The Beat Goes On: From the Course to the Lake

Day two in Georgia. There is nothing like the South on a beautiful Spring day. The temperature was quite cool at 7 a.m., but by mid-afternoon, the sun was high and the air was warm. On a day like today, time seems suspended at Reynolds Plantation, a vast enclave of 11,000 acres interlaced with 90 miles of interior roads.

There was crack-of-dawn golf again today. They don’t call it Golf Road Warriors for nothing. I’m not going to dwell for one moment on the state of my game, except to say that if my session at the Golf Academy doesn’t pan out on Wednesday, I’m renewing my tennis permit when I get home.

I’m glad that’s out of the way. Now I can talk about the National Course, which is fabulous.  I have seen or played dozens of Tom Fazio-designed courses throughout the Southeast. Tom has a strong aesthetic. His courses are beautiful. His layouts designed to support real estate developments are especially attractive. They have to be. I believe many were specifically designed to look good in brochures. The eye candy factor is always present in Fazio’s work. What is often lacking is what seasoned golfers want: A good tussle and plenty of variety. Hold the gingerbread, give me a second helping of shot value!

What a pleasant surprise to discover that the National cannot be lumped into the majority of Fazio’s Sun Belt output. The design of the community’s 27-hole layout—I played the Cove and Bluff nines—is defined by the rolling terrain, the strategic bunkering, the cleverly placed water features. I simply could not wait to get to the next tee to see what was next. The beauty here is natural—tall pines and hardwoods, an understory of flowering dogwoods and lovely long views of Lake Oconee.

As for the golf holes, they’re sturdy enough, depending on the tees you play, but very fair. The greens, surfaced in bentgrass, are superb—firm and fast. As is true throughout Reynolds Plantation, the rough is mowed low, so that golfers are spared the ignominy of searching for stray shots.

Fazio isn’t known for his lay-of-the-land courses, but I’m guessing he realized very quickly that it was best to let Nature take the lead on this exceptional parcel of land. With its 60-foot elevation change, its chirping birds and gurgling brooks and most of all its array of risk/reward options, the National is a knock-out.

So much for my land report. Now let’s turn to the lake. Lake Oconee is one of the most productive bass fisheries in Georgia.  How do I know this? Because local fishing guide Norris Edge, who took me and photographer David Whyte fishing this afternoon, said so. He backed it up by taking us in his high-powered bass boat to shady coves, where I was instructed to cast my weighted rubber worm to likely spots.

Fishing is a leisurely pastime. There’s time to talk, time to admire the sparkling surface of the water, the budding trees, the beautiful homes on shore. But a conversation can end abruptly when a fish strikes. Not a 12- or 14-inch bass—we got a couple of those—but a whopping 7-pound largemouth bass that Norris hooked and brought to the boat.

You could have fit a softball into this fish’s mouth. It was that large and round.

Norris insisted on throwing it back. “I don’t want to eat what’s feeding me,” said the wise old guide in his inimitable Georgia twang.

Norris should go to Hollywood and play himself. And Tom Fazio should revisit the National at Reynolds Plantation if he ever needs a reminder to see how it’s done.

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