Bryan Park Champions Course  – Unspoiled Splendor

Bryan Park Champions Course – Unspoiled Splendor

Bryan Park Champions CourseShould you, an avid golfer, find yourself in the Greensboro, NC area during golf season- which according to Bryan Park General Manager and Director of Golf Kyle Kolls is all year – you need to book a round on the Champions Course at Bryan Park Golf Club.

Bryan Park Golf Club is a 36-hole facility. The Players Course opened in 1974 and was originally designed by George Cobb. Rees Jones did a major redesign of the course in 1988. The Champions Course opened in 1990 and is 100% Rees Jones; it has quickly become one of his best works. With seven holes bordering Lake Townsend, the views are just about as spectacular as the golf course. And, when the leaves change color in the fall, the scenery gets even better.

The Players Course was ranked number 2 in Golf Digest’s list of Best New Public Courses in 1990 and hosted the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship in 2010. Year after year, the course is nationally ranked by major golf publications and is by far the Greensboro area’s most prestigious public course.

Before your round on either course, be sure to take advantage of Bryan Park’s impressive practice facilities. The driving range is full-length and allows you to hit every club in your bag. There’s also a chipping green where you have plenty of room to work on a variety of short shots as well as improving your bunker play. The practice green is one of the biggest I have ever seen and has the ability to accommodate the largest of outings.

The Champions Course has it all: significant elevations changes, forced carries over water, sand and deep chasms, tree-lined fairways and wide-open holes. There’s something for everyone here as well as a tee box with yardage suitable to your golf game and ability. From the Back Tees, Champions plays 7,264 yards and carries a course rating of 75.8 and a slope of 142; much higher than its sister course, the Players. The White Tees at 6,536 yards (72.4/136) will give most non-touring professional golfers all the golf they can handle. Seniors will enjoy the Gold Tees at 5,905 yards (69.7/130) while Ladies will have a blast from the Red Tees (5,237/71.7/128). A 5th set of tees – a combination of the White and Gold Tees – appears on the scorecard in the form of circles; I imagine this combo yardage will be added next reprint. From these tees, the course plays 6,151; for me the perfect yardage.

The 3rd hole is a challenging par 5 that plays 482 yards from the White Tees. Longball hitters who can carry the ball over 250 yards in the air should definitely try and cut the corner and get home in two. For the rest of us, the third fairway bunker on the left is the perfect aiming point off the tee, however if you pull it right you could easily find yourself in one of the neighboring sand traps. There’s ample room in the landing area for your layup shot, setting up a short chip into an elevated tiered green. Odds are you’ll have to fly the ball on as the three deep-lipped bunkers that surround the green will swallow up anything that is hit short. Not the longest par 5 out here, but still a challenge.

The par 3 holes also present a challenge, especially on the inward nine. Number 12 plays 180 yards and gets you ready for Number 14 at 210 yards. Number 14 also features two sets of tees and depending upon the mood of the superintendent that day, can make or break your round. The harder set of tees play over a finger of Lake Townsend and, if you tend to fade the ball, you’re in trouble. A deep bunker guards the entire front of the green and there’s a nasty pot bunker right as well. Mounding on the left side can make for a difficult lie and a tough up and down. The second set of tees play just as long but take most of the lake out of play.

Bryan Park Champions CourseThe need for accuracy off the tee is really stressed on the back 9. Standing on the tee on Number 10, you get the feeling that you’re going to have to make a good shot if you want to score well. After all, at only 345 yards – most of it downhill – how hard can it be? All that is visible off the tee is the retaining wall in front of the left side of the green. Water doesn’t come into play off the White Tees unless you hit it over 250 yards, so most players can hit driver. Bunkers on the left and large grass mounds on the right beckon you to keep your tee shot in the fairway. A good drive that carries down the hill will leave a short iron into a two-tiered green guarded by water in the front left, a large bunker on the right and three pot bunkers in back.

Target golf continues on Number 11, a 501-yard par 5 that is more of a 90° angle then a dogleg right. Your tee shot is a 200+ yard carry over water and a deep chasm as well as two large bunkers. Success off the tee does not insure victory over the hole; you’ll need to hit two more accurate shots to reach the green. The fairway is narrow and slopes off on both sides all the way up to the green. A good line on your layup shot is the left bunker. Leave it short, and you’ll have the best angle of attack into the large green that features modest undulation. This was by far my favorite hole.

Number 13 is the most challenging hole on the Champions Course. It’s the longest par 4 at 435 yards (White Tees) and requires a long carry off the tee. Lake Townsend sits to the right of the tee box and figures into the equation all the way down the right side. As you get closer to the green, you will notice that you are on a peninsula in the lake, with water and deep bunkers on both sides. Mounding and sand make for a tough approach shot, especially if you hit it short. Depending on pin placement, an up and down can be a challenge.

