Course Review: Great Waters at Reynolds Lake Oconee (GA)

Reynolds Lake Oconee, Great Waters course rankings:
Golf Digest: #95 US public, #15 Georgia
GolfWeek: #91 US residential, #2 Georgia
Golf.com: #41 US public, #2 Georgia

Designer: Jack Nicklaus (1992)

Of the 99 golf holes at Reynolds Lake Oconee, a handful of the most scenic may be on the back nine of the Great Waters course.

Several of the most scenic holes I’ve seen in Southwestern United States may be on this back nine, in fact.

Designed by Jack Nicklaus and opened in 1992, Great Waters is currently ranked as Golf.com’s #41, and Golf Digest’s #95 public course in the United States, and number two public in the state of Georgia by both GolfWeek and Golf.com. It’s worth mentioning that its #15 in Georgia ranking by Golf Digest is because almost every other course on the list is fully private and includes courses like Augusta National, Peachtree, East Lake and the Atlanta Athletic Club, by the way.

During a recent golf trip to Reynolds Lake Oconee in Greensboro, Georgia, seven of my friends and I spent our entire Friday on the Great Waters course, starting at 9:00 in the morning and playing 36 spectacular holes.

Great Waters, along with Rees Jones’s Oconee Course, is one of the resort’s premiere courses, meaning that while it’s part of the trip’s itinerary it costs an extra $55 per day to play. All replays are free of charge, dependent on available tee times.

Our first round was played on the National course the day before, whetting everyone’s appetite for some awesome golf – golf we’d have been unable to experience back home in Wisconsin.

We were started off on the back nine. As I said earlier, I can’t imagine a more beautiful conglomerate of golf holes: Save for the tenth, each hole has a view of Georgia’s largest lake, Lake Oconee, each hole is well designed and, in typical Nicklaus fashion, challenging from tee to green.

Similar to golf destinations like Bandon Dunes and Kiawah Island, Reynolds Lake Oconee’s courses are situated on the same general property but with distance between each – each course features its own course, clubhouse, bar and restaurant, practice area and overall environment.

The clubhouse at Great Waters is beautiful and well-appointed, as you will get a brief glimpse of from the next few photos:

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View from the lakeside practice green:

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One of the smaller collections of memorabilia inside the clubhouse:

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The beautiful, slick-rolling back nine putting green along Lake Oconee:

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Our group of eight was split between Great Waters and The Oconee, overall, for favorite golf experience, but for me it was Great Waters without question. The Oconee is no doubt a fantastic golf course, but the pure beauty and challenge of Nicklaus’s design won me over.

While we started on the tenth hole, I’ll still present the course from the first tee on – don’t worry, we’ll get to that majestic back nine… And the front nine’s really good, too.

Played between the tree lines, the trap on the right side is in play about halfway down the fairway. The left side is preferred off the tee, as that side offers a clean run toward the green.

The putting surface on one is large and fronted on the right side by a single trap.

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Hole 1: Par 4 (409/391/371/329)

The second hole is a par five with terrific elevation. The tee shot is again tree-lined, and the second shot leaves a risk/reward option of carrying the water on the right or laying up on the left side.

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Hole 2: Par 5 (507/480/447/390)

A plaque 218 yards from the green commemorates Mark McCumber’s double-eagle hole-out to beat Loren Roberts in the 1995 Andersen Consulting World Championship of Golf event.

This event was held at Great Waters between the 1995 and the 1997-1998 season, before it was renamed the Accenture-World Golf Championships and moved to Austin Country Club (last week’s PGA event).

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Laying up will result in a short and straight-forward approach shot, but the risky alternative is tempting as the fairway in the driving zone is elevated significantly.

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Greg’s approach shot following a massive drive on two – he got the calves in to that one:

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A dogleg left par four, the third at Great Waters plays over a guarded elbow in the fairway. Two traps on the left side of the green protect par here, along with a lengthy distance over 400 yards from the two longest sets of tees.

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Hole 3: Par 4 (432/410/382/335)

Justin’s second shot from the shoulder bunker on three:

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The first par three on the course, the fourth plays well downhill over a small creek that will catch anything real short, and becomes a more significant water hazard on the right side. The green here is sloped from back-right to front-left, and the bail-out area short-left was popular for our group in both rounds.

