If you want to experience PGA Tour-grade pressure, enter a pro-am. If you want to indulge in Tour-caliber pampering, visit Reynolds Plantation in Greensboro, Ga., and treat yourself to the Tour Experience at the Kingdom, a TaylorMade-run orgy of clubfitting, instruction and mingling with A-list pros.
\nIf it sounds pricey, that's because it isnearly $9,000 for three days (for less lavish options, see below). But this is the Vatican for gear geeks, offering access to the game's most advanced swing-analysis and custom-fitting technology.
\nThe fitting process begins with you rigged head to toe in reflective markers that allow nine high-speed cameras to capture your every movement. The result is a 3-D rendering of your swing and putting stroke that is at once enlightening and alarming. Those metrics are married to the stats gathered during an extensive hitting session, and club by club, your dream set materializes, with shaft flexes, lofts and lie angles handpicked for your swing.
\nThe coolest perk comes after the fitting. You'll have dinner with a TaylorMade proSean O'Hair, say, or Corey Pavinretire to your room at the Ritz, then wake up to play 18 holes with your spanking-new clubs, built overnight by technicians. Now that's the Tour life we could all enjoy.
\nThe Kingdom Experience
• 3 nights at the Ritz-Carlton Lodge
• An expert 14-club fitting via MATT (Motion Analysis Technology by TaylorMade)
• A custom set built on-site and overnight by TaylorMade technicians
• Mingling, playing and dining with a TaylorMade Tour pro
• Full-swing and short-game instruction by Top 100 Teacher Charlie King
• 18 holes with your new sticks
• A Tour bag, Adidas clothing, shoes, and other goodies
\nFittings Without the Frills
Humbler fitting options are also available, starting at $100 for a single-club session (driver, putter, etc.). You'll still enjoy all the benefits of motion-capture technology, but you'll demo fewer sticks than you would during a Kingdom session. The Kingdom itself also offers less elaborate fittings, ranging from $695 for a single club to $4,095 for a full set, a night at the Ritz and a round of golf. The downside: You won't get to talk golf with Hale Irwin over Carolina mountain trout.
\nWhere You'll Play
The five excellent public courses at Reynolds Plantation force golfers to make some tough scheduling calls. The most critically acclaimed of the quintet is Jack Nicklaus's Great Waters (No. 42 on our Top 100 You Can Play list), with Rees Jones's Oconee Course (No. 58) close behind. The front side of Great Waters snakes through towering dogwoods, while six holes on the back skirt Lake Oconee. The Oconee, built in 2002, is the newest of Reynolds' public tracks (a private course, the Creek Club by Jim Engh, opened in '07). Its finishing kick, Nos. 14-18, may be the best five-hole stretch on the complex. For now, anywaya seventh course, a private routing by Pete Dye, is underway.
\nWhere You'll Stay
Most guests bunk at the Ritz-Carlton Lodge, a sumptuous retreat on the shore of Lake Oconee. The 251-room hotel offers all you'd expect from a Ritz (private terraces and 400-thread-count linens) and a couple of things you might not (a car-detailing service and a separate 5,400- square-foot house where two U.S. presidents have slept; it starts at $2,500/night). The six cozy golf cottages are also a great option.
\nWhat You'll Pay
The Oconee Course $145-$240
Great Waters Course $155-$240
Plantation Course $105-$155
The National Course $125-$175
The Landing Course $125-$175
Ritz-Carlton Lodge From $219/night
Lakeside Cottages From $1300/night*
Info 888-298-3119; reynoldsplantation.com
\n(*prices subject to change)