The final three holes on the Champions Course play away from the lake, but still offer some significant challenges. Number 16 (382 yards) is a dogleg left with a well-undulated fairway that slopes right to left and is guarded by heavy woods on both sides. Your approach shot is all carry to one of the layout’s smaller greens which is protected in front by a complex of 5 bunkers.

Number 17 is a long, straight par 4, that plays 408 yards from the White Tees. The only trouble off the tee is a pot bunker on the left side about 230 yards out. The elevated green is guarded by two large and deep bunkers on the left. Two good shots and you could be rewarded.

The finishing hole on the Champions Course is a long par 4 at 443 yards (White Tees). The towering pine trees on the right shouldn’t come into play, however the same cannot be said for the large fairway bunkers on the left. A long tee shot is still going to leave a long approach shot to a large, elevated multi-tiered green that falls off on either side. Pars (or better) can be hard to come by on this hole.

Bryan Park Champions CourseLast Word: Bryan Park is one of the nicest public golf facilities I have ever had the pleasure of playing and writing about; and that goes for either course. Although the Players Course may not be quite as challenging, it is by no means an “easy” golf course.

The Champions Course on the other hand, demands a complete golf game from its players. You’ll need both length and shot making ability if you want to score well here. A couple of the par 4s are extremely long, in fact, I’ve played shorter par 5s. The front nine provides a great warmup and is the side you’re going to score well on. Be sure to save your energy and deductive reasoning skills for the back side, you’ll need to hit a few long carries and think your way around.

If you’re serious about the game of golf and want to get an idea if how good (or bad) you really are, the Champions Course will be a great barometer. If you can get around this course and still feel good about your game, you’ve accomplished something. If you’re playing poorly, just take a minute and look around; especially on the backside where some of North Carolina’s best golf vistas can be found. It’s just you, mother nature and that little white ball.

For more information on Bryan Park Golf Club or to book your next round; be sure to visit their website, www.bryanpark.com.

Golf Life Contributor
David Theoret

Bryan Park – The Players Course

Bryan Park – The Players Course

Bryan ParkAnyone who plays golf in the Greensboro, NC area is no doubt familiar with the Bryan Park golf facility. This 36-hole facility is home to two stellar courses: the Champions Course and the Players Course. The latter is an 18-hole championship course designed by George Cobb in 1974 and redesigned by Rees Jones in 1988. It features Bermuda grass fairways and tees and Bentgrass greens. The Players Course has been named as a 4-Stars Best Places to Play by Golf Digest and one of America’s Top 100 Courses for Women by Golf for Women Magazine. General Manager Kyle Kolls has been there over 12 years and has assembled a great staff that is professional, friendly and truly seems to love what they do. Most of the employees have been there for quite a few years. It truly is a treat to play and should be played by anyone in the area.

From the back tees, the Players Course measures 7018 yards with a course rating of 73.3 and a slope of 133. Mere mortal golfers will find that the White Tees (6,342/70.9/127) will give them all the golf they can handle and still leave with a little bit of dignity. Ladies can give it their best from the Red Tees (4,713/69.9/117). Four sets of tees make The Players Course fun and challenging for golfers of all abilities.

Before your round, be sure to hit the practice range located behind the starter’s shack; it’s included in your greens fees. It’s a full-length range, so you’ll be able to hit every club in your bag, which isn’t a bad thing, since you will probably use them all. There’s also a large practice putting area where you can get your speed down and try and figure out some of the breaks.

The Players Course features everything you’d expect in a Carolina golf course: elevation changes, challenging green complexes, water and sand hazards, and tree lined fairways. And then there are the greens – well-undulated, true rolling, generous and fast. Keeping it in the fairway off the tee is only half the battle, hitting the green and making the putt is the other part of the equation. Master these tasks and you’ll find this course can be tamed; stray off the beaten path and things can get tough.

Several holes bear witness to this philosophy. The par 3, 3rd hole plays 169 yards from the White Tees, and has it all. The green sits well below the fairway and plays significantly downhill; about 8 – 10 yards shorter than the stated yardage. The tee shot plays over water and over sand; in fact, there are bunkers protecting three sides of the green. The green is large and set on an angle from back right to front left; it also features a lot of undulation.