My tee shot in our second round ballooned out to the right, somehow hit a rock in the water hazard and ricocheted about 40 yards past the green on the next hole. It was a lucky break as I was still able to salvage four.

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Hole 4: Par 3 (186/169/152/143)

The fifth is a beautiful par four that is best played with less than driver off the tee. A draw around the corner in the fairway will allow for driver, but anything hit long and straight will likely find the pine straw and leave a next-to-impossible approach shot over the creek that meanders past the fifth green.

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Hole 5: Par 4 (422/387/357/243)

A well-hit, straight driver will leave a tumultuous low approach shot over the creek:

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The Nicklaus Bridge welcomes players to the green complex, which abuts the creek and features a beautiful stone retaining wall.

The approach on five is all carry – anything short is gone.

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A look back from behind the pin on five:

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An uphill par four, the fairway on six leaves a largely blind tee shot that leads to a wonderful, narrow green complex with sand traps everywhere.

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Hole 6: Par 5 (522/495/472/400)

A back-right pin location was tough to get to, and made for some fun uphill, side-winding putts.

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A closer look at this multi-tiered green:

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Another uphill tee shot, the seventh is a long par four that measures 466 yards from the tips and 403 from the #2 tees – the tees at Great Waters are simply marked as 1, 2, 3, …

Straight as a matchstick, the seventh will require an accurate drive and mid-to-long iron, depending on the drive. The green is subtly raised with sand right and several tall trees protecting the left side.

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Hole 7: Par 4 (466/403/361/318)

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The eighth is the longest par three at Great Waters, measuring 223 yards from the tips and 206 from the #2 tees. This two-tiered green featured a front pin location for our rounds, having us hitting long irons and all ending up just short of the green. A back pin would require much more, I’d imagine, as the putting surface is quite long front-to-back.

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Hole 8: Par 3 (223/206/184/154)

A look at the two-tiered green on eight:

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The ninth hole gives players a sneak peak at that picturesque lakeside golf I mentioned earlier that’s found throughout the back nine.

The tee shot plays straight out toward Lake Oconee, and the fairway falls hard toward the left along the coastline. While it looks reachable, the water in front is well over 300 yards away, so swing freely and get a wedge in your hands for this testy little approach.

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Hole 9: Par 4 (392/376/359/306)

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I stepped on one big time during our second eighteen on this hole, leaving 50-60 yards to the pin in the middle of the fairway – yep, chunked it in the water but still managed to salvage bogey.

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The tenth at Great Waters is the only hole on the back nine not on the lake, although there are certainly views behind the tee boxes.

A straightaway par four of 380 yards from the first tees in, the hole is fairly tight with an array of fairway bunkers on the right side of the fairway. These are certainly in play, which I discovered the first time around.

A great drive will leave a short wedge in, which I was delighted to discover starting our second eighteen of the day.

Greenside bunkers protect the short-left side of the putting surface on ten, and with a right-side pin location the green ran hard from the back-left to front-right.

 

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Hole 10: Par 4 (409/380/355/317)

If you’ve spent any time on Reynolds Lake Oconee’s web site, you’ve undoubtedly been wowed by the drivable par four 11th! The layout of this gorgeous risk/reward hole is absolutely spectacular, and uses the lines and surrounding beauty of Lake Oconee well to lull players in to a false sense of comfort.

The view from the tees looks like there is nothing but fairway out ahead:

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Hole 11: Par 4 (349/314/277/260)

From the forward tees a little more becomes visible:

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A panoramic view of the eleventh during our morning round:

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A look at the green complex from the right-side pine straw – as you can see here, Lake Oconee comes in to play all along the left side of the fairway.

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A closer view of the green – while this front-right pin was green-lit for long drives, anything toward the middle or left side of this laterally running complex should surely mean laying up.

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Playing alongside a cove of Lake Oconee, the par five 12th plays over water (and fishermen) to a right-to-left fairway that climbs uphill. A tall draw was the best play here, although the dreaded straight ball left several of us in the trees.

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Hole 12: Par 5 (559/521/489/426)

A nicely drawn drive in to the fairway left me the below view for my second shot. I somehow failed to get a picture of the approach shot, which continued to play between the tree lines and slightly downhill.

The twelfth is the longest hole on the Great Waters course, teeing up from 559 yards from the tips and 521 from the #2 tees.

