If your idea of a good time is being surrounded by gorgeous golf and relaxing in the plush style of a Ritz-Carlton, you'll never want to leave Reynolds Plantation. Seriously, they had to call in Georgia state troopers to get us to surrender our cottage.
7,048 yard, par 72;
Greens fee: $195
Great Waters opened in 1992 and was designed by Jack Nicklaus during his architectural transition from unrestrained torturer to tempered artist. It shows. Some of the holes at Great Waters seem to emerge right out of the lake, and are so idyllic that you can see yourself swapping places with that fellow lazing along in his fishing boat about 200 yards offshore. The lake provides a stage for some memorable moments, including a gorgeous approach over the water from a plateau in the ninth fairway (a 3-wood off the tee will leave you about 160 yards) to a green sitting well below you. The closing holes -- the par-3 17th and par-5 18th -- are serene but force you to decide just how much you want to challenge Lake Oconee.
Bluff: 3,528 yards, par 36
Cove: 3,538 yards, par 36
Ridge: 3,487 yards, par 36
Greens fee: $165
Think of this terrific Tom Fazio 27 as the Place You're Very Likely to Have Augusta National Fantasies. With the heaving terrain and abundant flora, you will be forgiven if you make Henry Longhurst-style descriptions as your shots arc toward the pin. How the heck do those pine trees get that tall anyway?
The Oconee Course
7,029 yards, par 72
Greens fee: $260
Named for Lake Oconee (the state's second largest), this Rees Jones canvas is mighty fine. The course roars to life on the back nine. The 380-yard 12th and 447-yard 16th holes jangle the nerves all the way with creeks that run the length of the hole then slash across in front of the green. And how big is that bunker to the right of the par-3 13th? Let's just say you have your choice of 22 rakes. The final hole is a champ, a 443-yard par 4 (from the human tees; from the tips it's a bruising 485 yards) that avoids the now cliched modern-day "must" of finishing with a par 5. The dramatic approach is to a green that hugs the lake. Pin left? It's a sucker all the way.
6,698 yards, par 72
Greens fee: $165
A GOLF MAGAZINE Top 10 new course in 1991, this sporty little number is the joint intellectual property of former U.S Open champions Hubert Green, Fuzzy Zoeller and, most importantly, Bob Cupp. Despite its auspicious debut, Plantation has almost become the forgotten sibling at Reynolds, but while it lacks the dramatic setting--and the bite--of the Oconee and Great Waters tracks, you will enjoy every divot of it.
The new course at Reynolds
The opening date is still tentative--sometime in early 2007 seems likely--and so is the name. (The Crek Club is the leader in the clubhouse.) But one thing is certain: The new members-only club at reynolds will be a good one. The architect is current 'It Guy' Jim Engh. "We've got some really rolling terrain and beautiful creeks running into Lake Oconee," says Engh. "The 18th hole is going to have three greens. I must have stood there for three hours deciding which green site to do because there were three really great ones. and after three hours, I said 'Eh, we'll do all three!"
Where to stay
- The Ritz-Carlton Lodgeat Reynolds Plantation is simply one of the best resorts in America. In addition to luxurious hotel rooms the Lodge offers secluded two bedroom cottages with views of Lake Oconee. Standard rooms start at $225 per night. You will pay $550 per night for a cottage. For reservations, call 800-241-3333.
Where to eat
- Georgia's in the Ritz has a menu aspiring to greatness and it very nearly succeeds. A superb wine list, too. Call 706-467-7135 to reserve a table.
- If you're staying in one of the cottages on the property, don't miss out on having a visiting chef do a barbecue for you right outside your door. Alternately, enjoy a Chiminea dinner lakeside with champagne, smores and a personal bonfire.
- In the clubhouse at the Oconee course, the Linger Longer restaurant offers up some of the best sandwiches this side of the big city--including a superb pastrami on rye.
Change Your Game Forever--Seriously
- There are two places at Reynolds that can make you fall asleep dreaming of low numbers. The first is the Dave Pelz Scoring Game School. If you read this magazine regularly, or you've ever seen Phil Mickelson get up and down from a Dumpster, you know Pelz is a genius.
- Hard as it seems to believe, however, the real mindblower at Reynolds is the TaylorMade Performance Lab, one of only three in the world. Charles McLendon, a master fitter and outstanding teacher, takes you into his vault (it actually looks like one) and fits you up with sensors. Within an hour, you're looking at your swing from every conceivable angle and seeing precisely what you need to fix. McLendon can even put your swing next to that of another player to compare. Combine that with the fact that you leave knowing the exact specs of the clubs you should be playing, and you are looking at a whole new ballgame. The results are immediate: One day after going through the process, our writer played Great Waters and had five birdie tries inside of 15 feet. The day before he'd hit only five greens total. (He didn't make any of the putts, but that's another story.) A visit with McLendon alone is enough of a reason to go to Reynolds. ($400, and worth every dime.)