Even for the devout golfer with a “I’d rather being driving a Titleist (or TaylorMade)” bumper sticker, the options at Reynolds Lake Oconee are a bit overwhelming. There are six golf courses and 117 holes of golf. Recently, a “Quick Six” was added within its Preserve course – its six holes are all under 130 yards and can be played in about an hour. The practice and fitting facility is literally a kingdom – the Reynolds Kingdom of Golf Presented by TaylorMade is a destination unto itself. Las Vegas’ commitment to wagering and Orlando’s pledge to theme parks are greater, but Reynolds’ commitment to golf takes a backseat to no community.
On the first tee of The National designed by Tom Fazio, the starter offered a target, “I recommend you get one started about 15 yards right of that bunker on the left and you’ll be fine. Now, a few weeks ago at our member-guest, Ben Roethlisberger, he’s a member here, well, he went right over the top of that trap. He can really hit it a long way. In fact, he and his partner won the whole thing, Big Ben’s a scratch player.”
Hot on the tracks of the starting quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers, we were off. Reynolds is just 78 miles from Augusta National Golf Club – the rolling terrain, flora and fauna are similar indeed. Early that morning the greens were rolled and the insides of the cups were painted bright white. Its large honest greens were the best we saw. Any putt over 20-feet was an adventure with plenty of slopes and turns, they were beautiful. Little waterfalls, bendy streams and charming bridges catch the eye throughout the round. Like cufflinks or a pocket square to a suit, these details add a touch of class. And perhaps the most underrated golf course amenity of them all — cart path curbs throughout help keep the fairways fluffy.
The consensus is that The Oconee by Rees Jones, Great Waters by Jack Nicklaus and The Creek Club by Jim Engh (members only) are better than Tom Fazio’s The National. The Landing and The Preserve were the first golf courses built at Reynolds, it seems they’re the least desired. To each their own and with six to choose from – the best golf course probably changes depending on seasonal conditions. The Preserve is the only golf course with bent grass greens – surely, they are a treat during the cooler temperatures of late autumn and early spring.
At its essence, Reynolds is a private golf community. The best way to experience Reynolds is to buy and stay a while, two bedroom homes start at less than $200,000 and there are four marinas to launch the boat. Mornings on the golf course and afternoons on Lake Oconee is a perfect day at Reynolds. Lakefront homes with spots to park boats, jet skis, kayaks and standup paddleboards start in the $600’s.
Visitors have a few options: check-in at the Ritz-Carlton or rent a cottage. Stay and play packages start at $229 per person, per night, based on double occupancy. An extra round of golf can be added for $99. Understandably, rates spike on special occasions such as the Masters, Fourth of July or Memorial Weekend.
Memories from golf vacations are interesting and can come from unlikely places. The New York Strip from Linger Longer Steakhouse inside of the Ritz-Carlton is one that will last; it was perfect. The “Mater Sandwich” with fresh tomato and thick cut braised bacon on a ciabatta bun was in rhythm with the Georgia vibes. On the #7 tee box of The National, a downhill par three with little stream on the right – high in the sky a Red-tailed Hawk circled and filled the pine tree cove with its yell. That hawk is forever burned in our memory.
Our final round of golf was with Larry Mclaughlin from near London, England, “Back in Europe we pay a lot to play golf, the customer service is awful and the weather is unpredictable. I’ve been coming to Reynolds for eight years and I love it. The people are so friendly.”