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Thirteen is a strikingly beautiful par four. Aiming just left of the right-side fairway trap will lead to a tee shot bounding downhill with a great look at this lakeside infinity green. The left side is no good – trust me – although the fairway does funnel slightly from that side back toward the playing surface.

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Hole 13: Par 4 (434/408/377/322)

A view of this wonderful green on the long par four 13th at Great Waters:

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For my money, the fourteenth is the most picturesque of many picturesque par threes at Reynolds Lake Oconee. Playing over the cove, it is a mid-length one-shotter from 160 to 185 yards, depending on tee selection.

With a lot of wind, this hole could be a real bear – we had a fairly calm day weather-wise, though, so it was more a matter of choosing the right club and putting a good swing on it.

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Hole 14: Par 3 (186/164/118/99)

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This view was way too pretty not to take out the camera for:

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A look back toward the tee boxes on the par three 14th:

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Playing uphill and a bit over 400 yards, the par four 15th features one of the toughest greens on the entire course.

A roller coaster ride on the upper-back half had me aiming six or seven feet above the pin on a ten-footer for my birdie look. I left it just below the hole for a tap-in par, and while everyone else I played with had at least a birdie or two, I would leave Reynolds Lake Oconee completely birdie-less.

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Hole 15: Par 4 (416/409/352/268)

Another stunningly photogenic par four, the sixteenth plays 427 yards from the #2 tees and slightly downhill to another classic lakeside green complex. We had some really big hitters in our group, and three of us pulled drives slightly left, but no one made the water off the tee – swing away!

As an aside, anything just off the fairway and rough area in the trees is not hopeless at any of the Reynolds Lake Oconee courses – soft pine straw contains wayward shots and as long as they’re not in anybody’s yard means a recovery shot should be plausible.

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Hole 16: Par 4 (457/427/404/355)

Just another amazing lakeside hole on the back nine at Great Waters:

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While the world of golf is enamored with long par threes, I am a sucker for a short one with a challenging green.

The seventeenth at Great Waters is such a par three, playing entirely over water to a small putting surface with subtle but significant contouring.

Capping out at just 164 yards from the tips and 146 from the first tees in, the seventeenth is all water and requires focus.

During both rounds, all four of us had some pretty great shots to this green, but I don’t think there were any birdies on this hole even though there were a number of tee shots inside ten feet.

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Hole 17: Par 3 (164/146/137/127)

Dan teeing it up on seventeen along Lake Oconee:

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There’s a whole lot of water on seventeen:

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The eighteenth is a fantastic finishing hole at Great Waters. While the tips extend to 540 yards along the lake, the first tees in are under 500 yards and will undoubtedly lead to a risk/reward decision between a long, 200-plus yard carry over water, or laying up to the right.

 

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Hole 18: Par 5 (540/495/475/387)

Hogan’s tee shot on 18:

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During our first round I went for it from 220 and hit the top of the rock wall in front of the green. I smartened up during our second round, hitting a hybrid to the right-side shoulder in the fairway and an easy 50-yard wedge in and a good look at birdie.

It’s too easy to go to a world-renowned golf destination like Reynolds Lake Oconee and say to yourself, “I didn’t travel all the way to Greensboro, Georgia to lay up with 200-225 yards on a memorable par five.” Maybe that’s why I’ve never been lower than an 8-handicap.

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A closer look at the well-protected green complex on 18 at Great Waters at Reynolds Lake Oconee:

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Both the Great Waters and Oconee courses at Reynolds Lake Oconee – the resort’s premiere tracks – had been over-seeded early on in the year, which our group appreciated as it meant the tees, Tif Way 419 Bermuda fairways and MiniVerde Bermuda greens were green and lush.

The 419 Bermudagrass rough was still dormant during our trip, though, as is the tendency on southern courses during the late Winter / early Spring season. This is the same way the RTJ Golf Trail at Ross Bridge was last month – slightly “browned out” roughs, few leaves on the trees but beautiful everywhere else that matters.

The National course at Reynolds Lake Oconee had not been over-seeded, and the difference between the Oconee and Great Waters courses and it was drastic – the greens on their two premiere courses were much faster and more consistent – definitely worth the extra $55 per day to play them (including free re-play).

Great Waters is a fabulously designed and executed golf course, and there is no question it is deserving of its top 100 accolades. If you are visiting Reynolds Lake Oconee and are hesitant to spend the extra $55 a day to play the premiere courses like Great Waters, take my advice and do it. You’ll thank me later!

