10 best golf courses in Scotland

St. Andrews is spectacular, but there’s more magic at the home of golf than just The Old Course.

The golf world returns home as the 150th Open Championship will be played at the Old Course at St. Andrews.

The fans are excited, the Tour pros are excited, even the LIV golfers are allowed in on the action.

We know that most golf fans will spend the next week and more dreaming of hitting the Scottish links, so we here at Golfweek are doing everything within our power to make that dream a bit more real.

Last week we gave you some of the best U.K. golf vacations out there, but this week our focus narrows to Scotland and the 10 best courses that the home of golf has to offer.

These rankings come directly from the hundreds of Golfweek’s Best Raters for 2021 who continually evaluated courses and rated them based on our 10 criteria. They also filed a single, overall rating on each course. Those overall ratings on each course are averaged to produce a final rating for each course.

For more of Golfweek’s Best course lists, check out the most recent selection of course rankings:

We occasionally recommend interesting products, services, and gaming opportunities. If you make a purchase by clicking one of the links, we may earn an affiliate fee. Golfweek operates independently, though, and this doesn’t influence our coverage.

Golfweek’s Best Courses You Can Play 2022: Top 100 U.S. public-access courses ranked

Where are the best places you can play golf in the U.S.? Our rankings of the best 100 public courses for 2022 will be your guide.

Welcome to the Golfweek’s Best 2022 list of the Top 100 Best Courses You Can Play in the U.S.

Each year we publish many lists, with this selection of public-access layouts among the premium offerings. Also extremely popular and significant are the lists for Top 200 Classic Courses, Top 200 Modern Courses, the Best Courses You Can Play State by State and Best Private Courses State by State.

The hundreds of members of our course-ratings panel continually evaluate courses and rate them based on 10 criteria on a points basis of 1 through 10. They also file a single, overall rating on each course. Those overall ratings are averaged to produce these rankings. The top handful of courses in the world have an average rating of above 9, while many excellent layouts fall into the high-6 to the 8 range.

All the courses on this list allow public access in some fashion, be it standard daily green fees, through a resort or by staying at an affiliated hotel. If there’s a will, there’s a tee time.

Each course is listed with its average rating next to the name, the location, the year it opened and the designers. Also included with many courses are links to recent stories about that layout.

KEY: (m) modern, built in 1960 or after; (c) classic, built before 1960. Also included with many courses are links to recent stories about that layout.

* Indicates new to or returning to this list.

Golfweek’s Best Private Courses 2022: State-by-state rankings of private courses

The best of the best. State-by-state rankings of the best U.S. private golf courses in 2022.

Welcome to Golfweek’s Best 2022 list of top private golf courses in the U.S., as judged by our international panel of raters.

The hundreds of members of that ratings panel continually evaluate courses and rate them based on 10 criteria on a points basis of 1 through 10. They also file a single, overall rating on each course. Those overall ratings are averaged to produce these rankings.

All the courses on this list are private and don’t accept daily-fee or resort play.

KEY: (m) modern, built in 1960 or after; (c) classic, built before 1960. For courses with a number preceding the (m) or (c), that is where the course ranks on Golfweek’s Best lists for top 200 modern and classic courses in the U.S. Also included with many courses are links to recent stories about that layout.

* indicates new or returning to the rankings

Golfweek’s Best Courses You Can Play 2022: State-by-state rankings for public-access layouts

Where are the best places you can play golf in all 50 states? Our state-by-state rankings of the best public courses for 2022 will be your guide.

Looking to peg it up at the best public-access golf courses in each state? We have you covered.

With this 2022 list of Golfweek’s Best Courses You Can Play, we present the top public-access courses in each state, as judged by our nationwide network of raters.

The hundreds of members of our course-ratings panel continually evaluate courses and rate them based on 10 criteria on a points basis of 1 through 10. They also file a single, overall rating on each course. Those overall ratings are averaged to produce these rankings.

All the courses on this list allow public access in some fashion, be it standard daily green fees, through a resort or by staying at an affiliated hotel. If there’s a will, there’s a tee time.

