YOUNG HARRIS, Ga. - One of Brasstown Valley Resort's marketing lines entices: Not Too Far. Just Far Enough. The suggestion being that it's easy to get to from the region's major metropolitan areas - approximately two hours from Atlanta, Chattanooga, Tenn., Asheville, N.C., and Greenville, S.C. - but distant enough to drop you into a forested refuge that blurs stress, smog and traffic jams from your mental rear view mirror.
It is also an applicable summation to the getaway sanctuary's challenging 18-hole Dennis Griffiths' layout. Its quick and true greens demand that, if you want to score well, you roll your putts Not Too Far, Just Far Enough for lots of birdies and tap-in pars.
Brasstown Valley Resort, which opened in 1995, is a 503-acre mountainous escape surrounded by the Chattahoochee National Forest. It sits just outside the town of Young Harris, a hamlet best known in Georgia's political circles. It is the lifelong home of current U.S. Senator Zell Miller, who taught history and political science at close-knit Young Harris College (enrollment 600) prior to and after serving two popular terms as the state's governor.
The golfing opportunity here is memorable - and more on that critical component in a moment. But, attack me with a rusty Kallassy's Swing Trainer for saying this in a digital golf publication, Brasstown Valley Resort is such a relaxing and tranquil place that you might be just as fulfilled sitting serenely in a rocking chair on the veranda for the length of your stay, sipping glasses of merlot from the nearby Crane Creek Vineyards, gazing at the Blue Ridge Mountain ridges and savoring excerpts from your favorite tome (Dave Pelz's Putting Bible, of course).
A calming sensation may overcome you for several reasons. The grounds at Brasstown Valley Resort are beautifully landscaped and maintained. The staff exudes a genuine, how-are-you-today sincerity. The dining is - excuse the lack of a food critic's adjectives (and accompanying pretentiousness) - ample and excellent. The pace is what you want it to be. And the resort just recently completed a $1.4 million renovation that includes new mountain-style decorations and snooze-inducing bedding accessories in its comfortable 102 lodge rooms and eight separate log cottages.
Let's just say that it is so easy to get lulled into a sense of relaxation at BVR that for the first time in your life you might need to leave yourself a Post-It note reminder of your tee time. Just make sure you don't miss it. Golf Digest ranked the course as one of the top five places you can play in Georgia, a ringing endorsement in a state awash with quality golfing opportunities.
The Scottish-links style course will snap you out of any achieved sedation on the first tee. No. 1, a 400-yard par-4, requires a calculated downhill drive to the landing area. It is then back up the hill on a mostly blind approach shot to get your round started on this challenging layout.
While Brasstown Valley caters primarily to the golf games of resort guests, it has also hosted a succession of professional and amateur events as its schedule has allowed. The LPGA Futures Tour has played here. Junior golfers frequently have had their skills and improvement levels severely tested on this track. Brasstown Valley Resort has hosted the Atlanta Junior Golf Association Grand Championship three times.
Brett Beazley, the Director of Golf, has been here since April 1997. He is joined by former LPGA Tour player Lorie McCabe, who splits her time between here and Naples, Fla. She offers her K.I.S.S. (you know - Keep It Simple, Stupid) Golf Schools at Brasstown Valley that cater lessons primarily to women and couples at every skill level.
Speaking of lessons, the most valuable one you can learn is to keep your golf ball out of the tall and punitive native grasses that closely hug many of the fairways. It will snag and devour errant shots with the same tenacity as gorse or ice plant. If you're daring enough to carry a 1- or 2-iron in your bag, you might consider replacing them with a Poulan Weed Eater and a swing blade if direction off the tee is an afterthought to distance.
Water, in the body of Brasstown Creek, and neck-craning scenery are constant companions on this course. Brasstown Bald, Georgia's highest peak at an elevation of 4,784 feet and only 20 minutes from the resort, seemingly watches over your every shot. There are also views of Three Sisters Mountain off to the west that can provide a backdrop for a dazzling sunset if you pull your ball out of the cup on No. 18 as dusk approaches.
No. 6, a 405-yard par-4, is the most visually intimidating and sternest test on the front nine. A large pond runs down the entire left side of this dogleg left hole. Man-made mounds protrude up the right side of the fairway and can be a saving grace to keep you in play if you overcompensate for the water. The pond also protects the left side of a smallish green. You could say utilizing Zell Miller's politics, conservative and slightly to the right, may be your best play for avoiding a big number on this No. 2-handicapped hole.
As mentioned, No. 18 can provide some splendid views from the green. The task is getting there. This 438-yard par-4 plays uphill and requires two of your best knocks to have a chance at the green. It is unquestionably the No. 1 handicapped hole on the course. Play it in par or better and you can go straight to the McDivot's Sports Pub to have a libation celebration. Play it in bogey or worse and you can go straight to the McDivot's Sports Pub to rehash how the wind was in your face and a rabbit distracted your backswing. And then have a libation celebration.
Brasstown Valley Resort can keep you occupied both on and off the course. It has four lighted hard courts for tennis players. Serious hikers and casual strollers can explore any or all of the Miller Trek, a 9.2-trail that winds through the property. There is an on-site fitness facility, massage therapy, saunas and a heated indoor/outdoor pool.
This is also a kid-friendly resort. The seasonably available Mountaineer's Kid's Club allows children from 5 to 17 to participate in craft making, wildlife hikes and storytelling, among other activities, while supervised by a trained staff. Or they can just hang out and chill in the electronic game room.
Brasstown Valley Resort is a delightful escape destination from the workaday world. But it also pampers those looking to mix business with their pleasure. The 14,200-square foot Conference Center at Brasstown Valley Resort can accommodate groups up to 320. It includes six conference rooms, two boardrooms and the Trackrock Amphitheater, featuring the latest in high-tech audiovisual gear.
Lake Chatuge, a 7,500-acre reservoir that offers the gamut of water activities, is only two miles away. Horseback riding can be had at the nearby Trackrock Stables. There's whitewater rafting on up to Class V rapids on the Chattooga River (site of the movie "Deliverance") and more sedate trips down the Ocoee River that run through the whitewater course used in the 1996 Summer Olympic Games.
There are also concerts and festivals at the Georgia Mountain Fair in nearby Hiawassee, wine tasting at Crane Creek Vineyard, shopping in the Bavarian-themed town of Helen and demonstrations of Appalachian crafts at the John C. Campbell Folk School.
If you do choose to leave the self-contained confines of Brasstown Valley Resort to make outside visits, remember that is Not Too Far to any of the surrounding locales, but Just Far Enough to make you want to hurry back to a comfortable rocking chair on the veranda, a glass of wine and Dave Pelz's next chapter on The Seven Building Blocks of Putting Stroke Mechanics.
August 17, 2003