Bryan ParkOne of the more memorable par 4 holes is number 6. This dogleg left plays 363 yards from the White Tees and features trees down the left side off the tee and a lot of mounding on the right side, which adds a great look to this hole. The fairway bunkers on the left side require a long carry of about 250 yards and probably aren’t worth the risk. A well struck drive down the middle of the fairway will leave a short iron. Your tee shot plays slightly uphill and your approach shot slightly downhill. Left pin placements can be tough with two deep bunkers guarding the front, one of which is a gnarly little pot bunker. The green is large and crowned adding to the stress of a front left pin placement. Great hole!

Of all the members I spoke with during my round, the par 5, 12th hole was their favorite. Number 12 plays 493 yards from the White tees and features a lake on the left, which catches a lot of balls from unsuccessful attempts to cut the corner. Once you reach the corner, the hole moves downhill, with a narrow fairway to hit on your layup; woods and sand encroach on the right. Although the putting surface is large, you’ll need an accurate approach shot; the green is surrounded with large, deep bunkers. It takes 3 well-executed shots to score here. I think this hole is so well-liked because of the lakeview behind the green; it’s absolutely stunning; Especially in the fall with the leaves changing color.

Number 17 is another par 3 where a par or better is well earned. It plays 179 yards from the White Tees, slightly uphill and over water. The green is large and slightly elevated with large bunkers on either side and a third in back.

By far, the staff’s favorite hole on the Players Course is Number 18, a long and challenging par 4 that plays 417 yards from the White Tees. It’s a long way to the corner of the dogleg and anything pushed too far left is going to run down a steep hill and off the fairway into the trees. Your approach shot requires precision into a small, shallow, two-tiered green protected by bunkers and a lot of mounding on the front right side and back left. A par or better here and you’ll have something to celebrate in the clubhouse.

After your round, stop by the Grill Room for your favorite post-round libation. They have several local and domestic beers on tap, which are ice cold. Their food offerings stray from traditional clubhouse fare with items such as a Carolina Burger; everything is well prepared and tastes great. The pro shop is full of logoed apparel from many top golf companies such as PING, FootJoy, Antigua and Callaway Golf.

Bryan ParkLast Word: The Players Course may not be as tough a test as its sister course, the Champions, but it will still test your mettle. Just be sure to pick the set of tees that best compliments your ability. As you make your way around the course, you’ll be treated to scenic lake views which are worth their weight in gold when the leaves change color. The elevation changes and hazards add to the challenge of this wonderful golf course.

On either side of the Players Course, you get the par 5 holes out of the way relatively quick. I’ve always liked par 5s and view them as holes I can score well on. If you feel the same way, make sure to hit some fairway woods and long irons on the practice range so that you are properly warmed up and ready for them early on in your round!

The scorecard shows four sets of tees: Blue, White, Gold and Red, with the difference between the White and Gold a whopping 570+ yards. Although it is not officially reflected on the scorecard yet, Bryan Park has created a 5th set of tees. By playing the circled yardage on the scorecard which combines these sets of tees, you’ll come up with a yardage just over 6,200 yards, which is perfect.

If you plan on being in the Greensboro, NC area and you are looking to treat yourself to a couple of rounds of golf on some incredible golf courses, check out Bryan Park. Whether you choose the Players Course or the Champions Course, odds are that you will use every club in the bag and have a great time. For more information about playing your next round of golf at Bryan Park, visit their website at www.bryanpark.com.

Golf Life Contributor
David Theoret

 

Osprey Cove – A South Georgia Track That Shouldn’t Be Missed

Osprey Cove – A South Georgia Track That Shouldn’t Be Missed

Osprey CoveLocated literally minutes from the Florida/Georgia border, Osprey Cove has a lot to offer. This private, gated community features luxury homes in a resort atmosphere and the climate in St. Marys, GA although warmer, allows residents to experience all four seasons, even if the colder weather is brief – just the way I like it.

Residents at Osprey Cove will find their social calendars crammed with things to do, whether it involves the fitness center, tennis or swimming pool, bike riding, boating or gardening. If that doesn’t provide enough opportunities to keep oneself busy, there’s always the 18-hole championship Mark McCumber-designed golf course.

Osprey Cove Golf Club opened for play in 1990 and over the years has gone through some tumultuous times which saw the course deteriorate to almost unplayable levels. Over the last 10 years or so, Osprey Cove has undergone a tremendous rejuvenation and is considered to be the best golf course in the area. This past summer saw the installation of new TifEagle Bermuda greens and two of the industry’s top magazines – Golf Digest and GolfWeek have recognized Osprey Cove as a “Must play if you are within 100 miles’ as well as a “Top 5 Course in Georgia”.

From the back (Black) tees, Osprey Cove plays 6,778 yards with a course rating of 72.9 and a slope of 135. Mere mortal men will find that the Blue Tees (6,236/70.7/131) provide an ample challenge and take out a few long carries off the tees. Ladies have a couple of choices as well; most choose to play from the Red Tees (5,062/70.0/117). There are a total of six sets of tees that create a yardage and difficulty suitable for golfers of ages and abilities.

