Many options for hitting the links in Middle Georgia

Telegraph StaffMay 5, 2013 

The Macon area boasts 17 golf courses in Bibb, Houston, Monroe, Jones and Peach counties. Every course offers golfers a distinct test, be it a perfectly groomed private course or a municipal course, where character has been molded for the better part of a century.

What makes each area course unique?

The Telegraph explores the courses and what each has to offer:

Bibb County

Barrington Hall Golf Club, Bibb County

One of owner Chris Marcum’s first projects was replacing the course’s withering bent-grass greens with lower maintenance Bermuda grass. That decision is paying off, as the course’s greens are rounding into their best form in years.

Barrington Hall is one of the area’s best golf values, especially given the recent improved course conditions.

Barrington Hall Golf Club: 104 Stoney Creek Drive, Macon, (478) 757-8358.

Bowden Golf Course, Macon

This historic course opened in 1940, making it the City of Macon’s second-oldest course. The course resides on the site of Miller Field, an old airfield. The fairways of Nos. 1 and 10 comprised the grass runway where Amelia Earhart landed in the 1930s on a visit to Macon.

The most unique aspect of the city-owned course is that it is the only public course in Middle Georgia that will allow a golfer to claim it as a home club in order to keep a USGA handicap without being a member.

Bowden Golf Course: 3111 Millerfield Road, Macon, (478) 742-1610.

The Brickyard at Riverside, Bibb County

When the course was redone nearly a decade ago, Mark McCumber’s architectural team uncovered the Brickyard’s most unique feature while regrading the fairways: previously unexposed granite outcroppings that dot the property. The rocks frame several holes, none more spectacular than on Nos. 9 and 12.

The Brickyard is a long golf course, playing 7,128 yards from the back tees. Distances are tricky. Golfers are left with mid-irons on many of the par 4s. Three of the track’s par 3s measure 217, 195 and 215 yards, respectively.

The greens are deceptively contoured. The sweeping hillsides and sloping facades create subtle breaks that are difficult to detect without a well-trained eye.

The Brickyard is a private club with a modern feel. It is home to the annual Brickyard Collegiate tournament and has played host to USGA’s U.S. Amateur and Mid-Amateur qualifiers.

The Brickyard at Riverside: 6000 Wesleyan Drive North, Macon, (478) 477-6765.

Healy Point Country Club, Bibb County

Island greens and island tees are nothing new. But an island fairway?

Healy Point’s 18th hole is unlike any other in the area and perhaps the state. The tee shot is played to an island fairway that requires a 220-yard carry from the blue tees. This hole can be a round-ruiner.

Healy Point also is home to arguably the best collection of par 5s in the area. The two on the front side are reachable in two shots depending upon how much a player is willing to try cut the doglegs that challenge the tee shots. The par 5s on the back nine don’t require as much accuracy off the tee, but boast narrow, undulating greens.

The course’s greens are also grainier than most, requiring a keen eye or much local knowledge.

Healy Point Country Club: 293 River North Blvd., Macon, (478) 743-1495.

Idle Hour Club, Bibb County

This old-style layout was created in 1912, making it the area’s oldest course. This private club has a classic feel and is home to arguably the smoothest, truest bent greens in Middle Georgia.

The 455-yard, par-4 sixth hole bears remnants of an old horse track that rings the right side of the fairway. Legend has it among members that the land was a horse farm before it was a golf course and the owner spent his idle hours at the farm, hence the name of the club.

Idle Hour has a world class practice facility and is home to the only nine-hole short course in the area.

Idle Hour Club: 419 Pencross Lane, Macon, (478) 477-1724.

Oakview Golf & Country Club, Bibb County

Midway through a round here, a golfer will encounter a tremendous scoring opportunity on a three-hole stretch to begin the back nine. Long, accurate tee shots, however, are imperative.

Nos. 10, 11 and 12 are short par 4s. Good tee shots will yield nothing more than a wedge for the second shot, while No. 12, at 317 yards, is reachable for the longest hitters.

The par-3 17th is the course’s signature hole. From the tee box, players are rewarded with a magnificent view of the surrounding valley.

Oakview Golf & Country Club: 128 Oakview Club Drive, Macon, (478) 785-1833.

Houston County

Houston Lake Country Club, Perry

This course is a vastly underrated test. The two nines have distinctly different feels and at times seem like very different courses.

At 6,745 yards from the championship tees, this course requires use of nearly every club in the bag. Club selection is at a premium. Narrow tee shots lead to large, undulating greens.

The course makes great use of the bordering Houston Lake and the ponds that kick off and conclude the back nine.

The short 16th hole requires a precise tee shot that ideally must challenge the green because a towering oak tree guards the front of the green. Depending on the pin placement, a player will have to hit a punch shot to get it on the putting surface.

The 18th hole has won numerous awards as the top finishing hole in the state. The 405-yard par 4 requires a tee shot with a carry over a water hazard. The second shot requires another shot over the same hazard.

Houston Lake Country Club: 100 Champions Way, Perry, (478) 218-5253.

Houston Springs Golf Club, Perry

Until November 2011, Houston Springs was perhaps the most unique course in all of Middle Georgia because it only had 12 holes.

That changed almost a year ago as the final six holes were completed. While not technically an executive course, the track plays at just more than 5,000 yards from the back tees.

Houston Springs is part of a 55-and-older community that is surrounded by a nature preserve and meanders around six lakes. The front nine wraps around three ponds, 50 acres of nature preserve and a scenic ridge.