KEY: (m) modern, built in 1960 or after; (c) classic, built before 1960. For courses with a number preceding the (m) or (c), that is where the course ranks on Golfweek’s Best lists for top 200 modern and classic courses in the U.S. Also included with many courses are links to recent stories about that layout.

* indicates new or returning to the rankings

Editor’s note: The Golfweek’s Best rankings of top private courses in each state will be published Monday, June 6.

Golfweek’s Best Classic Courses 2022: From Pebble Beach to Pinehurst, the top 200 golf courses built before 1960

Golfweek’s raters have ranked the top 200 courses built in the United States before 1960, such as Augusta National, Pebble Beach and more

Welcome to the Golfweek’s Best 2022 list of the Top 200 Classic Courses before 1960 in the United States.

Each year we publish many lists, with this Top 200 Classic Courses list among the premium offerings. Also extremely popular and significant are the lists for Top 200 Modern Courses, the Best Courses You Can Play State by State and Best Private Courses State by State.

The hundreds of members of our course-ratings panel continually evaluate courses and rate them based on 10 criteria on a points basis of 1 through 10. They also file a single, overall rating on each course. Those overall ratings are averaged to produce these rankings. The top handful of courses in the world have an average rating of above 9, while many excellent layouts fall into the high-6 to the 8 range.

To ensure these lists are up-to-date, Golfweek’s Best in recent years has altered how the individual ratings are compiled into the rankings. Only ratings from rounds played in the past 10 years are included in the compilations. This helps ensure that any course in the rankings still measures up.

Courses also must have a minimum of 25 votes to qualify for the Top 200 Modern or the Top 200 Classic. Other Golfweek’s Best lists, such as Best Courses You Can Play or Best Private, do not require as many votes. This makes it possible that a course can show up on other lists but not on the premium Top 200 lists.

Each course is listed with its average rating next to the name, the location, the year it opened and the designers. The list also notes in parenthesis next to the name of each course where that course ranked in 2021. Also included with many courses are links to recent stories about that layout.

After the designers are several designations that note what type of facility it is:

• p: private
• d: daily fee
• r: resort course
• t: tour course
• u: university
• m: municipal
• re: real estate
• c: casino

* Indicates new to or returning to this list.

Editor’s note: The 2022 Golfweek’s Best Modern Courses list for the top 200 layouts built after 1960 in the U.S. was published Monday, May 23. The Best Courses You Can Play lists and the Best Private Courses lists will follow over the next two weeks. 

Wynn Golf Club: How much does it cost, how to book a tee time

Wynn has one of the highest costs of a daily-fee course in the United States.

Wynn Golf Club, right behind the Wynn Las Vegas hotel and casino, fits perfectly into its brash surroundings on the Strip. It’s as Vegas as Vegas can be when it comes to golf course architecture.

Much of the course is brand new, despite golf having been played on the site since 1952 when it became the Desert Inn Golf Club. 

Steve Wynn purchased the resort in 2000, and the Tom Fazio-designed Wynn Golf Club opened in 2005. But that layout was shuttered in 2017 as the operators of the adjacent Wynn Las Vegas hotel and casino considered other uses for the ridiculously valuable land on which the course sits, and the resort lost millions of dollars in revenue from green fees and other golf-attributable casino earnings. 

[vertical-gallery id=778180980]

After scrapping plans to build a lagoon on the site with new hotel rooms and restaurants, Fazio and his son, Logan, were called to breathe fresh life into the abandoned track. Wynn Golf Club reopened in October 2019 with eight new and 10 refurbished holes, playing to a par of 70 at 6,722 yards. 

As far as playing Wynn Golf Club, you don’t have to know someone who knows someone. You just have to have some disposable income.

Tee times can be made by resort guests 90 days in advance, and general public play is open with 30-day advanced bookings. But be ready to fork over the cash: green fees are $550.

