In a new weekly series, we’ll profile a college football town with tips on where to play golf, eat and drink.
Unbeaten, but perhaps untested, the 22nd-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels travel to Bobby Dodd Stadium in downtown Atlanta this week to take on ACC conference foe Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets are likely still smarting from last week’s 33-17 thumping at the hands of Miami. Here’s where to soak up the atmosphere in rain-drenched Atlanta.
Record rains have battered Atlanta this past week, with more thunderstorms forecast through the weekend, so think twice about bringing your sticks. Some courses are underwater; others are in better shape but closed nonetheless. If it dries out, the best public track near the city limits is North Fulton Golf Course (404-255-0723, northfulton.americangolf.com; $37-$40.50), a 1937 Chandler Egan design, with help from no less than Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen. The rolling, wooded, 6,570-yard, par-71 layout is slashed with creeks, notably along the left side of the fairway at the 18th, a 446-yard par 4 and the toughest test on the course. Seniors and juniors can play for $20-$26.
In the suburbs, start with Bear’s Best Golf Club (678-714-2582, bearsbest.com; $64-$114), Jack Nicklaus’s homage to, well, Jack Nicklaus. The Golden Bear grafted some of his favorite holes that he’s designed from around the world, some better known than others, into an undulating tract. It’s situated in Suwanee, 45 minutes northeast of downtown Atlanta, and it’s worth the drive. Two par-3 replicas, one from Muirfield Village and the other from PGA National, are standouts.
One of the better deals — and more distinctive golf settings in town — is Stone Mountain Park (770-465-3278, stonemountainpark.com; $55-$69), located a half-hour east of the city. Stone Mountain’s Robert Trent Jones Sr.-designed Stonemount course is the stronger, more consistent test, with the master’s signature touches, such as multiple doglegs, bunkers and uphill approaches. But its sibling, the Lakemont, a 1989 John LaFoy creation, is more memorable. Backdropping Lakemont’s opening hole is Stone Mountain itself, complete with the classic carvings of Confederate leaders.
Forty-five minutes out west, in Villa Rica, is The Frog Golf Club (770-459-4400, golfthefrog.com; $59-$85), a graceful Tom Fazio design that rambles through pines and hardwoods, amid the usual attractive collection of Fazio bunkers and water hazards.
First on your game-day dining list has to be the fabled Varsity restaurant (404-881-1706, thevarsity.com), a downtown institution since 1928 that’s just a few blocks from the stadium. Served up cafeteria-style, with staff yelling “What’ll ya have?” the Varsity specializes in football comfort food such as the slaw dog, chili cheese dog and a double chili cheeseburger — all under $3.00. Toss in a Frosted Orange shake or sweet tea and a fried peach pie, and you’ll be well fortified, if unable to move.
Max’s Coal Oven Pizzeria (404-974-2941, maxsatl.com), situated a mile away at the Luckie Marietta District shopping and restaurant complex, dishes out a mean margherita pizza, straight from Georgia’s only 900-degree coal-fired oven. The beauty of such intense heat? Two minutes on one side, flip it, two minutes on the other, and presto, you’re eating.
Every great city has a classic power steakhouse, and Atlanta is blessed with more than its share. At the top is Bone’s (404-237-2663, bonesrestaurant.com), a fixture in the heart of Buckhead. On the menu: plenty of dark wood, an extensive wine list and expense-account steaks — for anybody who still has an expense account.
No restaurant in town so successfully fuses Traditional Southern with New South as the South City Kitchen (404-873-7358, southcitykitchen.com). Its midtown location charms with its decor and wows with its flavor.
Easily the hottest sports bar in town is STATS (404-885-1472, statsatl.com), a year-old emporium one mile from Bobby Dodd Stadium in the Luckie Marietta District. It lives up to its tagline, “Nobody Does Big Games Better,” with five bars; 80 large-screen, high-def TVs; and beer taps that come right out of your table. (You can purchase by the ounce. When you drain 12 ounces from the 200 you bought, a meter will reflect how much remains.) Sports Radio 790, the ZONE, broadcasts in a specially built booth on game days, so there’s atmosphere galore.