Osprey Cove is the epitome of a Southern coastal golf course. It sits at the edge of the expansive St. Marys River basin and is designed around a wild life preservation area among tidal inlets and pristine marshes along the river. Golfers are treated to magnificent views out across the marshes on many holes.

Memorable Holes (All Yardages are From the Blue Tees)

Number 3: Par 5, 441 yards. Although this is a short par 3, Number 3 can be a very challenging hole, especially for someone who is not familiar with the course. What you think could be a perfect drive could easily land in the wetlands, especially if you try and hug the right side. A tee shot just shy of 240 yards will land you just short of the water that bisects the fairway. The trio of pine trees on the left side of the fairway up near the green help to create a kind of double dogleg. An approach shot with a bit of a draw could find the green and set up an eagle opportunity. Miss the green to the left and the deep bunker will test your ability to get up and down. The green is shallow and can be tough to hold with a long approach shot. Par is a good score here.

Number 5: Par 4, 334 yards. A short par 4 with an interesting ending. By that I mean the pot bunker that sits directly in front of the green, taking away the bump-and-run and forcing players to fly it on the elevated green. There is a lot of roll and undulation in the fairway and your tee shot is somewhat blind. Front middle pin placements will make you earn a low score.

Osprey CoveNumber 9: Par 4, 342 yards. Trees right and the expansive marshlands on the left keep you honest off the tee. Middle of the fairway is an ideal place to come in from. There’s a large deep bunker on the left and another to the right of this double green that co-exists with Number 18. A fair and rewarding end to the outward nine.

Number 11: Par 3, 113 yards. If I were naming holes, this one would be called “Sand” because it’s everywhere. Carry the waste bunker off the tee, avoid the two pot bunkers that guard the front of this elevated green which slopes back to front and you’ve got it made!

Number 15: Par 4, 381 yards. Standing on the tee, you’ll notice a large oak tree in the middle of the fairway, just short of where you want your ball to land. If you’re like me, I take dead aim at it, that way I’m assured of not hitting it! Left of the tree with a little bit of a fade works well too and leaves a mid-iron into a green fronted on either side with bunkers.

Number 18: Par 5, 468 yards. Number 18 requires a fairly substantial carry over the marsh from any of the men’s tee boxes. McCumber has placed fairway bunkers in the landing area on the left side off the tee and a couple more in the landing area and middle of the fairway to penalize otherwise successful layup shots. The marsh creeps up to the green on the right side and more well-place bunkers can wreak havoc with short approach shots. To me, this was the most entertaining hole on the golf course. Any pars (or better) are well earned.

Last Word: Osprey Cove is a golf course that won’t beat you up, but at the same time, it won’t let you push it around either. To many, it’s a shot maker’s course that demands a high level of placement and execution if you want to score well. McCumber has given players many targets to aim at to keep them on course. If you can do that, you’ll find yourself writing down some favorable scores. Fail to do so and you’ll pay the price.

Osprey CoveOne memorable characteristic of Osprey Cove is the smallness of the greens, compared to other area courses. Many of them have significant slope and undulations or are tucked precariously behind bunkers.

All in all, McCumber did a great job of using the natural terrain and river to create an exciting golf course that can be enjoyed by everyone. Osprey Cove is private club caliber with access to the general public and should not be missed by golfers in the area. Golf Digest had it right when they called Osprey Cove a “Must Play if You’re Within 100 Miles”. Osprey Cove is easily accessible from Jacksonville and the Amelia Island area and is a great stopover for snowbirds who are looking to get in one more round as they are heading back home.

Unlike many residential developments of this caliber, Osprey Cove offers stay and play packages that include accommodations in one of their luxurious suites overlooking the 18th hole, an in-room continental breakfast greens fees, cart fees, range balls and access to club amenities.

For more information or to book a round or a stay and play package, visit their website at www.ospreycove.com.

Golf Life Contributor
David Theoret

Arrowhead Pointe Golf Club

Arrowhead Pointe Golf Club

Arrowhead Pointe Golf Club

Few private or resort courses have the geographical characteristics golf course designer Bob Walker was given when he designed Arrowhead Pointe. In fact, Walker has said that basically the state handed him 400-acres of land within the Richard B. Russell State Park in Elberton, GA and said, “put the course wherever you need to.” And Walker did just that.

This 6,861-yard masterpiece sits on a peninsula on Richard B. Russell Lake and offers some of the best water views and scenic vistas anywhere in the South. Better yet, there are no lakefront homes or even private docks to spoil the view as you make your way around the course.

