By Tim Cotroneo
The Creek Club at Reynolds Lake Oconee could have been the inspiration for John Legend’s best-selling song “All of Me.” There may be no golf course in the world that so closely mirrors his lyrics, “Love your curves and all your edges. All your perfect imperfections.”
Reynolds Lake Oconee tapped Innovative Golf Architect Jim Engh to build something truly unique. Engh ultimately delivered The Creek Club, which opened in 2007. First timers will discover a 7,000-yard journey of mounds, elevations, and breathtaking curves. Pull your hat down a bit before teeing off on the Par 5, 578-yard first hole because you’re in for a scintillating ride.
Looking back, imagine Engh’s thoughts when he found himself next in line to follow Reynolds’ pantheon of Master Designers that include Cupp, Nicklaus, Fazio, and Rees Jones. Engh was tapped because of his reputation for emphasizing beautiful aesthetics and delivering a compelling golf experience. Enter Creek Club, an 18-hole roller coaster in which there is a 99 percent chance you hit more than one shot that you’ve never hit in your life.
You’re My End and My Beginning
In Legend’s song, he shares that if you risk it all, there’s a chance of gaining something amazing in return. Upon arriving at The Creek Club, your first eye-opener is an elevated practice area that looks out on to the wild blue yonder. We’re talking a driving range valley that is well over 300-yards deep and a 360-degree view that is suitable for primal screams, or at least a sincere sense of gratitude for the Creek Club member invite.
Before the first tee box, a cordial exchange with the starter reveals the best advice you’ll receive all day. “When in doubt, go long.”
In other words, for most approach shots, it’s in your best interest to grab an extra club. Slightly long could mean a reward from a contoured backstop that saves your shot if it rolls beyond the green. The alternative is a shot that comes up short and ends up in one of the Creek Club’s plentiful bunkers.
A Magical Ride
Legend’s All of Me speaks romantically about floating on a “magical mystery ride.” Part of the Creek Club front nine experience is how your golf cart seems to float over the Zoyzia fairways. Navigating the undulating contours that Engh infused throughout his design will put your driving skills and attention to the test.
The contours, like every aspect of The Creek Club, are purposeful. Engh wants you thinking and absorbing your surroundings. It’s in your best interest to focus and enjoy the risk/reward DNA that is built into this Greensboro, GA close encounter of the golf kind.
By the time you straddle the gauntlet of the second hole, featuring a stadium-sized putting green, you realize there’s a choice. A percentage of golfers will be flummoxed by the elevation changes, the Coney Island-styled greens, and the hills weaving into a gorge. For the golfer who chooses joy, the Creek Club will embrace you like a child discovering ice cream for the first time.
Georgia’s Hole in One Capital
As you transition to the Creek Club back nine, there’s a good chance you’ve gained a feel for a course management strategy that works. You contend with a series of horizontal fairway bunkers dissecting the 10th, followed by a ravine on the right side of the 11th hole Par 3, and then a Leonardo DiCaprio “I’m King of the World” moment as you stand on the majestic, and highly elevated, 12th tee box.
The underlying buzz about the 13th hole, a 185-yard Par 3, is that it may be the state of Georgia’s hole-in-one capital. The green is concave with a massive back wall and shape that helps funnel golf balls toward the middle. If you’re gambling with a pin seeker shot, Legend’s spot-on song lyric would be, “Cards on the table and both showing hearts.”
From the 18th tee box, a Par 5, 487-yard hole, you learn this closer is famous for finishing with three putting greens. When the course opened, golfers could choose their desired green. Today you shoot for the green designated for the week. To culminate a perfect 75-degree day in November, you pick up and shake hands. As you glance at the member who invited you, that’s when you realize the thrill that is Creek Club flew by way too fast.
Legend Had it Right
Not wanting the day to end, you head over to the cozy Creek Club bar and restaurant. Several Creek Club members turn and give you a hearty Norm from Cheers hello. Your playing partner is still in golf mode as he orders Smash Factor and Bunker Bender cocktails.
Your Creek Club playing experience was such an adrenaline rush that you reply “you pick” when asked which of the two cocktails you prefer. You’ve just spent the past four hours heeding the advice of the starter, so on your first sip, you go long and quench down to your FootJoys.
Before heading back to the neighboring Ritz Carlton, you tip your hat to the Creek Club and acknowledge that John Legend had it right. Jim Engh accomplished his mission by providing a golf experience that was aesthetically beautiful and one of a kind. Creek Club, this golfer loves your curves and all your edges.