Course Wrap-Up:
Location: Greensboro, GA
Yardage: One-7073, Two-6581, Three-6069, Four-5667, Five-5107
Slope/Rating: One-138/74.0, Two-133/71.9, Three-129/69.6, Four-122/67.7, Five-126/70.1
Par: 72
Weekend Rates: $195 including cart, range

Great Waters at Reynolds Lake Oconee Website

Callaway Apex Pro Irons

Club Review: Callaway Apex Line

If you have read my Meet the Writer post you can see that I am playing primarily a Callaway set of clubs. This is 100% because I have done my research and hit most of the brands. Callaway has consistently won my respect for feel, look, and performance. Most people that know me know that come late winter, I am testing new clubs at my local Golf Galaxy or R.I.P. Golfsmith, just to see if there is something that might give me a new edge for the coming season. When it comes to irons, I have been playing Mizuno for the last 13 years; the Callaway Apex Pro’s have stolen the show.

Callaway’s Apex line of clubs consists of the Apex CF (cup face) 16 irons, Apex Pro 16 irons and the Apex Hybrid. The Apex CF is a game improvement iron with Callaway’s cup face technology to really get the ball to fly off the face. The cup face increases ball speeds and is said to have higher forgiveness across the face. If you aren’t able to play a muscle back blade, but also aren’t into playing that oversized game improvement iron, this might be the iron for you.

Callaway Apex Pro Iron Fade

Callaway Apex Pro (4-PW)

I played the Apex Pro 16 irons all last season and will play them again this season. Callaway did an amazing job when they created this iron. The iron has a tour inspired shape and is a quadruple net forged head without the cup face of the Apex CF. The main technology behind this set of irons lies in the progressive weighting, optimizing the center of gravity (CG) in each club. In the longer irons (3-5) the iron has a touch more offset and a tungsten insert to lower the CG and get a higher ball flight. In the shorter irons (6-A) the CG gets higher for a more controlled, penetrating ball flight. The 1025 mild carbon steel, along with Callaway’s forging process, gives this one of the softest and best feels I have ever felt when striking the ball.

Many people often look past how important picking a shaft is when buying any golf club. All of the technology in these irons will somewhat be wasted when not getting a shaft that matches your swing. Callaway offers many premium shafts by multiple different companies, and since we all have different swing types and speeds, all the more reason to take advantage of this when buying a new set.

Callaway Apex 3 Hybrid

Callaway Apex 3 Hybrid 20º

Callaway Apex Hybrid Top View

Callaway Apex Hybrid Top View

I don’t carry a 3-iron because of the invention of the hybrid. For a long time now, I have not been overly happy with my consistency and flight with a hybrid. Most hybrids perform too much like a fairway woods and not like an iron, which doesn’t allow for much stopping power on the green. Callaway’s Apex hybrid changes that. If you are looking for that fairway wood feel and flight this isn’t the club for you. The face cup technology comes back in with this club to produce higher ball speeds from center and off-center hits. A neutral, more iron like CG allows for control and workability, making this club perform much more like an iron. I love the number of different shots I can hit with this club and for better players this is a great long iron replacement.

Both of these sets of irons (along with the hybrid) are on Golf Digest’s hot list, receiving gold status and 5 stars in performance and sound/look/feel. I think this is spot on and think you should give these a try if you haven’t already.

Accuracy is key, fairways and greens!

Blackwolf Run Hole #7, Kohler Wisconsin

Rules of Golf Gets a Facelift

On the 5th hole of last years’ US Open at Oakmont, Dustin Johnson had begun to move his putter behind his ball; before addressing the golf ball, it rolled slightly back. Seeing that the ball had moved they ended up bringing in a rules official and because Dustin had not grounded his putter addressing the ball, they came to the decision that there would be no penalty assessed. Upon finishing his round, they brought Dustin in to review video footage of the ball moving. Even though Dustin continued to state that he did nothing to make the ball move, nor did he address the ball, officials decided the putter was in the vicinity and deemed Dustin caused the ball to move. They assessed him a one-stroke penalty. Even with this one-stroke penalty, Dustin still won the tournament by three shots.