Wynn has one of the highest costs of a daily-fee course in the U.S. and while that sounds prohibitively expensive for many players, there are plenty of guests at the Wynn hotel and casino who spin through a lot more on the slot machines in less time than it takes to play a round of golf.

Brian Hawthorne, the resort’s executive director of golf operations, said there’s a lot of value baked into that fee when considering the location on the Strip as well as an all-inclusive experience that includes forecaddie and rental clubs if needed.

“And if you keep somebody from gambling for four and a half hours, we might be saving people money,” he said with a laugh.

So while that kind of green fee is not for every golfer, Hawthorne is right. As he said, “There’s different price points for every type of customer,” and many of the luxury resort’s guests simply aren’t worried about price. This is, after all, a Forbes Five-Star property that uses Rolls-Royce limos to whisk preferred guests back and forth to the airport.

[listicle id=778119053]

[mm-video type=playlist id=01es6rjnsp3c84zkm6 player_id=01evcfxp4q8949fs1e image=https://golfweek.usatoday.com/wp-content/plugins/mm-video/images/playlist-icon.png]

Open or closed: Golfweek’s Best top 25 resort courses

Amid the international coronavirus pandemic, more than half the top 25 courses on Golfweek’s Best list of resorts are temporarily closed.

After weeks of trying to keep their courses open during the international coronavirus pandemic, more than half the top 25 courses on Golfweek’s Best list of resort tracks have shuttered their operations temporarily or plan to this week.

Several of these resorts, stretched from the Atlantic to the Pacific, have posted to their websites or sent emails that operations have been halted. At others, the courses remain open while the hotel operations have ceased or been dramatically curtailed, and some are maintaining full operations.

Several of the top 25 are northern courses that have not started their golf seasons yet and as of now are still planning to open when their seasons begin.

Related: Live look at Pebble Beach, Bandon Dunes and more

The situation is fluid and likely to change for some of these resorts that do remain open. Several of the courses that have closed have posted that they plan to reopen in April or May. Following are details on each.

 

1. Pebble Beach Golf Links

Pebble Beach, California (pictured atop this story)

CLOSED

Reopens April 17. The entire resort is closed.

 

2. Bandon Dunes (Pacific Dunes)

Bandon, Oregon

CLOSING

The resort will suspend operations March 26 and plans to reopen April 6.

 

3. Pinehurst (No. 2)

Pinehurst, North Carolina

OPEN

The courses remain open, but all lodging operations have ceased. Limited to-go dining is available.

 

4. Whistling Straits (Straits)

Mosel, Wisconsin

CLOSED, OUT OF SEASON

The courses are scheduled to open in April as weather permits, but all lodging and dining at Destination Kohler is closed.

 

No. 7 on Old MacDonald at Bandon Dunes

5. Bandon Dunes (Old Macdonald)

Bandon, Oregon

CLOSING

The resort will suspend operations March 26 and plans to reopen April 6.

 

6. Bandon Dunes (Bandon Dunes)

Bandon, Oregon

CLOSING

The resort will suspend operations March 26 and plans to reopen April 6.

 

7. Shadow Creek

North Las Vegas, Nevada

CLOSED

MGM has ceased all casino and entertainment options until April 16.

 

8. Kiawah Golf Resort (Ocean Course)

Kiawah Island, South Carolina

OPEN

The resort has modified its services and dining availability, but the courses are open. The pro shops are closed, with booking and check-in being handled remotely.

 

9. Bandon Dunes (Bandon Trails)

Bandon, Oregon

CLOSING

The resort will suspend operations March 26 and plans to reopen April 6.

 

10. TPC Sawgrass (Players Stadium)

Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida

OPEN

The Players Championship was canceled, but the golf courses are open for play.

 

No. 3 at Spyglass Hill (Ben Jared/PGA Tour)

11. Spyglass Hill

Pebble Beach, California

CLOSED

Part of the resort at Pebble Beach, which reopens April 17.

 

12. Sand Valley (Mammoth Dunes)

Nekoosa, Wisconsin

CLOSED FOR SEASON

The resort plans to open its two courses April 24 as planned after standard winter closures.

