By Mike May
The quality of the golf experience at The Oconee Course at the Reynolds Lake Oconee is on par with the quality of the Ritz Carlton Lodge that sits across the street. If I had to limit my description of this stay-and-play experience to just four words, they would be pure, pleasant, photogenic and peaceful, with an emphasis on the latter.
Upon arrival at the first tee of The Oconee, you are on the cusp of a magical sightseeing and strategic golf journey, that won’t finish until you walk off the 18th green.
The opening hole at The Oconee is a 500+ yard par five and you can’t help but take note of the beauty and serenity of the course. What’s unique about this course is that you get that same special feeling on every single tee. It’s important to admire the breadth and depth of every hole before you strike your tee shots.
Golf course designer Rees Jones ‘got it right,’ when he designed The Oconee, one of six golf courses at Reynolds Oconee, located 80 miles east of Atlanta.
“The classic golf course that we designed fits the land perfectly,” says Jones. “The topography is such that the green sites are natural and the finishing holes on both nines are spectacular.”
Even if you don’t play well at The Oconee, your memories of those tall Georgia pines acting as sentries alongside well-manicured fairways will put a smile on your face as you reflect on the privilege of spending a few hours in a wooded paradise trying to hit a little dimpled ball into 18 finely cut holes.
While the greens are rather large, which gives the superintendent a variety of pin-placement options, they are receptive, consistent, fair, and fast (but not too fast!). Missed putts at The Oconee are normally the result of, ‘pilot error.’
When The Oconee first opened in January of 2003, Golf Digest named it as one of the “Best New Upscale Courses.” Since then, The Oconee has remained in the “Top 100 Resort Courses” by Golfweek.
To keep the golf experience at The Oconee fair, the course has five sets of tees, which are marked very simply, ‘one,’ ‘two,’ ‘three,’ ‘four,’ and ‘five,’ with ‘one’ representing the back tees. The distance from the back tees is a shade over 7,000 yards while the distance from the ‘five’ tees is just less than 5,200 yards. There is a distance for every handicap at The Oconee. For the avid/competitive players, the scorecard suggests a mixture of the ‘two’ and ‘three’ tees, which is referred to as the ‘tournament’ distance.
The final attributes of The Oconee experience, which sets it apart, are its customer service and convenience. At the end of your round, if you feel that your golf game needs some ‘TLC,’ The Reynolds Golf Academy, featuring the personal instruction of the highly acclaimed Charlie King, one of Golf Digest’s “50 Best Teachers.”
Finally, as was mentioned at the beginning of this story, if you are going to play a first-class golf course, you need ‘hang your hat’ at a first-class resort. It just so happens that The Ritz-Carlton Lodge, Reynolds Plantation is so close to The Oconee that it’s more accessible with a short golf cart ride than driving your car.
When you stay at the Ritz-Carlton, the quality of the visit, as well as, the list of amenities are on par with the splendid memories that will be made while ‘on tour’ across the street at The Oconee.
In a nutshell, The Oconee will create an indelible memory for anybody who plays it. The attention to detail at this course is what sets it apart from many resort golf courses.
Reynolds Lake Oconee also makes the perfect stop for snowbirds heading south. Visit their website: https://www.reynoldslakeoconee.com/golf/