You Can’t Go Home Again, the title of Thomas Wolfe’s 1940 seminal novel, has become an often-uttered, plaintive phrase. It refers to how the passing of time prevents someone from returning home again to reclaim his previous way of life. Such attempts to relive earlier memories, the novel’s theme suggests, are doomed to failure.
Thomas Wolfe should have had the chance from 1990-2007 to live on Lake Oconee in central Georgia and play golf there. For, if he had, as I did, and if he could have returned after the Masters in 2013, as I did, his sequel would have to be titled, “I Can’t Wait To Go Home Again.”
The Good Ol’ Days Wane
The 1990’s was a decade of exuberance and enthusiasm on Lake Oconee in Greensboro, Georgia. Located just off I-20, 90 minutes from Atlanta to the west and an hour from Augusta to the east, the lake, with its easy access, plentiful water activities, and exquisite golf courses, became both a prime retirement and a second-home weekend community. The residential and golf hot spots were Port Armor, Harbor Club, Reynolds Plantation, and Cuscowilla (opening in 1997).
I lived in Port Armor on Snug Harbor Drive, just off the 8th fairway, and I was a weekend Atlanta commuter. My wife and I would brave the wicked Friday afternoon rush-hour debacles to reach “The Port” in time to play a quick nine holes and then spend Happy Hour in the clubhouse with our many friends, planning our iniquitous weekend escapades. Life on the lake was very, very good—not only at Port Armor but everywhere one could steer a boat or swing a club.
Then the fortunes of Port Armor, the first course on the lake, went abruptly downhill, only to be rescued in a buyout by the movers and shakers at Reynolds Plantation. My wife and I stayed two more years at Port Armor, renamed The Landing at Reynolds, but did not like the direction where Reynolds seemed to be headed. We retired and moved to Port St. Lucie, Florida, where I began a second career as a golf journalist.
Soon thereafter, unfortunately for our friends who stayed put and for the 3,000 other members of Reynolds Plantation, the real estate crash ensnared the over-extended Linger Longer Development, parent company of Reynolds, and created temporary disaster for everyone involved in the plantation.
Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and Lucy to the Rescue
A White Knight arrived on Lake Oconee aboard the “Snoopy One” blimp, and MetLife, the largest life insurance company in the country, resurrected the Reynolds legacy and returned Reynolds Plantation to its premier position in the residential golf/resort world. Recently named “Best of the Best” Golf Community by the “Robb Report,” the Plantation has just undergone an initial multi-million dollar transformation that has members smiling in appreciation and guests enjoying the rarely equaled facilities.
I spent several days at The Landing with good friends who had remained steadfast throughout the crisis. I spent several hours with golf cronies that I had spent several years with. I played golf, I visited, and I listened. Everyone was delighted with the about-face that MetLife had produced. One friend, a Republican by registration, even crooned the first few lines of the 1932 Franklin Roosevelt election theme song, “Happy Days Are Here Again.”
And I, in turn, was happy to be home again.
The Play Is the Thing
So, what has MetLife done to deserve such kudos? First of all, MetLife made sure that all six award-winning championship courses—as playable and as challenging a contingent as you could hope to play anywhere—were spruced up and put in excellent condition: The Landing (1986) by Bob Cupp, The Plantation Course (1988) by Bob Cupp, Great Waters (1992) by Jack Nicklaus, The National (1997) by Tom Fazio, The Oconee (2002) by Rees Jones, The Creek Club (2007) by Jim Engh. Great Waters, one of Nicklaus’s best designs and a delight to play, also received a newly painted clubhouse and refurbishments to some waterfront holes, to the cart paths, and to the comfort stations.
Most importantly to me, The Landing, which had languished during the difficulties, received a much-needed overhaul. Bob Cupp revisited his original masterpiece, ranked #2 in Georgia at its debut behind Augusta National, and returned it to his exacting standards. With hole redesign, new bunkering, expanded tees, a new set of forward tees, and thicket and shrub clearing, The Landing plays better than ever, and I always thought it was the best layout on the lake to begin with.
Puttin’ on The Ritz and Putting in the Kingdom
The social focal point of Reynolds is the luxurious Ritz-Carlton Lodge that opened in 2002. It offers the service, the dining, the amenities, and the activities that befit the Ritz-Carlton brand. Included are four full-service marinas, The Lake Club Wellness Center, and the Tennis Center. The grounds, the exterior, the main dining room, and the 251 guest rooms, suites, and cottages all received extensive renovations. Ranked among the “75 Best Golf Resorts in North America” by “Golf Digest,” the Lodge has earned the 2013 AAA Five Diamond and the 2012 Forbes Four-Star awards.
Reynolds has also given new meaning to “golf in the kingdom” by upgrading its game-improvement system. By expanding both its exclusive partnership with TaylorMade-adidas Golf and its Reynolds Golf Academy, The Kingdom, as it is called, will now be accessible to both Reynolds’ members and resort guests for the most state-of-the-art club fittings available. TaylorMade has added to the Kingdom’s repertoire as well through the creation of the new high-performance putting studio.
The Future Is a Gimme
MetLife has made a 20-year commitment to the residents and guests of Reynolds Plantation, and if its first year at the helm is an indication of its future endeavors, the town of Greensboro and the Lake Oconee area will be reaping great rewards. This summer, for instance, additional course renovations are planned, the new National clubhouse will be under construction, and further enhancements with TaylorMade for the Kingdom and the Golf Academy are in the works.
Thomas, I can’t wait to go home again.
For more information, access the website at www.ReynoldsPlantation.com.
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