Nestled several miles north of Augusta National Golf Club, the 27-hole course complex at Mount Vintage Plantation Golf Club resembles golf’s most hallowed grounds in ways that extend beyond geographical proximity. Designed by Tom Jackson, the course rolls through curtains of carolina pines, speckling nearly 2,000 acres with white-sand bunkers and scenic water features that test the accuracy of every swing.
The two original nines, the Chester and the Vintage, shine with visually stunning vistas and elevation changes—on the Vintage course alone, 8 holes boast a rise or fall of 30 feet or more. Opened in 2008—eight years after its forebears—the Independent course puts water in play on all but 1 hole, testing golfers’ abilities to manage high-pressure shots or skip balls close to pins.
The facilities at Rolling Hills Driving Range provide players with myriad opportunities to get better at the game. A tee-up system on each of 26 covered mats furnishes players with range balls semi-automatically, so they can focus on their form instead of wasting energy on setting shots up themselves. Golfers in search of a more course-like hitting surface, meanwhile, can make use of 15 grass tee boxes, and the entire range lights up at night so that practice can continue well into evenings or solar eclipses. Teaching professional BJ Hathaway offers lessons on the range, and an onsite pro shop houses equipment upgrades from brands such as Nike, TaylorMade, and Callaway.
A 23-acre expanse of manicured grounds awaits soaring range balls at Wedges & Woods, a facility that houses a 300-yard driving range, short-game practice areas, and a pro shop. Golfers can line up their swings at any of the 40 hitting stations, including 10 covered stations outfitted with fans and lighting. Golfers can also work on finessing their shots at the short-game facility, where they’ll be able to aim at target greens and target caddies who have been inaccurate in their on-course distance readings.
An original Rees Jones design, Jones Creek Golf Club navigates the rolling hills of Augusta to showcase a landscape of dogwoods, azaleas, and frequent elevation changes. Water intersects numerous holes, and pristine white-sand bunkers surround sloped, hard-to-read greens that flummox players more that the Mona Lisa's coy smile. Golfers can warm-up for rounds at the facility's practice greens, driving range, or during lessons at the state-of-the-art golf center. The stately clubhouse features casual dining and elegant facilities to host events. Nearby, members can wind down with a match on the tennis courts or a dip in the facility's large swimming pool.
As golfers stand over teed-up golf balls, staring down the fairway of Indian Trail Golf Course’s 370-yard 14th hole—the course signature—they may be perplexed by its ranking as the round’s most difficult hole. Though the scorecard reads “short par 4,” the hole packs a good deal of hardship into its diminutive stature. Golfers must aim for the top of the fairway hill off the tee, while steering clear of the boulder on the right side and the large pond just beyond. Players are forgiven for going the conservative route with a long iron off the tee, as opposed to risking the driver or a retrofitted t-shirt cannon. If they leave themselves a decent lie on the approach, a two-tiered green awaits just over the water, making three-putts an all-too-common occurrence.
While not every hole features boulders, uphill fairways, and the ever-present threat of boogeyman attacks, the course is characterized by the ubiquitous threat of hazards. In all, nine ponds and more than 40 bunkers haunt players along the 6,272 yards of Bermuda-covered terrain, lending an air of hostility to the otherwise pristine surroundings.
Course at a Glance: * 18-hole, par 72 course * Total length of 6,272 yards from the back tees * Course rating of 69.4 from the back tees * Course slope of 127 from the back tees * Four sets of tees per hole
Designed by prolific course architect Willard Byrd, Timberlake Country Club's 18-hole course plots a 6,579-yard trail across a Lake Murray peninsula as it dips southward into the glassy waters. Picturesque views of the lake abound throughout the round—because of its proximity to the lake, the club offers free docking and shore-side pickup for those who wish to arrive by boat or seahorse—and the supersized pool's watery fingers come into play on seven holes. Rounds culminate with dramatic flair at the signature 18th hole, a 483-yard par 5 where a mid-fairway water hazard looms on the business end of a blind tee shot, raising the stakes for players who unsheathe their driver in the hopes of reaching the green in two.
Alongside the grassy course, neon yellow orbs slice through the air at Timberlake Country Club's tennis courts, where tennis pro Mark Gardiner teaches students to hit a forehand passing shot or incite an earthquake with a deafening grunt. The club also houses diverse dining facilities to curb appetites or host social events.