Most people in the North Georgia/metro Atlanta area are quite familiar with Chateau Elan, a popular wedding/conference destination with pleasant golf and mediocre wine. The two resort courses, Chateau and Woodlands, both designed by local architect Denis Griffiths, represent the ubiquitous style of hilly residential and development golf found throughout the region.
The resort’s third course, Legends, also designed by Griffiths, is private, and far more interesting. Set in a mostly homogenous core pocket of land at slight remove from the two public courses, Legends benefits from relative seclusion, a more connected property and a sophisticated degree of shaping and maintenance around the stylish green complexes.
Legendary tour players Kathy Whitworth, Gene Sarazen and Sam Snead allegedly offered input into the design (hence the course’s name), each selecting some of their favorite holes to use as models. But apart from the 5th and 15th holes (replicas of the 13th and 12th at Augusta National), most players won’t recognize any of the other original inspirations (I know I didn’t, though the short par-3 7th is probably a version of Pebble Beach’s par-3 7th minus, you know, the Pacific Ocean).
More than anything the course is an ode to the Augusta National aesthetic, with silky greens and crisp bunker shaping, not to mention the name-dropping of Sarazen and Snead. Most of this is nice but superficial; where Augusta really shows up is in the fairways, which are full of hills, slope and pitch. For all the work that was put into orchestrating the green complexes there appears to be a corresponding absence of grading tee to green. Nature was left as-is.
The first fairway shoots downhill over rolling humps before turning up toward a semi-blind green. The 6th, 10th, 13th and 14th all have enough cant that drives must play to high sides of the fairways and ride the slopes down into position without running through the landing zones into trouble.
There’s a good run of holes from 6 through 10 that ride through some very good terrain, with the 10th being a particularly attractive par-5 that sweeps downhill and left through the pines. The 16th and 17 are also strong, a 305-yard par-4 (regular tees) with a phalanx of bunkers strung across the landing area making you either lay-up or fly them, followed by a wide, glossy par-4 cresting a crowned fairway toward a elevated, pitched green.
Not everything works perfectly. The par-5 14th is a bit of a mess, playing down toward a creek, then uphill between a choke of trees to a blind green banked on one side by a low rock wall. And several greensites (2, 4, and yes, 14) seem slightly off, unrelated to the property around them. I’ll also offer my standard criticism of most Griffiths courses I’ve seen: the greens don’t generally have enough contour and slope to create pin placements that make approach angles and tactics matter.
But with putting surfaces this fast and pure, like the course’s inspiration, I don’t think the members care much. And while it’s always better when designs pursue an authentic self rather than aspire toward a predefined ideal, the course’s unforced nature and demanding driver play keeps repeat rounds refreshing and elevates the Legends into the top of the region’s private club market. (90)
Architect: Denis Griffiths