It’s been a long time since these feet first set ground on the Atlanta National Golf Club. Back in those days it was a pile of mud and debris. Pete Dye and his son, P.B., had done the routing and had done the initial shaping of the course. It was a wet, muddy day when I visited and you had to use your imagination on some of the holes. But one thing came through loud and clear: this place was going to be special.
This year Atlanta National is celebrating its 25th anniversary. The north Fulton club was able to survive some hardships over the years. And now that the recession has somewhat abated, Atlanta National stands proud among the best in the very competitive area of high-end clubs in Atlanta. It is, indeed, special
A recent trip to Atlanta National found conditions up to their high standards and the course with just as much bite as it’s always had. When you get a chance to play Atlanta National, you’d better be able to drive the ball well or prepare to have a big number on your scorecard at the end of the round.
One thing you notice at Atlanta National is how so many people choose to walk and carry their own bags. But other than a couple of holes — the worst being the fifth fairway known to some at Mount Everest — the course is very walkable. More than half the rounds recorded at Atlanta National were by walkers. This is particularly popular on weekend mornings.
The course plays much tougher than its 6,942 yards from the back tees. The burgundy tees play 6,460 and the blues are 5,917. Our group played the burgundy tees, but next I’d probably move up a set and play the blues.
My three favorite holes at Atlanta National are:
No. 16 — A short par 4 that leaves the player options from the tee box. Playing only 287 from the middle tees, the hole is drivable by a long hitter, or open with a big fairway on the right side. Those who go for it must thread a small gap over a gaping fairway waste area and through a couple of bunkers. Those who go long risk flying into the creek.
No. 9 — A three-shot par 5 for most because of the water that cuts in front of the green. This would be an awesome finishing hole, if the course didn’t already have a great 18th hole. Which brings us to …
No. 18 — A long, long, long par 4 that requires a drive that must top a hill. The right side of the fairway is guarded by a long waste area, which almost means a sure bogey. The green just sort of sits there and tempts you. Make a par here and the wings in the men’s grill will taste a lot better.
There are four good par 3s on the course. Egad, they aren’t all 200 yards long, either. But the shortest, the 128-yard sixth hole, is a deceptive monster. And when the hole location is on the left side, it brings a gaping trap into play. The 188-yard 12th hole requires a full carry over water and the 149-yard 17th hole is an island green.