Arrowhead Pointe Golf Club is not without its share of accolades, having been named the 2nd Best New Affordable Public Course in America by Golf Digest in 2005. It has also been ranked #10 on Golf Advisor’s list of Top 25 courses under $50 and TravelGolf.com placed Arrowhead Pointe on its list of the Top 10 courses in the state of Georgia.

Arrowhead Pointe Golf ClubFrom the back tees, Arrowhead Pointe plays 6,861 yards with a course rating of 72.5 and a slope of 134. Most men will find that the white tees at 5,971 (68.9/119) will give them a challenge and let them enjoy the scenery. If they need more, there’s a fourth set of tees that play 6,458 (70.7/129). Ladies typically play from 5,221 yards (70.4/122). The bottom line is that there is a yardage that is suitable for everyone; just be sure to pick the one that best suits your game and you’re sure to have a good time.

The course was designed back in 2001, but for budgetary reasons, did not open until July 2004. The Georgia State Park system boasts eight high quality golf courses, and while Arrowhead Pointe may not be the most difficult, it has by far the most breathtaking views. Water does come into play on at least 8 holes and thankfully most of what you see does not come into play. When it does, there are no overly long carries over it; hit your ball in the water and odds are that it’s your fault.

Arrowhead Pointe Golf ClubIn addition to the water hazards, you’ll find some significant elevation changes, tree-lined fairways, a myriad of doglegs – both left and right – and strategically place bunkers, primarily on the peripheries of the fairways. Well-groomed fairways lead to TifEagle Bermuda greens with subtle undulations and very few straight putts. This is one course that seems to have it all.

In creating Arrowhead Pointe, Walker wanted to make the course playable for golfers of all levels of ability. Each hole tends to have a safe route for less experienced players and a more challenging route that provides certain risk/reward opportunities for seasoned golfers. During your round, you may find it necessary to play both routes. Not only will it benefit your scorecard, it will greatly enhance your enjoyment.

The front nine has several interesting holes, most notably the par 5’s. Number 1 is a fairly straightforward hole that plays uphill and considerably longer than the stated yardage. Only the longest of hitters will get on in two; for the rest of us, the landing area is very generous off the tee. A layup down the right side will take the fairway bunker on the left out of play and set up an easy approach. Three good shots and you can tame this hole.

Arrowhead Pointe Golf ClubEven Head Golf Professional Barry Johnston says that the par 5, 5th hole is best played as a three-shot par 5. The best way to make birdie is to hit your approach shot close. There’s bunkers in play on both your tee shot and layup shot and the green complex is fronted and flanked by sand as well. The green slopes gently from back to front. Played correctly, this hole can let you put up a low number.

Both par 3’s on the outward nine play uphill and require an extra club or two to compensate. Another similarity: both feature green complexes that are well guarded by bunkers. The toughest hole on the front side is the par 4 6th, a 412 yarder that plays slightly uphill. Favoring the left side off the tee gives the best angle into a long, multi-tiered green. Number 6 provides the first view of the lake and gives you a taste of what’s to come.

The back nine features not only a number of challenging holes, it has some of the most incredible views in all of the state. It all starts on Number 12, a 368-yard par 4 (White Tees) which offers a great view of Lake Richard B. Russell and continues on Number 13, where a finger of the lake juts out and must be carried on this medium length par 3. The lake really steals the show on number 14 (361 yards from the White Tees), where it frames both sides of the fairway, giving the illusion that the hole plays a lot narrower than it really is. Carry the fairway bunker on the left and you’ll have a clear shot uphill to a long, narrow multi-tiered green well protected by bunkers. A front/back pin placement can be a 3 or 4 club difference.

Arrowhead Pointe Golf ClubAfter your round, be sure to visit Arrowhead Pointe’s café, where you’ll find a good selection of traditional clubhouse grub as well as all of your favorite libations. The pro shop is stocked with great looking logoed apparel from a lot of the industry’s top names including Titleist, Antigua and Adidas. There’s also a full-length driving range where you can hit every club in the bag and trust me, you’ll use every one of them during your round. The practice putting green will give you a pretty good idea of what you will face over the next few hours.

In addition to being a great day trip for golfers in the area, Arrowhead Pointe and the Richard B. Russell State Park makes a great golf buddy destination. The park has 20 cottages that can be rented at a very reasonable rate, especially when split 4 ways. Each cottage has 2 bedrooms, each with two double beds, fireplaces, screened porches, a private dock, patios with barbecue grills and, of course, beautiful views of the lake. In case roughing it is more your style, the park also has 28 camp sites. For more information or to book a tee time or one of the cottages at Richard B. Russell State Park, visit their website at www.arrowheadpointegc.com. For lodging information, click on the Georgia State Parks link on the homepage (www.gastateparks.org). Arrowhead Pointe is a proud member of the Georgia Golf Trail, a collection of some of the finest golf courses in the state. Check them out at www.georgiagolftrail.com.

