The Takeaway: Grade A-
Designer: Robert Trent Jones Sr. in 1964 (Highlands) and in 1967 (Riverside); Rees Jones in 1995 and 2005 (Hig
Phone Number: (770) 448-2166
Course Website: Official Website - Visit Atlanta Athletic Club (Highlands)'s official website by clicking on the link provided.
Directions: Get here! - 1930 Bobby Jones Drive, Johns Creek, GA
Accolades: Ranked 7th in Georgia on Golf Course Gurus Best in State list.
What to Expect: The Atlanta Athletic Club has roots to Bobby Jones when the phenom grew up playing on the East Lake Country Club course and continued to be an active member after the club was moved north to its current Johns Creek location. The club has hosted virtually every significant golfing event including the 1963 Ryder Cup, 1976 U.S. Open, and multiple PGA Championships including 2011. Every par three is lengthy and plays over water that runs right up next to the putting surface. Since the original Robert Trent Jones Sr. layout was installed in the 60s, Rees Jones has made multiple trips to the site remodeling the course in an effort to challenge the world’s best golfers. David Toms made the par three 15th hole famous when his 5-wood tee shot found the bottom of the cup and propelled him to a victory in the 2001 PGA Championship. AAC has the unique setup where different grass types are found at each course and thus delivering a unique experience (Diamond Zoysia fairways and Ultra Dwarf Bermuda greens on Highlands and Zion Zoysia fairways and Bentgrass greens on Riverside). If you want to put your skills to the ultimate test then Highlands is awaiting your visit, but if you want a fun course to place bets on with your buddies than Riverside is the call of the day.
By the Numbers
Individual Hole Analysis
Signature Hole: 15th Hole – 260 Yard Par 3 – This is the hole that David Toms made famous by carding a one on during the Saturday round of the 2001 PGA Championship. For that shot, Toms used a 5 wood to find the bottom of the cup, but that was when it played 30 yards shorter; it can now be stretched out to 260 yards. A pond runs the up the right side of the hole and protects that side of the green. A collection of bunkers hunker across the back of the green while the bail out area sits short left. The elevated tee provides both beauty and drama as you watch your ball sail towards the green hoping it carries the pond. Every par three at the Highlands course is long and plays over water; none more intimidating than the 15th.
Best Par 3: 17th Hole – 210 Yards – The last and arguably prettiest par three leaves little room for error as a pond covers the entire front of the hole and comes all the way up to the putting surface with just a rock retaining wall sitting between the green and the H2O. Four bunkers sit behind the green that is wider than it is deep. While the other par threes offer a bail out area, the 17th hole demands a great shot; no exceptions. This impressive one-shotter consistently plays as one of the toughest holes on the course.
Best Par 4: 11th Hole – 457 Yards – This demanding par four doglegs hard left about 300 yards off the tee. Bunkers protect each side of the fairway near the turn in the dogleg and should be avoided at all costs if you want to keep par as a reasonable goal. The approach shot play down to a green that is deeper than it is wide and is protected by two ‘U’ shaped bunkers on the left and a pond on the right. The green slopes towards the water and makes for a very testy up and down from either greenside bunker. No bones about it, this hole demands a great tee shot and even better approach shot. During the 2011 PGA Championship, Atlanta Athletic Club’s finest par four yielded over 50 birdies but also forced seven “others” on scorecards; the second most of any hole on the course.
Best Par 5: 12th Hole – 555 Yards – Already featured as the signature hole, the 18th at Riverside turns left and provides a risk/reward approach shot to a green fronted by a pond. The right side of the green can be approached on the ground due to the fairway that runs right up to the putting surface, while approaches towards the left side of the green must be aerial to avoid a watery grave. This is a great finishing hole since it is a par five that creates a birdie opportunity while being challenging enough to create drama at the end of the round.
Birdie Time: 10th Hole – 436 Yard Par 4 – You don’t have to study golf statistics long to understand one simple concept; par fives create scoring opportunities. The 13th hole on the Riverside course is a relatively short downhill par five with little trouble to contend with, thus rating on the scorecard as the easiest par five on the course. The right side of the green houses a large bunker, but plenty of room exists to the left while attacking this green. You can get away with a bad shot here and still card a birdie, so get your confidence up and take a stroke, or two, back from old man par.
Bogey Beware: 8th Hole – 467 Yard Par 4 – When you see a 600+ yard hole on the card, you likely don’t plan on reaching it in two and would be happy to walk away with a par. When it is the 1st hole of the day however, it can be a nightmare come to life if you haven’t taken the time to warm up. The combination of early round jitters, a monster long hole, and no playing time under your belt is the perfect storm for a potential bogey.