 

13. Sand Valley (Sand Valley)

Nekoosa, Wisconsin

CLOSED FOR SEASON

The resort plans to open its two courses April 24 as planned after standard winter closures.

 

14. Streamsong Resort (Red)

Bowling Green, Florida

OPEN
Group caddies are mandated instead of normal carrying caddies to promote maintaining a recommended distance between people.

 

15. Streamsong Resort (Black)

Bowling Green, Florida

OPEN
Group caddies are mandated instead of normal carrying caddies to promote maintaining a recommended distance between people.

 

Gamble Sands (Courtesy of Gamble Sands)

16. Gamble Sands

Brewster, Washington

OPEN

The course opened earlier than planned after a mild winter.

 

17. Kapalua (Plantation)

Lanai, Hawaii

CLOSING

The course will close March 25 and plans to reopen April 30.

 

18. Arcadia Bluffs (Bluffs)

Arcadia, Michigan

CLOSED FOR SEASON

The course will open as planned April 1 after the winter season.

 

19. Sea Pines Resort (Harbour Town Golf Links)

Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

OPEN

The course is open, but the Inn and Club at Harbour Town has been closed through April 16. The PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage Classic was canceled.

 

20. Streamsong Resort (Blue)

Bowling Green, Florida

OPEN
Group caddies are mandated instead of normal carrying caddies to promote maintaining a recommended distance between people.

 

No. 18 at Fallen Oak (Courtesy of Fallen Oak)

21. Fallen Oak

Saucier, Mississippi

CLOSED

The Beau Rivage Resort and Casino has ceased all operations temporarily, including golf.

 

22. Four Seasons Resort Lanai (Manele)

Lanai, Hawaii

CLOSED

The resort has shuttered all operations until April 30.

 

23. Omni Homestead Resort (Cascades)

Hot Springs, Virginia

CLOSED FOR SEASON

The Cascades Course is scheduled to open as planned May 1 after the winter season. This Omni property is still open, but eight others have closed.

 

24. Sea Island (Seaside)

St. Simons Island, Georgia

CLOSED

The resort is closed until May 15.

 

25. Blackwolf Run (River)

Kohler, Wisconsin

CLOSED, OUT OF SEASON

The courses are scheduled to open in April as weather permits, but all lodging and dining at Destination Kohler is closed.

[opinary poll=”do-you-feel-comfortable-playing-golf-ami-HcK9NO” customer=”golfweek”]

Make it count: Streamsong part of growing trend with destination tournaments

BOWLING GREEN, Fla. – First-tee jitters are real. Doesn’t matter if it’s the U.S. Open, a city championship, a high school match or even a two-day team event that’s meant to be a vacation. When most players step up to that opening drive with a …

BOWLING GREEN, Fla. – First-tee jitters are real. Doesn’t matter if it’s the U.S. Open, a city championship, a high school match or even a two-day team event that’s meant to be a vacation. When most players step up to that opening drive with a little something on the line, the internal butterflies take flight. 

That’s kind of the whole point of competition, of having to add up all those numbers and post the result on a scoreboard for all to see. It brings a whole new level of interest, even for 30-handicappers who spend four hours doing a lot of math to figure out where they are getting strokes. 

“Competition gives people the chance to do something they can’t do every day,” said Scott Wilson, director of golf at Streamsong in Central Florida. “Normal golf is every day, stroke play or match play depending on what you do within your foursome, and it’s fine, great. But with competition, now all the sudden you have something to play for. It suddenly matters even more.”

Streamsong, which boasts three courses among the top 20 on Golfweek’s Best 2020 list of top resort courses (see page 40), gives recreational players five great chances a year to stick their peg in the ground and experience real competition. With the resort’s Spring Classic, Summer Classic, Fall Classic, Holiday Cup and Family Cup, anybody can get their competitive juices flowing while enjoying a vacation at a top destination. 