 

Harbor Club on Lake Oconee

Harbor Club on Lake Oconee

Harbor ClubHarbor Club on Lake Oconee opened over 25 years ago and is still receiving high praise from golfers, writers and magazines alike. In fact, Harbor Club has been given 4½ out of 5 stars by Golf Digest as a “Best Places to Play” for the past 3 years running. Earlier this year, Golfweek Magazine rated Harbor Club #3 on its State-by-State list of Best Courses You Can Play in the State of Georgia.

With six sets of tees, Harbor Club offers a suitable distance for every caliber of golfer. The course measures 7,048 yards from the tips with a course rating of 73.6 and a slope of 138. Most guys will find the Green Tees (6,223 yards, 70.0/129) to be a challenge that still leaves them with a little bit of dignity intact. The Ladies Tees play 5,169 yards (66.6/111). Remember to choose the set of tees that best suit your game and you’re sure to have a good time.

This Tom Weiskopf – Jay Morrish designed golf course is nestled along the coastline of Lake Oconee and is fun to play for players of all skill levels. From the tees, you’ll find undulating fairways with generous landing areas, although fairway bunkers have been strategically placed to catch some errant tee shots. Almost every hole is tree lined, and, although the trees are not densely packed, if you’re in them, you’ll find yourself having to punch out, thus wasting a shot. For the most part, Lake Oconee provides visual aesthetics and really only comes into play on four holes.

In addition to a fabulous golf course, Harbor Club has some great practice facilities including a full length driving range with targets, where you can hit every club in the bag, along with a short game area and large practice putting green. The pro shop is home to some of the latest golf fashions and logoed apparel.

Memorable Holes (All Yardages are from the Blue Tees)

Number 3: Par 4, 345 yards. Leave driver in the bag on number 3. “Stone Bridge” plays 345 yards and features water all down the right side and out of bounds left of the cart path. An accurate second shot is needed with the water guarding the right side, almost to the edge of the green.

Number 4: Par 4: 430 yards. The par 4 5th hole has an interesting moniker – “Horses Won’t Cross the Creek”. The hole brings into focus Lake Oconee for the first time and creates a wonderful backdrop behind the green on this lengthy par 4. Your second shot plays downhill, giving back some of the overall length, but be sure to hit the right club on approach. The long, narrow green creates a three-club difference between front and back pins. Number 4 is what I would consider to be a true test of golf.

Number 11: Par 5, 553 yards. The dogleg left 11th is nicknamed “The Chimney” and is just flat out long. It’s tree-lined to keep you honest off the tee and the fairway bunkers that flank both sides of the landing area have seen their fair share of action. The green is well protected in the front by bunkers on both sides. A front pin placement can make for an interesting approach shot.

Harbor ClubNumber 14: Par 5, 523 yards. Perhaps the most intriguing risk/reward hole at Harbor Club is the #1 handicap par 5, 14th nicknamed “Wildflower”. For the average player, the hole plays as a dogleg left, around a large oak tree and treed marsh area. However, for the thrill seeker, you can play your drive left of the giant oak off the tee, taking the dogleg out of play and giving yourself a clear, albeit lengthy, shot to the green. A great drive from the Blue Tees will still leave a shot of over 230 yards to the middle of the green, of which about 200 is carry over the marsh. Two good shots back to back and this feat is easily accomplished. Even if you just clear the marsh area, you’ll be looking at a makeable up and down. This has to be one of the most challenging risk/reward opportunities in the state.

Number 15: Par 4, 281 yards. After the thrill of conquering the course’s toughest hole, it’s on to the shortest par 4 on the course. “Hidden Springs” plays 281 yards from the Blue Tees and from an elevated tee box, you get the idea that driving the green shouldn’t be a problem. Many will try, most will come up short, which isn’t a bad thing (unless your buddies succeed); you’ll have a manageable up and down with a good drive. If you decide to play it as a two-shot hole, be sure to avoid the fairway bunkers on either side off the tee. The water behind the right side of the green shouldn’t come into play.

Number 17: Par 3, 174 yards. If the bunker between the water and the green on “The Marsh” par 3 17th were longer, it would be a carbon copy of number 17 at Bay Hill. From the Blue Tees, it plays about the same length as Bay Hill’s Gold Tees, with the same carry over water to an angular green. It’s a great par 3.

