A visit to the Reynolds Plantation can create a bit of a problem, namely how to best to take advantage of all the activities. Play the world class golf courses, take a lesson at the Golf School, get a club fitting at The Kingdom and then there’s the spa, tennis, swimming, hiking, kayaking, water skiing, boating and…well, you get the idea.
And then there’s that one activity at which I especially excel, relaxing in a comfortable chair looking out over Lake Oconee in the company of a good book and tall cool beverage.
Located half way between Atlanta and Augusta makes the 10,000-acre Reynolds Plantation a favorite base for those attending the Masters and during a recent visit we stayed at the 251-room Ritz-Carlton Lodge. Situated lakeside the accommodations are first class and will please the most discerning traveler.
Particularly impressive was the service from the Ritz-Carlton staff. Their helpful attitude was reflected in their smiles and hello’s and it was the same from every staff member we encountered. Each one without fail.
Now wonder guests return time and again.
Ritz-Carlton Lodge general manager Ralph Vick makes the point, to attract guests it’s not enough to have a beautiful first class facility. The people must be committed to providing matching service and obviously Vick has been successful.
Reynolds Plantation has six golf courses and five are available to guests since the Creek Club (a Jim Engh design which opened in 2007) is private.
A must-play is Great Waters built on a peninsula jutting into Lake Oconee. For the first eight holes this 1992 Jack Nicklaus layout plays over fairly hilly terrain b
Putt starting on the ninth, heading out toward the lake, there are some really spectacular views. On the final nine, water is never far away and though there are only four forced carries the combination of bunkers and water make course management a priority.
A good example is the short downhill par-4 11th and prudent golfers will use less than a driver from the tee but the really adventurous may give driver a go and aim for a strip of fairway less than 20-yards wide running around the end of the lake. The green is wide and shallow and the second shot must contend with water fronting the putting surface and encircling sand. This can be a birdie opportunity but when we played our group posted a four, two sixes and an “in-my-pocket.”
Next you might tee it up at the National and if you are fan of Tom Fazio’s work this course will be a treat. Opening in 1997 it has three nines each with lots of elevation changes, the Ridge and Bluff nines being routed through hills and forests and most of the Cove nine along Lake Oconee.
The par-3s on The National are almost worth the trip by themselves with the 7th on the Bluff nine as a good example. It plays steeply downhill and long – we were playing the “Members Tees” set at 191-yards and the pin was 8 back of center – with a carry over a creek and sand left and right. However, it’s beautiful and the background of azaleas in bloom was worth a lingering look.
Focusing solely on National’s par-3s though is a mistake since the par-5s are extremely challenging as well. Take the 6th on the Ridge nine which can be stretched to 574-yards and forces a decision on the tee for the line you will hit the drive since the second shot is downhill and depending on the pin location you may be flirting with either water or sand.
Rees Jones, son of legendary architect Robert Trent Jones and known as the “Open Doctor” for his work preparing courses for the U.S. Open, followed the natural terrain in building the Oconee course. A good description of what to expect is found in a quotation from Jones, “Oconee was built on a piece of ground with the same type of topography as a course of yesteryear, the kind my father used to design.
Oconee’s long par-4 18th, is an apt example and one of the toughest and most memorable holes on the course. The tee shot must carry the lake which runs all the way to the green but going to the right off the tee is not safe either since it’s lined with bunkers. Your second shot will most likely be a wood or hybrid and must avoid large bunkers front left and front right, not to mention the water farther left. Par here will feel like a birdie.
The other two courses, both by Bob Cupp, are The Plantation (1988) a wonderful resort style layout while The Landing (1986) was the first course built on Lake Oconee.
A highlight of my stay was a session with the staff at The Kingdom, TaylorMade Golf’s hi-tech fitting center at Reynolds Plantation previously available only to PGA Tour professionals. The results of the driver fitting session added 15-yards to my tee shots and the process is really worthwhile for any golfer who wants to hit it better, farther and post lower scores and which of us doesn’t want to do that?
So it’s plain, with all the activities at The Reynolds Plantation it makes an excellent destination for either a golf trip or family vacation.