Houston Springs Golf Club: 80 Fairway Oaks Drive, Perry, (478) 988-8200.

International City Golf Club, Warner Robins

This municipal course was recently revamped. The course is extremely walker-friendly. The distances between holes are short and outside of hole Nos. 4 and 5, the course is relatively flat.

Measuring 6,071 yards from the back tees, this course is perfect for the golfer who has trouble with the driver off the tee. Many of the uniquely-designed holes call for irons or hybrids off the tee.

The layout is a little different than most, as well. The par-34 front nine boasts no par 5s, while the backside contains three par 5s and only one par 3.

International City Golf Club: 100 Sandy Run Lane, Warner Robins, (478) 322-0276.

Perry Golf Club, Perry

Perry has taken a real interest in catering to the entire family. This course is one of the few that provides children’s tee boxes.

Children can enjoy par 3s that measure 100 yards, par 4s that stretch 200 yards and par 5s at 300 yards in length.

This course’s best feature, however, may be the GPS on every golf cart, allowing serious golfers to know exactly what yardage they are left with.

Perry is also one of four Middle Georgia courses -- along with Idle Hour, Forsyth and Pine Needles -- that concludes with a par-3 finishing hole.

Perry Golf Club: 1000 N. Davis Drive, Perry, (478) 987-1033.

Pine Oaks Golf Course, Robins Air Force Base

The unique feature of this course is where it is located. Pine Oaks resides on Robins Air Force Base.

The par-4 ninth hole is a risk-takers’ dream hole. At merely 280 yards, there are several options off the tee. A pinpoint drive over the bunker in front of the green could yield an eagle.

More conservative players can take a mid-iron off the tee and lay up at the bottom of the hill. The second shot will leave only a wedge or short iron but requires an uphill shot to a green elevated nearly 25 feet above the player.

Pine Oaks Golf Course: 595 Warner Robins St., Robins Air Force Base, (478) 923-7334.

Landings Golf Club, Houston County

The Landings once stood out as the only 27-hole facility in the area. It was reduced, however, from 27 holes to 18 in 2010.

Hole No. 14 is the course’s signature hole. It is one of the most intimidating holes in Middle Georgia and also is the hole that gives the bluff nine its name.

The tee shot from an elevated tee drops 80 feet into a fairway with a steep, wooded embankment on the left, out-of-bounds right and a lake at the bottom of the hill that can come into play for the long-ballers.

The slope on the right side of the fairway can be used to feed the ball back into the landing area. Still, a good tee shot will leave a 150- to 175-yard second shot carry over the water hazard to an elevated green.

Landings Golf Club: 309 Stathams Way, Warner Robins, (478) 923-5222.

Waterford Golf Club, Bonaire

Waterford, built in 1990 and reclaimed after the flood that ravaged the area in 1994, measures only 6,269 yards from back tees, making it an ideal course for mid-to-high handicappers.

Owner Tommy Wood oversaw the club’s construction with the idea to cater to seniors, women and beginners.

The par-3 17th hole is one of the club’s standout holes. At 160 yards from the blue tees, it is the most daunting shot on the course, forcing players to carry a pond to reach the green.

Waterford Golf Club: 620 Ga. 96, Bonaire, (478) 328-7533.

Jones County

Lake Jonesco, Jones County

This devilish course resides primarily on the knob of a hill, meaning players can’t expect to encounter any flat lies. The rolling, reverse-cambered fairways give way to very small greens.

The original nine-hole layout was designed and built in 1939 by the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The second nine holes were designed and constructed in 1984.

General manager Mearl Cooler is currently overseeing a major course renovation. An in-ground sprinkler system has just been installed, and sod is being added to many of the fairways. The next wave will see many of the course’s bunkers and tee boxes redesigned.

Lake Jonesco: 834 Ga.22, Gray, (478) 986-3206.

Monroe County

The Club at River Forest, Monroe County

Nos. 10, 11, 15 and 16 offer as picturesque a view as can be found on a Middle Georgia course. The pond that anchors this collection of holes was masterfully incorporated to maximize the aesthetic beauty and challenging playability.

The 10th hole measures nearly 600 yards and tumbles sharply down toward the pond on a player’s second shot. A ride across a covered bridge takes players to the green, which is protected by water on three sides.

Beautiful rock formations surround the short par-3 11th, and the towering water fountain in the pond presents a distraction. A forced carry over the pond to the green at No. 15 leaves little margin for error. The island green at No. 16 next awaits, capping a treacherous stretch.

The Club at River Forest: 1 Clubhouse Drive, Forsyth, (478) 974-0974.

Forsyth Golf Club, Forsyth

Forsyth Golf Club is another of the “old-school” courses in the area, opening in 1935.

This rather short course, measuring 6,035 yards from the back tees, is defined by wide-open rolling fairways, countered by small “postage stamp” greens.

A distinct feature of this course is that the ninth hole does not bring golfers back to the clubhouse. In the tradition of links golf courses, the outward nine takes golfers to the farthest point on the course, while the inward nine returns them to the clubhouse.

Forsyth Golf Club: 400 Country Club Drive, Forsyth, (478) 994-5328.

Peach County

Pine Needles Country Club, Peach County

This nine-hole course plays 3,078 yards from the back tees and concludes with a par 3 finishing hole.

Play began at Pine Needles in 1939, making it one of the area’s oldest courses.

Pine Needles Country Club: Country Club Road, Fort Valley, (478) 825-3816.

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