Streamsong Blue (Courtesy of Streamsong Resort/Laurence Lambrecht)

Streamsong’s events are part of a larger trend, with ever-increasing teams of players traveling long distances to premium resorts to do more than sample the links – they want to play with something on the line. It’s not a new concept, but there are more opportunities than ever. Even resorts such as Bandon Dunes in Oregon and Destination Kohler in Wisconsin, both of which offer four highly ranked courses, offer multiple opportunities throughout their golf seasons to ratchet up a buddies trip or family retreat to another level. 

Basically, these events are like a classic member-guest tournament, but because they are at resorts instead of private clubs, nobody has to be a member. Check just about any top resort’s website to find such events, but try to book early, as they often fill up quickly. Wilson said most of Streamsong’s events feature 80 to 100 players. 

“We started with four events and we’ve grown to five, and we probably could have several more,” Wilson said. “Most of the folks are local, and by that I’ll say Southeast U.S., but there’ve been times people have come from California or Oregon and up in the Northeast to play with their families and friends. It’s been great.”

Top-ranked golf courses surely are part of the draw – Streamsong’s events are played on a mix of the resort’s Red, Black and Blue courses, which were built by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, Gil Hanse, and Tom Doak, respectively. The remote courses – about 90 miles southwest of Orlando and 50 miles west of Tampa – rank as Nos. 2, 3 and 4 on Golfweek’s Best Courses You Can Play list for public-access tracks in Florida.

Overall winners of Streamsong’s events receive packages to return and defend their title, and of course there are social events, trophies, prizes and bragging rights for various flights. Wilson’s staff uses a mix of formats – scramble, shamble and four-ball, for example – for its two-day events, some of which include two rounds and others three rounds.

“Any day of the week, any of the three courses could be a person’s favorite,” Wilson said. “And that’s the beauty of doing it over two or three courses, depending on the tournament – you get to see a lot of great golf. …” 

“And it’s not just stroke play. These are all just a little different, not your ordinary tournament. It just creates interest outside of normal golf. These have just been a lot of fun.”  

Streamsong Black (Courtesy of Streamsong Resort/Laurence Lambrecht)

 

Streamsong’s 2020 events

Spring Classic: March 22-25; 54 holes of four-ball stroke play on the Blue, Black and Red; $439 single occupancy per night, $339 per person double occupancy per night

Family Cup: June

Summer Classic: August

Fall Classic: October

Holiday Cup: December

Check streamsongresort.com for exact dates and formats as they are announced.

Pricing: To be determined based on event. (The price for the recent Holiday Cup was $685 per player for two night’s double occupancy in the resort’s hotel, two rounds of golf, plus a welcoming party, luncheon, putting contest and more. It was $908 for single occupancy.) Some events use carts, and others are walking only.

Paired to perfection: Champions Retreat raises the bar for fine dining near Augusta

EVANS, Ga. – The Food Network might be missing a major opportunity near Augusta. Champions Retreat Golf Club is best known as the host site for the first two rounds of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, run in conjunction with that other high-end …

EVANS, Ga. – The Food Network might be missing a major opportunity near Augusta. 

Champions Retreat Golf Club is best known as the host site for the first two rounds of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, run in conjunction with that other high-end private club 30 minutes away by car. But while winner Jennifer Kupcho and runner-up Maria Fassi stole the show in the inaugural ANWA in April, there might be an even better presentation on tap any given night at Champions Retreat. 

Call it the “Rouchi and Ross Dinner Show.” The Iranian-born Fariborz Rouchi and Englishman-via-Scotland David Ross trade congenial jabs as easily as they describe whatever deliciousness is presented on their plates and in their glasses. 

David Ross, left, and Fariborz Rouchi at Champions Retreat (Courtesy of Champions Retreat)

“I’m not sure who let him outside, but the fresh air doesn’t suit him very well, does it,” Ross, the executive chef at the club, says with a sly smile within earshot of Rouchi. “And good thing he knows about wine, because he sure doesn’t know how to dress.”

