A Growing Georgia Gem: Reynolds Lake Oconee

Reynolds Lake Oconee

Each spring, the eyes of the golf world turn to Georgia. The fortunate out-of-state fans, er, patrons, who land tickets to attend the Masters Tournament typically fly into Atlanta and then drive due east to Augusta. Their destination: one of the game’s most exclusive and heralded private clubs. 

Focused as they are on the pimento cheese sandwiches and azaleas around Amen Corner, many golf fans might not realize they’re passing right by one of the game’s most celebrated golf destination properties. Almost exactly at the midway point between Atlanta and Augusta is Reynolds Lake Oconee, a resort community set on more than 350 miles of shoreline that boasts six championship courses. And soon, seven. 

Reynolds is a desirable and luxurious second-home location; USGA CEO Mike Whan has been a homeowner since his days as LPGA commissioner and his neighbors include a growing list of current and former football coaches, from Georgia’s Kirby Smart, South Carolina’s Shane Beamer and Penn State’s James Franklin to ex-Florida Gators coach Dan Mullen and retired NFL head man Bruce Arians. In addition to being a thriving community, Reynolds is also a popular vacation destination, with a Ritz-Carlton hotel as well as resort-style cottages and condominium rentals that offer guests all the comforts of home. 

And a plethora of great golf. 

One hundred and seventeen holes and counting, to be precise.

Reynolds Lake Oconee

Learning more about Reynolds Lake Oconee

Only two U.S. golf destinations have more golf holes than Reynolds Lake Oconee: Pinehurst Resort (N.C.), which is pushing its total to 189 holes with the opening of course No. 10, and Boyne Golf, which has 162 holes spread across three of its resorts in Northern Michigan and is soon adding another par-3 course.

On the edges of Lake Oconee – a massive man-made lake that has four times the shoreline of Georgia’s entire Atlantic Coast – Reynolds is adding more golf of its own. 

The Jack Nicklaus-designed Great Waters course recently underwent an extensive renovation, while the other publicly accessible 18-holers include The Oconee course from architect Rees Jones, and The Landing and The Preserve courses built by Bob Cupp that first helped position Reynolds as a golf destination. There is also a members’ course, the private and wonderfully quirky Creek Club designed by architect Jim Engh.  

Lastly, there is the 27-hole National course created by Tom Fazio. 

Fazio has returned to Reynolds to add another nine holes, resulting in his eventual 36 being split into two separate 18-hole courses. 

The new, as yet-unnamed, course, which will be available only to the 4,000 members within the growing community when it opens in 2024, will incorporate the nine new holes with the Bluff 9 from the National’s previous routing. The Ridge and Cove nines will be paired together and remain open for public play. 

In total, there are 90 holes open to resort guest play at this Georgia getaway, putting it just behind popular golf destinations like Bandon Dunes in Oregon, which has 103 holes (with more on the way) and PGA National’s 99 holes in South Florida. 

While all the resort courses at Reynolds are ranked among the best public layouts in Georgia, Great Waters is consistently near the very top of the list. The Nicklaus Signature course, which originally opened in 1992, underwent a massive 18-month renovation and rebuild before re-opening in 2019. There’s a wonderful balance of woodlands and lake holes, as the routing winds through densely wooded evergreens that open to reveal waterfront views. The final eight holes at Great Waters all sit directly on the lake, making for a finish that’s scenic and pulse-pounding all at once. 

The golf is front and center at Reynolds, but there’s so much more at the property with the world’s only lakefront Ritz-Carlton. 

There are 11 restaurants, four full-service marinas, 21 miles of walking and bike trails, a lakefront pool, and the Sandy Creek Sporting Grounds that offers outdoor activities from shooting and archery to fishing and an off-road course. 

The area itself has been a welcome retreat for families dating back a century. But it wasn’t until the Oconee River was dammed by Georgia Power in 1982 to create the state’s second-largest lake that the Reynolds club and community was created. For those who turn off the main highway between Atlanta and Augusta, the entry road to Reynolds Lake Oconee is called Linger Longer Road. It’s well-named, as Reynolds Lake Oconee isn’t an easy property to leave once you’ve experienced it. 

Reynolds Lake Oconee