The Golf Club at Cuscowilla
8th hole, 235 yards; Unlike many modern designs, the ground game is alive and well at Cuscowilla. Played along a hill that leads down to the lake shore, the golfer is well advised to use the sloping terrain shy of the green. Consistent with the slope of the land, the green falls toward its back right anda tee ball that uses the slope and sends a ballslowlyon its waytoward the back hole locations is a sight that is beautiful to watch unfold.
9th hole, 480 yards; After the tee shot out of a chute of trees hopefully finds the downslope to propel it another 30 yards, the player is faced with an approach reminiscent of the West Course at Royal Melbourne, thanks to the boldness of the green and bunkering.
10th hole, 425 yards; Perhaps the finest ‘Cape’ hole built since the one at Mid-Ocean, Cuscowilla’s version is a mirror-image of Bermuda’s famous hole. After the dramatic drive off the elevated tee over the finger of Lake Oconee, the player has a mid-iron to the green whose main defense would appear to be the sole bunker to the right (which, fortunately, the architects did not turn into that now too-familiar ‘beach bunker’). However, the real trouble is to be found down the rather steep, closely-mown slope to the left. A player who is too conservative and misses the green left (away from the bunker and water) has little chance to save par as the green, particularly the left side, slopes to the right. As it turns out, he would have been better off to miss his shot in the bunker on the right.
11th hole, 135 yards; A charming but frustrating hole set along the lake, the 11th provides a nice change of pace after the rigors of the 6th, 8th and 9th holes and the drama of the 10th. As befits a hole of this length, the 11th features the most severe green on the course, with a false front that eats up the front left third of the green. The distance from the right edge of the green to the water is perfect – a ball that lands on the green but rolls off should stay dry while one that lands right of the green will find the water.
12th hole, 300 yards; This drivable hole compliments the 5th and 11th quite nicely. As the 12th is flat, driving the green is a more realistic play than at the 5th. However, what a precise shot is needed to find the green from the tee! The key is the bunker 15 yards short of the green in the right side of the fairway as the bold player must either carry it (quite a stout hit) or thread the gap between this bunker and the front-left greenside one. A draw or fade can do the trick, but the fade is the more dramatic shot as the player has to fire his tee shot over some pine trees that intrude from the left. The hole appropriately features the smallest green on the course complete with a good pitch to the front (one author witnessed a player 20 feet beyond a front hole location putt off the green).
13th hole, 465 yards; While this bunkerless hole may not be as visually dynamic as many of the others, it is a perfect illustration of getting the most from the ground and of building a hole that is reflective of its environment. Anything left of center onthe green is likely to tumble down the closely mown bank and leave a testy recovery shot. The rigors of the 13thcompliments the drivable 12th.
15th hole, 445 yards; The 200 yard carryover wateris toa landing area that looks more pinched (by a bunker on the left and trees on the right) than it actually is as the trees hide the right part of the fairway. The approach is splendid, thanks to the authors’ favorite green on the course. The green would fit in at Chicago Golf Club, with its large, rectangular shape broken up by variety of undulations: a false front, a back-left knob and the right side that slopes off to the right.
Cuscowilla is that rare course that plays well for both match and stroke play. An eight-handicapper can readily play four rounds on consecutive days without scoring worse than bogey, yet there are several holes (e.g., the 5th and 12th) that really come alive in a match and specific shots where the player can gain a great advantage over his opponent with a bold, well-placed drive (e.g., the 1st, 4th, 10th).
Why aren’t more modern courses built like Cuscowilla that strike that balance between reasonable demands on the player and interest? The answer lies in the approach that Coore and Crenshaw take with each project that they hand select. They do not accept projects where the owner is focused on seeing the course make a splashy appearance in the magazine rankings.Rather, they seek owners who sharea similar philosophy of building holes/courses that are reflective of theproperty and thatremain a joy to play for years to come. While almost everyarchitect makes such a claim, Cooreand Crenshaw actually deliver on the final product at Cuscowilla by a) taking their cue from nature (e.g. their use of the topography on holes 8 and 13 and their use of the lakeon 4 and 10) and b) their use of low profile features (e.g. the bunkering schemes at 1 and 5 and the interior green contours at 11 and 15).
Somewhat like New Jersey, the debate in Georgia is not about thefinest course in the state, but rather the second best. Cuscowilla wins that race, at least in the authors’ eyes. That is only fitting, as one of its architects knows something about golf in Georgia.