“Hey, Dad, isn’t it your bedtime? Time to go home!” Rouchi, the club’s new director of food and beverage, retorts. “Shouldn’t you at least be in the kitchen where you can burn something? … We’re only supposed to let him outside twice a day.”

Their ease of banter is flawless, clearly deserving a prime-time cooking show or at the least a YouTube channel. It’s somewhat surprising that Ross joined the club in 2018 and Rouchi arrived in May of this year – it might be expected that it would take years to perfect a routine like this. 

Even better than the laughs is the dining program, but that’s to be expected from two such pros – both of whom, interestingly, started as engineers before turning to food and beverage.

Rouchi (pronounced like Gucci), a master sommelier, joined the club after more than a decade at Lake Shore Country Club near Chicago, which followed various stints that included general manager roles at Spago and Club Macanudo.

Ross most recently was tournament chef at Berckmans Place at Augusta National, a well-heeled retreat near the fifth hole open during Masters week. Before that, Ross was proprietor and executive chef of the popular, French-inspired 5oclockbistro in Augusta, and he has taught at Le Cordon Bleu international institutes in Atlanta and New Hampshire.

The Grill House at Champions Retreat (Courtesy of Champions Retreat)

They and their staff are accustomed to handling everything from intimate dinners in Champions Retreat’s palatial “cottages” to wedding-size functions at The Barn, the club’s new red-roofed facility that can seat 250 people. Want a post-golf libation after playing one of three nines designed by Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer or Gary Player? They have you covered. Want to blow the minds of your C-suite corporate staffers? They can do that, too. 

Everything is taken to a different level in April, when out-of-towners rent the cottages as Champions Retreat becomes one of Augusta’s best places to see and be seen during the Masters. Normally a private enclave, the club accepts outside play (contact the club for information) that week, and the grounds host numerous parties and events. It’s up to Rouchi and Ross to surprise and thrill their guests, that week and every other. 

“The definition of culinary arts leans heavily on the arts,” Ross said. “It’s not just simply cooking or searing. It’s about thinking beyond that, thinking three dimensionally. … It’s like the best possible job, because I’m being paid to be an artist. It just happens to be with food. The textures, the colors, the flavors: It’s just so much fun.”

Rouchi can talk for hours about ideal dining experiences, bringing laughs the whole time while making his listeners think about flavors and scents in new ways. He will guide a table of guests through their meal, the diners at rapt attention. 

A seafood dish at Champions Retreat (Courtesy of Champions Retreat)

“A lot of it has to do with envisioning the whole journey and putting ourselves in place of the guest to make sure every detail is met,” Rouchi said. “It should come across as effortless. At the end, the show is smooth and perfect.”

A recent dinner for a group of golf writers – hey, who let these guys in here? – included a charcuterie board with house-smoked duck pastrami, sesame-crusted ahi, arugula salad sourced locally, Chilean sea bass with jasmine coconut rice and jalfrezi curry sauce, followed by a chocolate Napoleon. The wines came from around the world. O.B. Keeler, Bobby Jones’ longtime biographer, likely never had it so good. 

“This isn’t just about food and drink; it’s a whole experience,” Rouchi said. “When the experience is perfect, you know it. That is our goal.”

Trending younger in real estate: Reynolds Lake Oconee sees influx of fresh buyers

GREENSBORO, Ga. – In those bygone eras before technology found its way into everybody’s pocket or backpack in the form of smartphones and laptops, promising executives could count on spending 30 or 40 years working their way up the ranks at a …

GREENSBORO, Ga. – In those bygone eras before technology found its way into everybody’s pocket or backpack in the form of smartphones and laptops, promising executives could count on spending 30 or 40 years working their way up the ranks at a corporate headquarters in or near a major metropolis. 

Then came a golden watch and the golden years, with nothing but open tee times for all of retirement. For the particularly successful, there might be a second home on a golf course, maybe at a choice destination. 

