hole offers one of the more realistic birdie chances, particularly from the Peachtree and Medal tees. The hole bends to the right yet the ideal tee shot is down the left side in order to avoid a grouping of trees. The green is one of the shallower ones on the course with two bunkers at the front. It feels very appropriate to have this as a “breather hole” after the brilliance of the twelfth hole. However, the championship tee makes this hole very difficult due to the uphill nature of the tee shot, followed by playing slightly downhill to the well protected green.
14. Par 3 – 183/167. This is another very pretty hole with water placed in front of this half circle shaped green with bunkers at the back corners. The green is narrow at the corners and has a good amount of interior movement. The green sits a bit diagonal from the tee from right to left. The hole plays slightly downhill requiring perhaps a club less. The green has a diagonal spine from the middle towards the right side and a swale on the left front. I left myself a long putt and found the pace difficult to judge resulting in a three putt so this is not an easy as it appears.
15. Par 4 – 448/411. There is ample width to this fairway with a stream to be crossed but basically out of reach for the tee shot and not in play for the second shot as it sits about 75 yards from the green. The stream sits in a bit of a gully so one goes up and down and up on this hole. There is a tree that pinches in from the left that blocks access to the green if down the left off the tee. The green has a partially wrap-around bunker on the left side which is large and a smaller one on the right. The green is large and one of the easier greens on the course.
16. Par 5 – 577/510. From an elevated tee you play down a broad fairway. For most players the key to the hole is the second shot which must cross a stream and a pond that cuts into the right side of the fairway for perhaps 25 yards. The green is quite elevated on higher ground with a central bunker 20 yards short of the green and another on the right front. From the central bunker one will have a semi-blind shot to a green with a false front and fall-offs on all sides. From the 510 tees this is a very playable golf hole but a strong hole from the championship tee.
17. Par 4 – 450/391. This is the second lowest handicap on the back nine. You play uphill across the small stream that also crossed the sixteenth. This hole is straight but the fairway has numerous undulations in it. The green is very well protected with five bunkers surrounding the front to back right. The green is elevated with a substantial fall-off at the back and its surface has several shelves and spines. This was one of my favorite holes on the course.
18. Par 4 – 422/394. The finishing hole plays longer than its length as you continue a climb to higher ground The elevation change is a steady rise from the tee to the green. This hole features a forced carry over a pond with two bunkers down the right side forcing one to the right. At the green there is a large bunker shaped like a first-place ribbon on the left front of the green which again has a false front and is elevated. The two-tiered green is very speedy with a back left shelf and a lot of other movement. I hit a good wedge and thought I had a chance to save par but was ultimately done in by my third three putt of the round. The finishing hole is a good ending to a strong course.
Peachtree is a gem. In going through the holes I realized the front nine is more consistent than the back nine, particularly where the par 5’s are both stronger than the two on the back nine. Yet the back nine has three fabulous holes in the twelfth, fourteenth and seventeenth. In my opening comments I compared it to Augusta National which also features a slightly easier, albeit more strategic back nine.
Peachtree is a fabulous course, likely the best course ever designed by Robert Trent Jones.
Date: April 30, 2021