Under newly proposed rule 9.2, if the ball or ball marker is accidentally moved there is no penalty incurred. This is one of many proposed rule changes just released by the USGA and R&A. The goal of these changes is to make the rules easier to understand and apply. I also feel there is an underlying attempt at speeding up the pace of play. Reading through the proposed rule changes to take effect in 2019, many of which we have just come to accept. I am very excited about what the USGA and R&A are refining.

I was definitely on the bandwagon of people who hated what took place last year with Dustin Johnson at the US Open. So the changing of that rule seems to be a long time coming, as it has been an issue in way more cases than just last year’s US Open.

Other proposals that I am impressed they are taking on:

  • Being able to repair almost all damage on the greens (exceptions being aeration and natural damage). No longer are you going to have to putt over spike marks. But in all seriousness, come on people, either don’t wear golf spikes, learn how to pick you feet up when you walk, or fix your own marks when you create the damage in the first place.
  • Removing the yellow hazards and marking all penalty areas in red with lateral relief. The amount of times I’ve found myself in yellow hazards has been minimal, but when it’s happened I’ve been unsure what kind of relief I’m entitled to.
  • Others may not agree with me on this one, but the allowing of distance measuring devices. As of now they are stating they would be allowed, and local rules could be put in place to not allow. I am all for this; I feel this has really sped up pace of play. It would be interesting watching the next PGA Tour event, seeing caddies no longer stepping yardage off from the closest sprinkler head.

Interesting rules I never really thought of being addressed:

  • Dropping the ball must take place at least one inch above the ground, no longer from shoulder height. Personally I feel like this takes some of the game of golf away, as it will now be much easier to drop in a wanted area. Gone would be the days of dropping and having it roll into the six inch deep rough a foot away.
  • No longer being penalized for hitting an unattended flagstick while putting on the putting surface. An interesting first take on this one is that if you choose to not take out the flagstick, putt your ball, and it hits the stick and doesn’t go in, you have still not finished the hole and will have to count that stroke to hole out. You are still better off taking the flag stick out when you get close than trying to use it as a backstop.

Rules that I think are going to get some backlash:

  • Search time for a lost ball going from 5 minutes to 3 minutes. I have been part of many a search where we have found it within the 5 and would not have inside of 3. I am okay with this change but we will see how others address this.
  • Suggested no stroke should take more than 40 seconds. I am not sure how this rule will come to fruition. Will competitors be calling this on each other? That could be an issue. As of right now it’s written as recommended but it will be interesting how this gets written in the official rules. The intent of this rule is understood, reducing the overall pace of play, which is needed.

Funniest rule change:

  • Allowing the use of a damaged club. All I can think of when reading this rule is Woody Austin rapping his putter against his head after only getting a 40-foot putt half way to the hole. Just last year, Zac Blair also bent his putter while banging it against his head and was disqualified for then using that putter to finish the hole. In all seriousness the rule this is addressing is quite complicated and if you’re actually still able to use the club you damaged, it does make sense.

These are just a few of the newly proposed rule changes. You can find all of the new rules at:

http://www.usga.org/rules-hub/rules-modernization/text/major-proposed-changes.html

The USGA and R&A are also asking for people to give their feedback. This is so great that they are asking the people that play the game every day for their opinions. You can find that survey at:

https://www.snapsurveys.com/wh/s.asp?k=148674720575

Winter Rules golfing in snow in Wisconsin

Winter rules still for us here in Wisconsin

Accuracy is key, fairways and greens!

Course Review: RTJ Golf Trail at Ross Bridge (AL)

This past week, I had a work conference in Birmingham, Alabama, at the renowned Marriott Renaissance Ross Bridge Golf Resort.

My wife, Kelly, worked in public relations for Porsche when she lived in Atlanta, and she was a tad envious when I told her the conference was at Ross Bridge. She had been to a number of events there and said it was a great resort with good food and excellent service. Her favorite story about the Ross Bridge involves Secret Service agents who were asking about Porsche and gave her an SS pin. She went in her closet and found the pin pretty quickly.

Our conference went well on Tuesday night, and I had the morning’s first tee time on Wednesday to make sure I could enjoy the course before my 3 pm flight home to Wisconsin. I expected it to be a well needed respite from the cold Wisconsin winter, but was actually able to get out on the courses around here beforehand to slap the ball around sans putting complexes.

I got new Mizuno JPX-850 forged irons during the off-season, and they feel phenomenal. I was really excited to hit in to actual greens with them, and I finally got my opportunity down in Birmingham.