Harbor ClubNumber 18: Par 4, 415 yards. “Double Cross” is a very challenging finishing hole that requires a well-executed tee shot over a creek, which runs parallel to the fairway the entire length of the hole. You’ll need to carry the water a second time in order to reach the green. The green is large and features some significant undulations, making for some interesting pin placements. Take a par and run.

Last Word: After your round, be sure to stop by the clubhouse for your favorite post round libations or a bite to eat. Lunch is served Tuesday – Saturday from 11 am – 5 pm and you can grab dinner Thursday – Saturday from 5 pm – 9 pm.

The lunch menu features some amazing sandwiches and burgers, including a “Build Your Own Burger” where you select from a number of toppings. The French Dip, Reuben and Chicken Sandwiches are also great choices.

The Culinary Team at Harbor Club pulls out all the stops for dinner. Start off with a basket of eggplant French fries and then indulge in entrees such as Salmon Paillard, Shrimp Angel Hair Pasta or Rack of Lamb. After dinner, treat yourself to a Chocolate Martini, made with brownie cubes, chocolate mousse, whipped cream and candied nuts. After all, you deserve it!

If you’re looking to relocate to the Lake Oconee area, look no further than Harbor Club. There’s a lot more here than just an outstanding golf course. There’s a junior Olympic size pool, tennis and pickleball courts, and the 12-acre Grove – a complex that includes a state-of-the-art fitness center, hiking and Fit-Trails, a quarter-mile running track and an event/sports field.

Boat enthusiasts will feel right at home at Harbor Club. The award-winning Lake Oconee Marina (Best Recreational Facility in the Southeast) provides easy access to the lake as well as boat storage and a wide variety of services to help you enjoy life on the lake. This includes a 72-slip dry stack boat (soon to be 300 slip) storage facility, boat ramps, fueling, watercraft rentals and a convenience store. If that’s not enough, there’s always Harbor Club’s Boathouse Restaurant, where you can motor in by boat or by car and enjoy burgers, BBQ, ribs and fried catfish all tastefully presented and served piping hot. During the summer, there’s live music at the Boathouse on Friday and Saturday nights from 11am to 9pm, and Sundays from 11am to 7pm, May through September. It’s also available to host private events.

Harbor Club is also a great venue for weddings. The Stables provide a beautiful, pastoral setting for weddings, receptions and other special events.

As you can see, Harbor Club has a lot to offer. The golf course is one of the few courses on Lake Oconee that the public has access to and I suspect at some time it too will go private. Until then, if you’re in the area and are looking for a great place to play and be treated like you belong, give Harbor Club a try. You can call them at (706) 453-9690 or visit them online at www.harborclub.com. The site also has all kinds of information on the community and surrounding area.

Golf Life Contributor
David Theoret

Forest Lake Golf Club – Just You, Nature and That Little White Ball

Forest Lake Golf Club – Just You, Nature and That Little White Ball

Forest Lake GCAs Florida golf courses go, Forest Lake golf club is an anomaly. Oh sure, it has all the trappings of your typical Florida daily fee golf facility: pristine, natural lakes, a wide variety of Florida flora and fauna, gently rolling fairways and large undulating greens. But what sets Forest Lake apart from other courses in the Orlando area is the homes – or in this case, the lack thereof. It is a true Parkland golf experience.

Forest Lake is located in Ocoee, FL, and sits on over 218 acres of Central Florida’s ridge area, which provided the golf course design firm of Clifton, Ezell and Clifton tons of superb sandy loam. The course also sits atop the City’s effluent disposal field, giving them adequate access to water for irrigation, a precious commodity in the Florida golf industry. Also, the course drains very well, so you just might find yourself being able to get out and play a round of golf here, while other courses remain closed after inclement weather.

The course opened in 1994 and has been rated 4-Stars by Golf Digest in their Places to Play. Forest Lake features five sets of tees, setting up a playable yardage for all golfers, from seasoned professionals to beginners. From the back tees, the course measures 7,221 yards with a slope of 133. Most golfers will find that the Blue Tees (6387 yards/126 slope) will provide all the golf course they can handle and still leave with a little dignity. Ladies will be challenged from the Red Tees which measure 5065 yards with a slope rating of 117.

Forest Lake boasts a pretty impressive practice facility. There’s a full length driving range where you can hit every club in the bag, a chipping area with “blast” bunker and a large practice putting green. On our visit, the range was packed with players of all ages and abilities.

Lush, rolling fairways are generous off the tees and give way to large, undulating greens that can be hard to read for a first-time player, as I experienced. They may not be the quickest in the area, but they roll true and are consistent from hole to hole. The more you play them, the better you’re going to do.

