GREENSBORO, Georgia – Golfers looking for an upscale and first-class experience can find a lot more at Reynolds Lake Oconee in Georgia. The region is simply gorgeous and peaceful- and from personal experience, I can say the golf is incredible. There are 117 holes of golf at Reynolds with 6 golf courses designed by the who’s who of golf design, The Kingdom of Golf presented by TaylorMade and the comforts of the magnificent Ritz Carlton Lodge on the water’s edge are 5 stars.
Perhaps the most dramatic course at Reynolds Lake Oconee is Great Waters, designed by Jack Nicklaus which opened in 1992 to widespread accolades. The Linger Longer Collegiate Invitational has been held at Great Waters for years.
Recently, I had the opportunity to return to Reynolds to witness the reopening of the reworked Great Waters course. Jack Nicklaus, his design staff and Reynolds management decided after 25 years it was time to make Great Waters even greater. Jack got personally involved in updating one of his favorite original works.
Along with new grass, new greens, new irrigation and other out-of-sight infrastructure and improvements, the overall aesthetic of Great Waters was changed to bring Lake Oconee more into view by subtly altering lines of sight and other visuals.
In the world of vintage motorcars, the term “resto-mod” is applied to a vehicle that has been restored to its original form but modified with modern parts and technology. In effect, modernizing the car without altering its true character. “Resto-mod” perfectly describes what happened to the Great Waters golf course at Reynolds Lake Oconee. The completely rebuilt, modernized and reconditioned version of the original 1992 model- a visually breathtaking 18 holes of championship golf along the shoreline of Lake Oconee-looks almost identical to the way Jack first designed it, but better.
“Spectacular is a pretty good word for the golf course,” says Nicklaus, the living legend who devoted considerable time and attention to taking Great Waters back to the future. “We created more of an exciting golf course with more variety, a golf course that is really strong again.”
“Every golf course has a life cycle, like a car,” said Chad Goetz, the design team associate who oversaw the restoration. “Things wear out and change a lot in over 25 years. Technically, the golf course was rebuilt. It is the same golf course, but now resto-mod.”
The green complexes are all new, fairways are wider, and the “wow factor” is stronger than ever with the opening of lake views on the 9th, 11th, and 13th holes. For all that, the par-3 8th is the only completely remodeled hole: It now plays over or along bunkers to a receptive green no longer obstructed by pine trees. The water feature at the 4th green has also been enhanced to better fit the landscape.
“The nuts and bolts of the golf course were fantastic,” adds Goetz. “We distilled the essence of the original course with a new one that accents the amazing land features that were already there.” Greens were changed to TifEagle Bermuda while tees and fairways were planted with Zeon Zoysia, both selected to work well in the climate of Lake Oconee.
Great Waters now plays from a manageable 4,500 yards to a demanding 7,400, with the tips designed to challenge the best. “We
added a little more length,” Nicklaus says, “but we made sure the Members have places to play their shots.”