The Ross Bridge course is the premier course on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. It is really easy to see why the second you arrive at the first tee.

Ross Bridge is the premier course on Alabama’s RTJ Trail, and it’s also the fifth longest golf course in the world (second longest in the United States). Tipping out at 8,191 yards, it’s a beast of a track with out-of-this-world contouring.

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The course offers a very nice practice facility, including a range with sand traps and a couple of really nice practice greens. I don’t like to practice often, which is probably why my handicap rarely dips below a 9, but I did roll a few putts to get the speeds and recall a little of my muscle memory and short game instinct.

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People say Robert Trent Jones built golf courses with “Heroic opportunities,” which is one of many things I enjoyed so much at Ross Bridge. The first tee reminded me of the opening drive at a home course called Morningstar – I could look out and know that the left side was dead, but from the on-board touch-screen GPS system knew anything over or right of the central sand trap would get a great kick forward down the fairway.

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Hole 1: Par 5 (620/573/543/511/463)

The entire fairway past that middle bunker kicks left toward the water, but my drive was perfectly fine and left me a carry of 200-plus yards over wetlands. This course isn’t that tough 😉

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Hole 1: Par 5 (620/573/543/511/463)

If the shear length of the par five first hole – 620 yards from the tips and 543 from the orange tees I was playing – isn’t enough of a challenge then surely the two green-side traps beneath the elevated green will catch your attention. This first hole is far from a friendly handshake, but one that’ll make you feel really good if you can card a four or five.

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Hole 1: Par 5 (620/573/543/511/463)

The previous day’s rain made for a cart path only situation on Wednesday morning, and I have to say that this is a fairly tough course to manage from the cart paths – it would probably have been more enjoyable to have just carried my bag. I enjoyed the hell out of the round, either way.

The Ross Bridge course hosted the Regions Charity Classic from 2006-2009, and I’m told was transitioned away partially because of the challenging walk. Being a tough course to walk may have been disheartening for veteran PGA Champions Tour players, but for me the dramatic changes in elevation that permeate the course were enthralling.

The first of those enthralling elevation changes is on the par four second hole.

I have seen a lot of golf holes playing from elevated tee boxes. The par three 17th at Hawks View Como Crossings in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, for example, was at one time a ski hill. The 17th at TimberStone in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan is probably the greatest elevated tee box I’ve ever seen.

The second tee at Ross Bridge isn’t quite as spectacular as those, but it’s close. Maybe most impressively, it’s probably not even the most dramatically elevated tee shot on the course.

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Hole 2: Par 4 (467/430/395/322/278)

The second hole plays downhill, giving golfers the impression they can maybe carry 300-plus yards over the sand traps that line the left side of the fairway. The green here is fairly small for the Ross Bridge course, and anything long will find the water past it. Anything left probably will, too, while anything short will find the beach.

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Take a good look at the third hole from the first hole tee box. You probably won’t get a better look again.

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View of the 3rd hole from the 1st hole fairway

The course’s starter, Houston, told me that morning that if I couldn’t see where I was going to aim well right, especially on three. I was a bit toey off the tee on three, leaving me right in the middle of the fairway and about 225 yards from the green. The green was completely blind, though, and the hillsides right of the fairway otherwise imply that hitting over them will lead to good fortunes. Not true – turns out you want to play the ball well right. I tried to hit well right and hit just right (in general) – I found my approach shot ten yards below the green complex and was happy in general that it didn’t roll further down the hill in to the water.

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Product Review: Callaway GBB Epic

A couple of months back there was a lot of talk around Rory Mcilroy. And it wasn’t about breaking off an engagement or winning another tournament. It was about him hitting a new piece of equipment from a brand that not many people expected to hear Rory moving to. He had been seen last fall hitting the TaylorMade M2, just like Tiger was. With Nike going away from the golf club business, their tour players were all up for new club deals. There seemed to be many tour pros going the route of TaylorMade. But another top pick by many of those ex-Nike staffers was Callaway. To the general public, we knew the brand was Callaway; that was the most we knew about the new driver Rory and others were testing. Then came some Instagram posts and a new commercial… with two bars and the sound of something banging against metal finished by the slogan “Something Epic is coming 1.27.2017” and Callaway’s logo.

