Legacy on Lanier Golf Club in Lake Lanier Islands, GA
Tee Time: August 12, 10:30, 87 F, Calm
Designer: Billy Fuller, 2009
Playing Partners: Nicholas Carroll, Scott Carroll and Brad
Tees: Blue, Par 72 (71.0 rating/137 slope/6,193 yards)
Course Handicap: 14 (11.3 index)
Stats: 91 (43-48); 40 putts; 7/14 fairways; 6/18 greens; 4 penalty strokes
Legacy on Lanier Golf Club is one of the prettiest golf courses I have ever set foot on. They didn’t even need to put a golf course out here and it would still be worth the trip just to hike along the waterfront or spend the day out on a boat like plenty of others were doing. Clear blue water was always within a 5-wood of the course as sandy shores and colorful trees lined every hole. With all that pretty scenery comes the demand for accurate golf shots, however, and on a bad day this course could see more balls disappear into the woods than into the cup. The layout is very much risk/reward and requires nearly every club in the bag. Even on the rare holes without water or narrow fairways, there are fiendishly placed bunkers that will swallow up approach shots and spit out double bogeys.
The lake drives the layout of the course with all of its little bays and harbors. Many of the par 4’s come out looking like boomerangs from the air. Narrow fairways and sand traps in the landing areas make deciding which line to take over the massive lake even more challenging. Luckily, for golfers at least, the low rainfall has Lake Lanier at a lower level and even the most heinously misplayed tee shots could still be plucked off of the exposed lakebed. Distance control off the tee is also a major requirement as little ravines and creeks cross the fairways and very thick rough turned any hole missing the short grass off the tee into a scramble for par. On more than one occasion, a ball was so deep in the rough it took the full five minutes just to spot it.
The back nine of the Legacy on Lanier Golf Club plays much longer than the front. Par 5’s are designed to be played in three shots. The par 3’s all appear much shorter than they really are. Many of the holes continue to meander around the lake, with only the finishing three holes moving off the shore and back to the clubhouse. Holes need to be played thinking about the safest spot to miss rather than where to play aggressively. The trouble lining the course lurks close and can tack on numerous penalty strokes to the scorecard. The only real benefit to completely hooking a shot into the water is that more than likely the ball will clank off a boat, which is much more satisfying and hilarious than bouncing one off a house. On the rare occasions that you may be tempted to play aggressively, the course does reward great shots. The par 5 11th can be reached in two with a good line off the tee, funneling those shots an extra 30 or so yards into prime approach position. The same goes for the final hole, a par 4 that can be shortened into an easy wedge off from the fairway if played just right.
The golf course placed in the middle of beautiful Lake Lanier is really a must-play course. Having opened only recently, in 2009, I suspect it to make its way into the rankings of Georgia’s top courses by all the major publications sooner rather than later. The scenery alone is worth the price of admission, but a friendly staff and great amenities add to the enjoyment. This is not an easy course and one or two bad shots can very easily end the hopes of a good score. My round fell victim to some of these holes, but I was enjoying the layout too much to care. Lake Lanier is peaceful and lined with wildlife that brings Lake Tahoe to mind to this California native, only with Georgia plant life instead of pine trees. Play it once and discover a very fun challenge north of Atlanta.
#13, Par 4, 395 yards, 8-handicap, My Score: 6
The par-4 13th hole does not have the extreme doglegs that many of the other holes do, but that almost makes it harder. While the fairway only slightly bends to the right, the landing area is pinched by fairway bunkers to the left and the water creeping in on the right. The lake bites off a huge chunk of the hole between the approach area and the green, which, combined with the greenside bunker guarding the front, makes going long the only reasonable choice. Missing over the green does leave a perilous downhill chip to a sharp-breaking green however, and a two-putt from any length is no easy task.
Amenities: A; the staff is very cordial here and the rate includes free food and drink, something more golf courses should catch onto…
Difficulty: B+; if you can’t keep it straight off the tee, it might be a long day. Also, the greens all have subtle breaks that can be tough to read, especially since with water on all sides, assuming a break to the shore does not help.
Scenery: A; Lake Lanier and the surrounding environment make for an amazing backdrop for a round of golf. Better photographers could really give this golf course a nice calendar shoot.
Value: N/A. I neither paid a dime to play this course nor do I know how much the rates are, so I feel it unfair to grade this criteria.
Overall: 3.86 (A-); I know I was waiting for Augusta National in Georgia, but I have better odds of winning that damn 50/50 raffle at the Diamondbacks games than getting out on that course any time in the next 9 years. That said, I don’t feel cheated at all using the Legacy on Lanier Golf Club as a substitute. My only real regret is not getting out for 18 more like we had intended, but it was a fun round of golf with Nicholas, his dad and his buddy that I would do again any day, just get me a flight out there and I’m gone.