The only problem was those decades spent in cube farms and offices without a view. Sure, there were weekends and maybe a few golf vacations or afternoons spent at the boss’s exclusive country club. But clear expectations required that aspiring executives spend most of their waking lives attached to their office desks, surrounded by other likeminded professionals trying to climb a ladder that eventually might top out with a fairway view. 

Enter technology, and things have changed. Many working stiffs have realized that instead of churning in an office all those years to eventually live where they want and enjoy some of the finer things in life, why wait?

No. 14 on the Great Waters Course at Reynolds Lake Oconee (Courtesy of Reynolds Lake Oconee/Evan Schiller)

With the advent of videoconferencing and VPNs, and the relaxing of expectations by many companies that staffers spend all their time in a corporate office, lucky 40- and 50-somethings can live just about anywhere. This trend has taken off in the past five years or so, said Dave Short, senior vice president of marketing, sales and strategic planning at the expansive Reynolds Lake Oconee community about an hour southeast of Atlanta. 

“There’s a lot of people now that are buying a second home first, if you will,” Short said. “That’s a significant shift over the last few years. … They’re on whatever technology, and they work out of a home office, and they can walk nine holes in the afternoon or walk down the hill and dive into the lake at the end of the day. It’s just a different lifestyle.” 

The trend has changed the market at Reynolds Lake Oconee, a sprawling lakeshore development of upper-level and top-tier homes that includes an on-property Ritz-Carlton hotel and covers about 14,000 acres – “We’re about 1,000 acres smaller than Manhattan Island,” Short said with a laugh. 

Lake Oconee, built in 1979 to generate power, offers about 400 miles of shoreline, and about a quarter of those are part of Reynolds. The resort community features six golf courses, four of them ranked in Golfweek’s Best Courses You Can Play in Georgia. It is one of just three properties in the country, along with Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Oregon and Destination Kohler in Wisconsin, to have four courses on that list. 

“Ten years ago it would have been, let me pension off from General Motors and let me play golf six days a week for the rest of my life,” Short said. “And that’s just not who the only customer is today. It’s still a really important part of our existing membership, and certainly we have people who come here for that sole reason, but it’s really broadened out in the last several years. There are three families on my street (at Reynolds) in their early 50s that still work, but they work out of here.”

Short said Reynolds Lake Oconee has built out to about 3,000 rooftops and has another 26 miles of shoreline to offer as premium homesites. Atlanta provides the majority of prospective clients, and Short has seen a significant uptick in buyers from Florida and coastal Georgia in recent years as people tire of hurricanes and increasing congestion. 

The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds (Courtesy of Reynolds Lake Oconee)

The relative affordability to build at Reynolds is a major draw, with what Short called an “ornate” home available for about $230 a square foot. Much more expensive and expansive multi-structure properties are available – call them what they are: lakefront mansions with additional buildings – but research shows that all in all the cost of a new luxury home is better priced at Reynolds than at many destinations offering comparable living experiences and golf. 

But it’s the new class of mid-career homebuyers who have changed the community most, bringing in children instead of occasional visits from grandchildren.

“In the last 10 years, it’s sort of migrated away from being just a golf retirement community to one that now where there’s a lot of vibrancy, a lot of music, a lot of culinary rhythms that didn’t exist here 10 years ago,” Short said. “Part of what has fed into that is there is a whole class of people that are professionally liberated enough from having to live inside the beltway, whether you define that as Atlanta or D.C. or some of the larger cities. They have enough gravitas with their companies to say I want to live where I want to live.”

On top of its golf game

With the membership growing younger, one thing that never gets old at Reynolds Lake Oconee is the golf. MetLife, which purchased the property in 2012, sees to that with a continuous flow of capital improvements to the six courses as well as the hotel, the 10 restaurants and the four full-service marinas. 

No. 11 on the Great Waters Course at Reynolds Lake Oconee (Courtesy of Reynolds Lake Oconee/Evan Schiller)

For golfers, the largest of the recent undertakings was a renovation of the community’s featured course, Great Waters, which ranks No. 2 in the state on Golfweek’s Best Courses You Can Play list. The Jack Nicklaus design originally opened in 1992, and after 18 months of work that ended in October, it’s a familiar experience down the same wide playing corridors, but with a few new twists. 