Callaway’s new driver, the Epic Great Big Bertha (GBB) has two titanium rods behind the face, that they call jailbreak technology. The Callaway engineers came across this technology when they designed the gravity core in the Big Bertha Alpha and Big Bertha 816 Double Black Diamond drivers.

The gravity core was attached to the sole and crown of the driver; this changed the performance characteristics of the face. This stiffened the sole and crown, so they didn’t bulge as much on impact. The added weight of the jailbreak technology meant there needed to be weight saves elsewhere. With a titanium exoskeleton and a triaxial carbon crown and sole, the crown only weighed 9.7g. This allowed them to design a driver with an extremely high moment of inertia (MOI) and forgiveness. The jailbreak technology stiffens the crown and sole, and then transfers more energy back into the face…translating into higher ball speeds. Because jailbreak technology isn’t reliant on swing speed, Callaway says that the golfers’ club head speed doesn’t matter, all swing speeds will benefit from this new technology.

Other technologies found on the new Epic are the speed step on the top of the crown and the perimeter sliding weight (found only on the GBB Epic not in the GBB Epic Sub Zero model). The speed step is a similar technology to last years’ Callaway XR. For the XR, they brought Boeing in to help design a driver with greater aerodynamics. The perimeter sliding weight found on the GBB Epic model is said to be able to change direction up to 21 yards. On the GBB Epic Sub Zero there are two weight ports that hold a 12g and a 2g weight. There is one port closer to the face and one closer to the back, allowing you to have more forgiveness with the heavier weight in the back, or less spin with the heavier weight closer to the face.

When you hear such great things from pros testing the Epic and read about all this new technology, it makes you want to go see how it performs for you. I did just that. From the first swing of the Callaway GBB Epic Sub Zero driver, I fell in love. The feel off the face is something everyone needs to feel. It’s really hard to explain. It’s very solid, losing a lot of the flex you get from other drivers. While at the same time, it’s so soft it feels like you are able to feel the ball flexing along with the face…those few milliseconds before it springs off. The soft feel may have a little bit to do with the type of ball I have been hitting. I have hit the Epic with the new TaylorMade TP5, Titleist Pro V-1, Pro V-1X and the Callaway Chrome Soft, all premium level golf balls. Immediately I saw average gains of 3 MPH more ball speed and roughly 10+ yards of carry distance. All of this testing being in Wisconsin was done on a launch monitor originally. It wasn’t until our amazing spring warm up this past weekend that I have been truly able to see accurate carry distances outside. Even though it’s warm enough to golf, the ground is still very soft and there is no roll; most of the time the ball plugs. This makes it very easy to laser range carry distances. The soft ground also negates the extra roll you can get from a draw ball flight over a fade. With this club, my carry distance has increased by at least 10 yards. I can’t wait to hit it in regular conditions, since this driver has brought my spin down on average of 500 rpm.

There are a bunch of premium shaft offerings from Callaway at their $500 Epic price point. Their stock shafts are the Diamana M+ Green 40, Project X HZRDUS T800 55, Aldila Rogue Max 65 and the Fujikura Pro Green 62. There are many other premium shafts offered at no up-charge. I loved the feel and performance of the Aldila Rogue Silver 70 so much in my previous driver, that I have the same shaft in my new Epic. This is a low spin, low launch shaft that allows me to keep the heavier weight in the back of the head for more forgiveness, as my spin is already very low with this shaft head combination. So not only are my distances up but my accuracy has improved as well.

Like I mentioned earlier, Callaway has made the Epic in two different head designs. I chose the Epic GBB Sub Zero for myself. This decision was made from slightly better numbers and a better feel. Both of these things are per person. I would suggest testing them both, and depending on swing type and feel, you should see one of them perform and feel better for you. The reason the feel is so different, is the sliding weight track in the back of the Epic GBB. It leads to a different layout of the club head from a weight distribution aspect. I preferred the feel from the Sub Zero model. Anyone looking for more customization options should look at the Epic GBB since there are many more settings to help dial in the ball flight. All of this is similar to what TaylorMade is doing with their M1 and M2 club heads.

With most drivers coming out having technology we have all seen before… and for the first time in a long time TaylorMade not really even coming out with a new driver, the Epic is a driver you need to try.

In my first article I gave you all a brief description of myself and what I am currently playing. In my next article I will take you on a deeper dive into my bag and review how I chose the rest of my current set.

Accuracy is key, fairways and greens!