Tune in to Georgia

Alice and Danny Scott

Willie Nelson and Ray Charles aren’t the only ones with “Georgia On My Mind,” as golfers anticipate the Masters Tournament in Augusta. We missed the azaleas in April and are uncertain how it will play out in November, but we do know, that year-round, Georgia has great golf destinations.  

Reynolds Lake Oconee is about 80 minutes from Augusta. Six distinctly designed courses around the 19,000-acre lake are open and so are most of the club outlets with socially distanced seating. Stay at the fully renovated Ritz (currently reserving their dining areas for in-house guests only) or a comfortable cottage. The Kingdom is a 16-acre practice facility with Taylor Made on site club fitters, builders and instruction technology that offers guests the same experience PGA Tour professionals receive.  Enjoy the advanced fitness facility and classes, 16 tennis courts or the Spa at the Ritz. Sandy Creek Sporting Grounds offers shooting challenges, fishing, boating, nature trails and off roading. 350 miles of shoreline equates to aquatic fun and beautiful picture puzzle views with four full-service marinas. https://www.reynoldslakeoconee.com/

Champions Retreat Golf Club, just minutes from Augusta welcomes public play during Masters’ week. It was at a Masters’ Champion dinner that Gary Player shared his dream with Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer for a 27-hole private club. The legends each designed nine holes. The Bluff nine by Jack Nicklaus feels like a continuation of Augusta National. Gary Player’s Creek nine concludes beside a lake with his home. The Island nine by Arnold Palmer is a turtle haven. Turkeys, deer, and even wild pigs like the digs. The grounds are gorgeous, and the food is exquisite. https://www.championsretreat.net/

Chateau Elan Winery and Resort is an unique escape with a French Chateau and fine wines, 45 minutes north of Atlanta. Visionary Donald Panoz and his wife Nancy turned their passion for wine into a 3500 acres resort estate after spotting grape vines along the lush, hilly landscape. Muscadine grapes native to the red clay soil of Georgia are nice for sweet tea drinkers but the Italian winemaker also imports the finest grapes in California and applies his own vintner techniques for amazing, award winning wines. 

Denis Griffith designed 63 holes of championship golf on The Woodlands, Chateau and short courses along lakes and streams through the colorful forest. The Chateau Golf Club and Sarazen’s Bar and Grille overlooking the 18th green is managed by Troon. Dining is a main event at Chateau Elan from the seafood buffet to the Irish Pub with live music. Sip, savor and swing away. www.chateauelan.com

Jekyll Island, St. Simon and Sea Island are the Golden Isles of Georgia. All of Jekyll Island is a State Park, abundant with wildlife in its coastal habitat. Historically it was the premier luxury camp/hunting ground for one quarter of the richest Americans. Tours of the original Jekyll Island Hotel and “cottages” disguised as mansions are available daily.  

The Westin Jekyll Island is a sweet base for island exploration. Driftwood Beach is an otherworldly experience and the culinary scene shines with fresh seafood. Jekyll Island has 54 holes of low country woodland adventure plus the historic 9 holes at Great Dunes, built in 1926. Island hop to St. Simon’s Island with several public golf facilities or Sea Island, though courses there are private. Jekyll Island State Park is all encompassing with 22 miles of biking trails, paddle boarding, tennis, boating and fishing. Seafood boils and sunrises might conjure Otis Redding singing, “Sitting on the dock of the bay, watching the tide roll away.”  https://www.jekyllisland.com/

Barnsley Resort is an historic estate in North Georgia with English styling that features exquisite gardens and 55 accommodations that might include a clawfoot tub for soaking. The Fazio course is a visual treat to play with rolling fairways past lakes through forests with mountain views. Known for the best collection of par-3s in the southeast, greens are lightning fast. 

Fishing poles are complimentary and canoes available for paddling the ten-acre lake. Tour the Manor Ruins, hike trails on 3,000 acres or take a historic tour on horseback. Spa treatments are available on a limited basis with the steam, sauna and showers currently closed. The hunting grounds are open and touted by skeet shooting, two-time Olympic gold medalist Vincent Hancock as “remarkable to say the least, a secluded paradise.” 

Woodlands Grill is serving all meals each day and the Beer Garden is open Friday and Saturday. On site garden vegetables are an inspiration for the French chef. https://www.barnsleyresort.com/

Kingwood Resort is also in North Georgia at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains with a stocked pond for fishing, a zip line, paddle boarding, and outdoor adventure you will chat about for years to come. How about a whitewater trip on the Chattanooga River? Or hike and bike miles of onsite trails and through the Chattahoochee National Forest. Stay at the inn or in a 2- or 3-bedroom condo. 

There is nothing ordinary about the Kingwood Golf course. Dramatic elevation changes accentuate spectacular views. Scott Pool designed the small greens to require target approaches while enjoying the fresh air and striking fall foliage, not reserved for the north. Each hole is pictured and described on the website. http://kingwoodresort.com/

Lake Blackshear Resort and Golf Club takes great pride in their southern hospitality, two hours from Atlanta and one hour from Macon. It is home to another great Denis Griffith design – Georgia Veterans Memorial Golf Course or “Vet’s Course” for short. It lies within the Veterans State Park which has a military museum and a short line excursion train with historic stops. An archery and air rifle range add to the recreational list. 

In the middle of Georgia, the 8700-acre Lake Blackshear has a full-service marina with boat rentals, kayaks and guided trips. An abundance of bass, catfish and crappie make great fishing. Stay in one of the 64 lakeside villas for laid back views or one of the 10 cozy cabins or camp in the park. Have fun while honoring our veterans. https://www.lakeblackshearresort.com/

Callaway Resort and Gardens is nestled in a pine forest on the banks of Robin Lake with a one-mile white sand beach. This Triple A 4-star diamond resort was voted best Georgia attraction in 2018. Since 1952, the Callaway family have shared their 2500 acres with over 4000 azaleas and hydrangeas dazzling guests in the Gardens.  Admission includes Birds of Prey, Discovery and Butterfly Centers. 

Two championship golf courses are annually rated among the best in Georgia – the Lake View Course with an island green and the stunning Mountain View Course which hosted the PGA Buick Challenge for twelve years.

Enjoy the new suites at the Lodge, cottages, villas or the Mountain Creek Inn. Bring your masks, required indoors. Outdoors, Callaway’s natural playground offers a treetop adventure, geocaching, hiking, fishing, boating, tennis, and racing. Summer events include hot air ballooning and concerts. Maybe you’ll hear Johnny’s golden fiddle, that the devil lost when he went down to Georgia. https://www.callawaygardens.com/

As with any travel this year, check before you go to make sure what amenities are available, which dining facilities are open. Drive, fly or take the midnight train to Georgia. Gladys Knight had it right, “you gonna board that train to a simpler place in time.” Tune in to Georgia.