As one of the most well-known cities in America, Atlanta is a diverse destination that features culture, arts, sports and seemingly endless things to do indoors and outdoors.
The Big Peach, as some like to call it (dozens of streets have the word “peach” in their name), has played host to the Olympics, Super Bowls and lots of great golf events. There’s nothing pretentious about Atlanta, which also boasts a presidential library and other great museums, local cuisine, nightclubs and nice weather most of the year.
Indeed, Atlanta is the genuine article, the real thing, much like the famous tagline of Coca-Cola which was invented in Atlanta in the late 1800s and is still headquartered there today. And by the way, the World of Coca-Cola museum — for anyone who’s ever enjoyed a Coke, and that would include just about all of us — is a must-see for those who have a little time to kill in the big city.
This is also the hometown of the great Bobby Jones, who grew up playing at East Lake Golf Club, where he would also become East Lake’s most celebrated member. The club’s century-plus old course (designed by Tom Bendelow and redesigned by Donald Ross) was restored in 1994 by Rees Jones and has served as the site of the PGA Tour Championship for decades.
Needless to say, Atlanta is a city that has deep roots in the game of golf, and we are going to give you a breakdown of some of our favorite resorts and public access courses in the greater Atlanta area.
Resort options near Atlanta
One of the most complete and well-known resorts located near this booming metropolis is Reynolds Lake Oconee. Located 85 miles east of Atlanta on the way to Augusta, it is part of a 12,000-acre community that includes a spectacular lake for fishing and water sports, six incredible golf courses, The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds Lake Oconee, a selection of fully furnished luxury condominiums and homes for rent, and plenty of other amenities.
The golf portion includes the recently renovated Great Waters Course, a Jack Nicklaus Signature design that plays host to several high profile events, including an LPGA Tour event in 2020 and the PGA Club Professional Championship in 2008 (The Landing was also used). Nicklaus is just one of several big-name architects to design the courses at Reynolds. The aforementioned Bob Cupp created both The Preserve and The Landing courses; Tom Fazio designed The National; and Jim Engh did The Creek Club, a wonderfully quirky, mound-laden course that is only accessible to members. Many of these courses feature holes bordering the lake, impeccable conditioning and the great imagination of the designers that provide you with layouts that are enjoyable and memorable.
Reynolds Lake Oconee also offers some of the best practice facilities in the world. They include The Kingdom of Golf, one of the most advanced and complete clubfitting and instructional facilities in the world. All-in-all, a golf vacation at Reynolds Lake Oconee is one of the very best in the United States.
Another favorite amongst golfers is Chateau Elan Winery and Resort in Braselton, about 45 minutes from downtown Atlanta. Besides world-class golf, it has a terrific winery to go with its hotel and spa. The winery’s restaurant is also stellar, and so are the three golf courses at Chateau Elan, most notably the original Chateau Course. Designed by Denis Griffiths, the course features captivating elevation changes, water features and some really nice par-3s. Griffiths himself oversaw the renovation of this course in 2016.
Another great choice is Stone Mountain Golf Club, located at the Atlanta Evergreen Marriott Conference Resort 21 miles from downtown Atlanta. Unlimited golf packages are offered on two outstanding courses — the difficult Stonemont Course designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr., and the John LaFoy-designed Lakemont Course, which brings a lot of water into play.
A couple of other Atlanta-area resorts to consider are Barnsley Resort, 70 miles northwest of the city in Adairsville, and Callaway Gardens, which is about 80 miles southwest of Atlanta. The Jim Fazio Course at Barnsley is one of the most beautiful and highly rated in Georgia. Callaway Gardens has two courses, Lake View and Mountain View, and used to stage the PGA Tour’s Buck Challenge.
Public golf courses near Atlanta
There are dozens of public golf courses in Atlanta, and we’ve taken the pleasure of outlining some local area favorites that visitors continue to rave about.
Bobby Jones, whose imprint on Georgia golf is massive, including his founding of Augusta National Golf Club, is also celebrated at Bobby Jones Golf Course (Azalea, Cupp Links, Magnolia) a municipal layout magnificently re-imagined in 2018 by the late Bob Cupp, who lived in Atlanta and is enshrined in the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame. The course, which was reduced from a cramped 18 holes into a reversible nine-hole course with eight teeing areas on each hole so it can be played in seemingly endless configurations, is another one of Atlanta’s golf gems. Located near the Buckhead region of the city, it has a linksy feel to it, with views of downtown Atlanta.
Bear’s Best in Suwanee is another Atlanta-area favorite. The high-end daily fee is a compilation of some of Nicklaus’ best courses and holes, including Shoal Creek, Muirfield Village, the Champions Course at PGA National, Castle Pines and the PGA Centenary Course at Gleneagles.
An additional enjoyable course is Echelon Golf Club, a Rees Jones design originally destined to be a high-end private club. Located in Alpharetta, the club, which is rated among the top courses in Georgia, is semi-private, so everyone can play it. Echelon is a big golf course with plenty of panoramic views and a 32-acre practice facility. It’s also meticulously maintained giving you that private club feel even though it can be enjoyed by all.
Not too far from the Bobby Jones Golf Course is another recently restored gem, the Charlie Yates Golf Course. Rees Jones designed this near 2,000-yard, par-30 course that can be played in an hour or so. Well-conditioned and interesting, it’s perfect for a late afternoon or early evening round or as an add-on to Bobby Jones.
Another popular daily fee is The Frog, located just west of Atlanta in Villa Rica. The Troon-operated Frog is a Tom Fazio design with wide fairways and plenty of interesting bunkers. It is a blast to play and also an Audubon Sanctuary course.
Cherokee Run, an Arnold Palmer-Ed Seay design in Conyers, is another great choice. Playing more than 7,100 yards from the tips, the course has zoysia fairways and bentgrass greens.
And finally, if you’re looking for golf right off the plane, check out Browns Mill Golf Course. This Atlanta municipal is just 6,500 yards from the tips, but it’s a fun parkland layout that’s most affordable.
Atlanta is an incredible city that offers exceptional golf in addition to a multitude of activities to enjoy off the course. If you’re looking to visit strictly with golf in mind, we highly recommend Reynolds Lake Oconee as your go-to destination. The resort is fantastic, the service is always impeccable, and with five courses for resort guests to choose from you’ll have all of the top-tier golf you can handle. The resort also features a spectacular Ritz-Carlton hotel, and a multitude of cottages and condominiums that are perfect for golf groups or family getaways.