“The golf course wasn’t broken to start with,” Nicklaus said during a reopening ceremony on the 18th tee next to the lake. “It was just the plumbing was broken, and we had to fix the plumbing. When you fix the plumbing, you get a chance to put a little lipstick on the outside of it.”

All the greens were rebuilt with TifEagle Bermuda grass, the entire course was re-grassed and a new irrigation system was installed. The fairways are now Zeon zoysia, and the rough is TifTuf Bermuda. All the bunkers were reworked.

The back tees were stretched to 7,436 yards, but perhaps more importantly, Nicklaus said, a new set of forward tees were built at about 4,500 yards to encourage older members and new players to take their shot.

With the setting, especially on the back nine’s eight water holes, there wasn’t any need to improve what was out there in view, just to open those views with fewer trees. Several greens and hills were reconfigured to take even better advantage of the views and water.

It’s rare for golf course architects to be given so much prime real estate on waterfront parcels, but Reynolds had a lot of lakeshore with which to work.

“This was a wonderful opportunity to do a pretty spectacular golf course on a pretty spectacular piece of property,” Nicklaus said of the original design. “The Reynolds people saw the vision and had the vision to understand that with 90 miles of waterfront, a little bit of that waterfront could go to golf to really create a golf course and situation that would be well worth the investment.”

Short said it’s all part of a theme of having room to enjoy the amenities, with housing set fairly far back from the playing corridors on ridges that offer long views. 

“A golf course lot has a great golf course view, but they’re not encroaching,” Short said. “It doesn’t feel claustrophobic, with every single lot pushed up as close to the golf course as it can be. We do, by design, push the houses back.”

It goes hand-in-hand with those executives trying to escape the hustle and bustle of city living. Even with so many luxury lifestyle amenities on hand, this is still rural Georgia, and there’s plenty of room to grow. It’s small-town to the point that several locals and employees mentioned that a new Chick-fil-A had just opened nearby. But along with traffic and congestion, there’s one thing missing that Short enjoys pointing out. 

“We’re 40 minutes from a Walmart and only five minutes away from a Ritz-Carlton,” he said with a laugh, not taking credit for a line he has heard from several residents. “That’s a pretty good selling point.”

The Oconee course at Reynolds Lake Oconee (Courtesy of Reynolds Lake Oconee/Brian G. Oar)

 

Golf at Reynolds Lake Oconee

Great Waters: The Jack Nicklaus design was built in 1992 and renovated in 2019. The course is No. 2 in Georgia on Golfweek’s Best Courses You Can Play list. It is 7,436 yards from the back with nine holes on the lakefront, including the final eight holes. 

The Oconee: This 7,158-yard Rees Jones design opened in 2002 and features rambling elevation changes and a handful of holes on the lake. It ranks No. 4 in the state among Best Courses You Can Play. 

The National Course at Reynolds Lake Oconee (Courtesy of Reynolds Lake Oconee/Brian G. Oar)

The National: Designed by Tom Fazio and opened in 1997, these 27 holes (Ridge, Bluff and Cove nines) feature significant elevation changes, with several holes on the lake. It ranks No. 8 in the state among Best Courses You Can Play.

The Landing: This original course at Reynolds was built by Bob Cupp and opened in 1986 among wooded areas and rolling hills. Stretching to 6,991 yards, it ranks No. 10 in the state among Best Courses You Can Play.

The Preserve: Built in 1988 by Cupp with Fuzzy Zoeller and Hubert Green as consultants, this 6,674-yard course features a six-hole loop named the Quick Six. Each of the six is less than 130 yards and can be played in about an hour. 

Creek Club: This members-only track was designed by
Jim Engh and opened in 2007. With a mandate to build something “outside the box,” Engh built distinctive mounding and bunkers as well as three greens on the 18th hole of the 7,079-yard course.