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Georgia's top 10 golf courses on our minds

By Tim McDonald, Contributor

Georgia is home to the Bulldogs, Braves and the sweetest peaches you'll ever eat. It's also home to some great golf courses, and, in particular, one of the best in the world, Augusta National.

Georgia - top-10
Kinderlou Forest Golf Club is an excellent, Davis Love III design.
Georgia - top-10

The state has the varied terrain to make a host of vastly different courses, from the highlands in the north to the wind-swept, marshy coastal areas in the east. Here then, are TravelGolf.com's top 10 courses in Georgia, a subjective list that takes into account personal observation and input from Georgia insiders, golf pros and players good and bad.

No. 1 - Augusta National, Augusta: Enough said. One of the most revered golf courses in the U.S. and the world, and home to the Masters, perhaps the most revered golf tournament in the world.

Chairman Hootie Johnson and the boys may be old-fashioned when it comes to gender equality, but they try hard to keep up with changing times when it comes to golf. They've made changes to six holes before this year's tournament, involving holes 1, 4, 7, 11, 15 and 17.

Each of the changes include moving the Masters tees back from 10-40 yards, adding overall length to the course, which is now about 7,445 yards, up from 7,290. A classic Bobby Jones and Alister Mackenzie design.

No. 2 - Ocean Forest Golf Club, Sea Island: This private, Rees Jones course opened in 1995 and has a traditional front nine, with flat terrain and tree-lined fairways, while the back nine brings more of a links-style into play, opening onto the Georgia coast and the Atlantic ocean.

The three finishing holes in particular bring the ocean and the wind that comes sweeping off it into play. Water and marsh carries make this course difficult, even for the pros. Length is 7,140 yards and green fees range from $60-$110.

No. 3 - Peachtree Golf Club, Atlanta: The bentgrass greens are the story here. They are fast, undulating and well-bunkered, and 10 of them are multi-tiered. A creek feeds several lakes on the course, bringing water into play on 14 of the holes.

This is a classic Robert Trent Jones Sr. work that opened in 1947. It's a private course, 7,043 yards long with a slope rating of 139 from the back tees. Caddies are a must if you want to walk the course.

No. 4 - East Lake Golf Club, Atlanta: The home course of Bobby Jones, this course has an interesting history to go with its quality.

Originally opened in 1908, Donald Ross re-designed it in 1913. But, it fell into disrepair when the neighborhood around it dissolved into gangs, guns and drugs. In 1993, a charitable organization bought it and the next year Rees Jones restored Ross' original layout.

Now, all profits from the club go into helping the continuing revitalization of the neighborhood. It's 7,112 yards. The par-3 sixth hole plays to an angled green that juts out into a lake. The course has hosted 17 major championships.

No. 5 - Kinderlou Forest, Valdosta: The dominant feature of Kinderlou Forest Golf Club is an old borrow pit that comes into play early on. The dirt from the ravine was used to help build U.S. Highway 84, which was started back in the 1920s and which now reaches to Colorado, with one extension running to the Texas-Mexico border.

The deep ravine is a dramatic, man-made feature, with its red Georgia clay, and gives some holes an almost, canyonesque, Southwest feel. The course is difficult, measuring 7,781 yards from the back tees, a handful even for the long-hitting pros. An excellent, Davis Love III design.

No. 6 - Sea Island Golf Club, (Seaside), St. Simons Island: This is a resort course designed by H.S. Colt and C.H. Alison, with a remodeling by Tom Fazio. As the name implies, it's a seaside course with native sand dunes serving as architectural signposts.

The greens are surrounded by swales and large, high-lipped bunkers. The course is only 6,657 yards long, and it plays fast and firm, especially when ocean winds dry out fairways. Peak green fees are in the $200 range.

No. 7 - Atlanta Country Club, Marietta: The club opened in 1964 with the goal of hosting a PGA Tour event, which it has done many times. The original design is by Willard Byrd, but Jack Nicklaus, Bob Cupp and Mike Riley have all lent helping hands.

All 18 of the green complexes have been redesigned and renovated. The course is laid out adjacent to Sope Creek and Confederate paper mill ruins can be easily seen from the 13th hole. Two active members, Joe Inman and Larry Nelson, have won tournaments on both the regular and Champions tours.

No. 8 - TPC at Sugarloaf, Duluth: Greg Norman's first design in the U.S., a little north of Atlanta. The course plays through more than 1,000 acres of rolling terrain decorated with oaks, pine and maple trees.

It's a parkland course built on a site that was once used to breed Tennessee walking horses, and has streams, lakes and hills. The course has hosted the BellSouth Classic since 1997. Though there are only 60 bunkers, the large greens fall off to difficult drop-off areas.

No. 9 - Arrowhead Pointe, Elberton: The course is part of the Georgia state park system and located at Richard B. Russell State Park, about 50 miles east of Athens.

It's not the most challenging of the Georgia state park courses, but by far it is the most scenic, situated on a peninsula that juts out onto 26,500-acre Lake Russell: 10 of the 18 holes have lake views and the back nine is about as close as you can come to a pristine experience and still be on a golf course.

"We started with probably one of the best pieces of ground that I have ever worked on, in 32 years of work," architect Bob Walker told TravelGolf.com. "I just couldn't have found a better site, honestly. They pretty much gave me free reign. They said, ‘here's 400 acres, put the golf course wherever you need to."

No. 10 - Hawks Ridge Golf Club, Ball Ground: Hawks Ridge was designed by Bob Cupp, and travels through 500 acres of trees, mostly pine and hardwood.

It has a variety of water hazards and changing elevations. Just north of Atlanta, Hawks Ridge has a reputation as a superbly well-conditioned course.

Tim McDonaldTim McDonald, Contributor

Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

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