The front side has some modest roll to it and the first hole demands an accurate tee shot between a couple of lakes, but from there the hole opens up. For most players it’s a three-shot par 5, however with a great tee shot, the green is reachable. Sand guards the front left side of the green with large mounding protecting the right front.

Forest Lake Golf ClubThe par 3 holes out here are very challenging; from the back tees: you won’t find one less than 210 yards. The second hole is the only one without water and features a very long and deceptive tiered green. Anyone who feels that par 3s are the easiest holes on a golf course needs to book a round on Forest Lake!

Holes 3-7 are situated on the western side of the 429 Expressway; you get there by taking the tunnel underneath the road. Like most of the holes they are tree lined; you better have control of your irons if you’re going to score well over here. The seventh hole is the shortest par 4 and, depending on the tee placement could be in reach for big hitters. The green is protected by a deep greenside bunker.

If your tendency is to hit the ball left, number 9 could prove to be a bit of a problem. It’s a 405-yard (Blue Tees) par 4, with a large fairway bunker on the left side in the landing area and another large bunker that guards the entire left side. Keep it right and your problems will be limited.

For me, the back nine had a lot of character and featured more subtle elevation changes from hole to hole. The final six holes were all memorable, especially the par 3 holes. Number 13 is a long double dogleg par 5 that demands an accurate tee shot to avoid the massive waste bunker on the right and fairway bunker on the left, and then an accurate layup shot that makes it to the second dogleg, yet avoids the fairway bunker in the landing area. Success to this point will leave a short pitch shot to a small, softly undulating green. Three well executed shots from tee to green can result in a low number.

Number 14 is a par 3 and is undoubtedly the course’s signature hole. From the Blue Tees, it plays 170 yards and is not only the most photographed on the course, it’s one of the toughest par 3s in the area. It’s all carry over water with expansive bunkers front left and back right. The green features some deceptive undulations.

The 15th hole plays 342 yards (Blue Tees) and is very photogenic, with a creek crossing the middle of the fairway. If you’re playing either of the back two sets of tees, the creek can easily come into play, however from all other tee boxes it’s easy to carry and the hole becomes a relatively short dogleg right. If you want to cut the corner of the dogleg, go for it. Just be wary of the trees that can impair your approach shot to a long but narrow green that’s well protected by bunkers. Believe it or not, this hole is handicapped the toughest on the back side. From the back tees, I can see why.

If the first par 3 on the back side didn’t get your attention, Number 16 certainly will. It plays about the same length – 163 yards from the Blue Tees – but offers a little bit of relief with a bailout area left of the green. Anything right will find the water or foliage and anything long will find the sand. This is another par 3 where par is good.

Number 17 is a dogleg left par 4 that plays 342 yards and, if you haven’t played the course before, you might think it goes right. The landing area is framed by bunkers and there is a fair amount of sand to the right of the green. Two well struck shots can set up a makeable birdie opportunity.

Forest Lake finishes strong with a 425 yard, par 4 dogleg left that requires an accurate tee shot between two bunkers. This leaves a long to mid iron slightly uphill into a small green surrounded by sand. A challenging end to a challenging golf course.

Forest Lake Golf ClubLast Word: Forest Lake is a Take-Your-Clubs-Out-Of-The-Trunk-Throw-Them-on-A-Cart-And -Head-To-The-First-Tee kind of place. The bag drop is easily accessible and the carts are right there. Greens fees are some of the lowest in the area, year-round! The staff is friendly and knowledgeable and leaves you feeling welcome and wanting to return. The beverage cart runs every day! In fact, the guys who designed the course years ago – George Clifton and Ken Ezell – still own and operate it; that’s how much they think of Forest Lake.

All carts are equipped with the Pro Shot GPS system which provides accurate yardage to the front, center and middle of the green as well as distance to and over hazards. No maps, everything is displayed in text format. Simple is definitely better.

Water comes into play on about 8 holes and with the exception of the two par 3s on the back, there are no unmanageable forced caries. For the most part, the wet stuff can be found on the peripheries of the fairways, forcing you to hit it straight or pay the price.

The day we played, the pace of play was fantastic. We played as a twosome and had a threesome in front of us. I felt like we were constantly being held up, yet we finished the round in a little more than 4 hours including a short brake at their Rusty Niblick Grill. And, in case you’re wondering, they did end up letting us play through!

Forest Lakes offers an annual membership that includes year-round discounts on greens and cart fees, 8-day advanced tee times, USGA handicap service, discounted range balls and a 10% discount on pro shop merchandise. You’ll also be eligible for Forest Lake’s annual tournaments including the Club Championship.

For more information or directions to the course, visit www.forestlakegolf.com.

Golf Life Contributor
David Theoret

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