The Georgia Golf Trail (www.georgiagolfandtravel.com) is celebrating its 5th anniversary and wants to let golfers around the country know about the great golf opportunities in GA. Sure there’s Augusta, but it will take an act of God for you to play there. If you’re looking for a course/destination that is more aesthetically pleasing than Augusta National, look no further than Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, GA.
Callaway Gardens was built as a tribute to Founder Cason Callaway’s mother, Ida Cason Callaway and opened to the public in May 1952. Originally, the Gardens consisted of nearly 13,000 acres adjacent to the Pine Mountain Ridge, although parcels of land have since been sold off. Of what’s left, only 2,500 acres have been developed and are maintained on a regular basis. Single family homes are starting to pop up in planned communities as the area continues to thrive.
Callaway Gardens is many things to many people. For the educator, it’s an oasis of nature, from the Discovery Center to the Birds of Prey Show to the Day Butterfly Center. Children of all ages can glean knowledge of the outdoors. For some, it’s a place to call home, as planned developments are starting to emerge amidst the flora and the fauna. For the bride-to-be, it’s a wedding and reception site. For the meeting planner, it’s one-stop shopping, and offers a venue to be both corporate and casual. For the sports enthusiast, it’s an endless array of activities: bicycling, boating, fishing, tennis, watersports and ziplining. And we haven’t even scratched the surface when it comes to golf.
As golf destinations and resorts go, Callaway Gardens is a hidden gem. Golf has been an on-property amenity since the Mountain View Course opened in 1965. This challenging, but playable layout will test your strategic and shotmaking abilities, just as PGA TOUR stars Davis Love III, David Duval, Steve Elkington, David Toms and Jonathan Byrd found out when the course hosted the Buick Challenge from 1991 to 2002. This Dick Wilson masterpiece has it all: rolling fairways, thick Bermuda rough, deep bunkers with grass tongues that can be quite penal and Champion Bermuda greens that roll fast and true. The slope on these greens can wreak havoc on a scorecard, especially when putting downhill.
Mountain View is all about the second shot. On the par 4s, accuracy and distance control is imperative if you have any hopes of scoring well. For the most part, the greens are slightly smaller than average; knowing where to hit the ball on approach is the key to getting it close. On the par 5s, the layup is important and can prove to be a challenge. Case in point, the par 5, Number 6 which plays 539 yards from the Blue Tees. Keeping the ball in play off the tee can prove to be a challenge with woods left and a sloping fairway that leads to the water all down the right side. Your second shot requires distance control as the water fingers its way back into the fairway; catching unsuspecting golfers off guard. Your approach shot is played uphill to a relative small green with very subtle undulations. No wonder this is the Number 1 handicap!
Keep it in the fairway off the tees, control your approach shots and watch your speed on the greens and you can bring this course to its knees. Just remember, some of your favorite PGA TOUR pros have tried and failed. Mountain View can play anywhere from 4,883 yards for the ladies to 7,057 yards for the men.
The Lake View Course at Callaway Gardens is considerably shorter than its big brother at only 6,158 yards from the back tees with a par of 70. You’ll also find wider fairways and more water hazards. In fact, water comes into play on at least nine holes (more if you spray it off the tee), including five holes that are routed along scenic Mountain Creek Lake. Lake View was designed by Dick Wilson and J.B. McGovern, a longtime assistant and protégé of the legendary Donald Ross. Cason Callaway provided a lot of the inspiration for the Lake View Course, saying that “if a golfer lifts his or her head on a shot, they should see something beautiful.” And indeed, they do!
The course is beautifully landscaped with azaleas, dogwoods and seasonal flowers, but don’t let that lull you into a false sense of security. While Lake View may not be the longest course on property, it still deserves your undivided attention. Placement is everything off the tee, especially on the doglegs; try and cut them too close and you could be blocked out on your second shot. A lot of the challenge here is steering clear of the water, in fact, no matter what your score, if you manage to get around the course without losing a ball, you’ve accomplished something.
There are a couple of memorable holes for me on the Lake View Course. One would be Number 10. At only 163 yards from the back tees, this par 3 features an island green, which is small and well undulated. Best to check the wind before your tee shot. The finishing hole is also quite memorable (365 yards from the Blue Tees), a slight dogleg right that requires a well-struck drive to make the dogleg, followed by an accurate approach shot over water. A third memorable hole is Number 3, a short par 4 (337 yards from the Blue Tees) that plays slightly uphill off the tee and downhill on approach. What’s memorable about this hole is the periscope adjacent to the tee used to spy on the group in front of you.
With yardage ranging from 4,473 yards for the ladies to 6,158 for the men, Lake View has something to offer everyone. And after the round visit Spa Prunifolia, which offers a perfect way for guests to unwind. This full-service spa offers many treatments inspired by nature’s healing elements and infused with plants, fruits, flowers and herbs, many of which are grown onsite.
During your stay, you’re going to need a place to lay your head at night and Callaway Gardens has several options including the Lodge & Spa, Mountain Creek Inn and Villas and Southern Pine Cottages. There’s even a “Sky View” cottage that is perfect for golfers with four bedrooms; each with its own full bath. It’s located within easy walking distance of the pro shop.
If you are looking to relocate or invest in a second home and would like to consider Callaway Gardens as a new address, you can get more information at www.CallawayGardensLiving.com.
Callaway Gardens is offering some great packages throughout 2017, for both golfers and non-golfers. There’s just so much to do at this resort, it’s hard to put it in just one article. For more information or to make a reservation, you can call Callaway Gardens at 800-852-3810 or visit their website at www.callawaygardens.com.