With companies such as Coca-Cola, Delta, Home Depot and CNN calling Atlanta home, the town is a sea of suits during the week-people in town to pitch ideas, get praised or chewed out, or sit through boring meetings while dreaming of playing golf. These days the briefcase brigade has plenty of options, from excellent public courses to high-end stay-and-plays within 90 minutes of downtown. There’s so much sizzle in this city that your best bet is to camp there. While Atlanta pops in spring, an autumn visit means perfect golf (and football) temperatures. So rescue your clubs from baggage claim and stay awhile.
Bear’s Best Golf Club
7,037 yards, par 72; Greens fee: $85-$105; 866-511-2378, bearsbest.com,
Great architects try never to repeat them-selves—unless asked to. Jack Nicklaus has done it twice, first in Las Vegas in 2001, and then here in Suwanee, 45 minutes northeast of Atlanta, in 2002. The concept was to take 18 holes that Jack designed elsewhere and string them together on one course. It could have turned out to be a gimmicky mess, but Jack was too smart to let that happen. Instead of choosing 18 all-star holes from his most famous courses, he picked holes that would fit the land he had at his disposal. Some of the holes are from lesserknown Nicklaus courses, such as the downhill par-4 first hole, which is the 10th at England’s St. Mellion, and the short par-4 eighth, which plays as the ninth at the Club at Nevillewood, near Pittsburgh. Others are from bigname tracks such as Alabama’s Shoal Creek and Sherwood Country Club in L.A., but they’re some of those course’s quieter holes. What it means for you is a legitimate layout that flows seamlessly from one hole to the next. The course is open in spots and heavily wooded in others, with just enough hazards to keep things lively. You’ve come here for a taste of Jack’s best and from the black sand in the bunkers at the fourth (from Montana’s Old Works) to the hard, beautiful par-3 sixth (the 12th at Jack’s home course at Muirfield Village), Bear’s Best Atlanta delivers.
Stone Mountain Golf Club (Lakemont Course)
6,444 yards, par 71; Greens fee: $35-$62 770-465-3278, stonemountaingolf.com,
Georgia’s most famous natural landmark and top tourist attraction, Stone Mountain Park, is just 25 minutes east of town. There’s no better way to appreciate Stone Mountain than by teeing it up at its namesake golf courses that provide in-your-face views of the massive granite outcropping that rises 1,683 feet and covers nearly 600 acres. Lakemont is a tight, hilly, 1989 John LaFoy layout that isn’t as demanding as its elder Robert Trent Jones-designed sibling, Stonemont, but is more memorable, thanks to holes such as the par-5 first, which is backdropped by both a lake and by the enormous rock. The view inclues a Rushmore-style carving of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. Stone Mountain’s Lakemont isn’t the toughest track around, but it’s pure fun.
The Frog at the Georgian
7,018 yards, par 72; Greens fee: $45-$79 770-459-4400, golfthefrog.com,
“Grip it and ribbit” is the mantra at this bomber’s paradise in Villa Rica, 45 minutes west of Atlanta. Tom Fazio cut extra-wide fairways from the pines and hard woods and the rough is minimal, so you can smack your driver all day long. But he also dropped more than 60 large and gorgeously sculpted white bunkers to snare errant shots. Streams and lakes come into play on 10 holes, but rarely is there a long forced carry, with the exciting exception of the 223-yard, par-3 eighth. The Frog’s remote location is a drawback for some, but for those in search of a serene environment and a gracefully rolling, great-looking layout in top condition, hop to it.
The Cark Wrecker
Bear’s Best, No 11, 193 yards, par3
The scorecards turned in over the years reveal that the clear winner for nastiest hole is the 11th, which replicates the 15th hole at PGA National’s Champion Course in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., one made infamous by then-leader Raymond Floyd at the 1994 PGA Seniors Championship, when he splashed two 5-irons on his way to a 7. The version at Bear’s Best is 30 yards longer, but not as wind-blown. What they share is a long forced carry to a deep, skinny green guarded by water short, right and back, and by a bunker to the left.
Jack Nicklaus on how to play it
“This is one really hard hole. The green is narrow and slopes away from you, from left to right. The only bailout is short and left. It’s one of those holes that you just take a big gulp and aim at a certain spot. For me, it’s the left-center of the front portion of the green. If you miss it left, you’re thinking-Oh, God, I’ve got to fly it over the bunker and have it somehow hold the green. Sometimes, you’re better off chipping away from the flag. Take your medicine, chip to the fat part of the green and hope you can sink a 20-footer for par.” Local Knowledge
Where to Eat
- [LIST “A fixture in the heart of Buckhead, Bone’s remains Atlanta’s quintessential big-city steakhouse. 404-237-2663, bonesrestaurant.com.”] [LIST “At South City Kitchen, traditional fried chicken meets contemporary accents, like grilled peaches. 404-873-7358, southcitykitchen.com.”]
Where to Stay
- [LIST “The Ritz-Carlton Buckhead is Atlanta’s best hotel, period. Luxurious but not stuffy, the hotel’s antique-filled rooms and public spaces attract the likes of Tim McGraw and Faith Hill. Rooms from $229; 404-237-2700, ritzcarlton.com.”] [LIST “Chateau Elan Winery & Resort, located 45 minutes northeast of Atlanta, offers a 277-room French inn, an adjacent vineyard and tasting room plus 45 holes of golf. Rooms start at $169. 800-233-9463, chateauelan.com.”]
What to Do
- [LIST “The King Center preserves the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. Nearby is his birth home, boyhood home and the Ebenezer Baptist Church where he preached. 404-526-8900, thekingcenter.org.”] [LIST “Even if you have a face made for radio, you’ll enjoy the behind-the-scenes look during the CNN Studio Tour. Would-be Larry Kings and Anderson Coopers can have a videotape made of themselves reading the news. 404-827-2300, cnn.com/studiotour.”] [LIST “The new Georgia Aquarium is the largest in the world. More than 2 million visitors have come since its November 2005 opening to see white Beluga whales and the spotted, giant whale sharks. 404-581-4000, georgiaaquarium.org.”]