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Monday, March 3, 2008

Callaway Gardens could make you pine for Georgia

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On a difficult Mountain View course at Callaway Gardens, no hole is tougher than the par 5 15th, with the threat of water on all three shots to the green.  The lake intrudes on the fairway 150 yards from the tees and in front of the green (see bottom photo), but a sloping fairway makes the lake on the right the real hazard.


    One of the sad ironies of travel is that places where we feel the most relaxed aren't at the top of our list of communities to live permanently.  We may want to "get away from it all" for a week or two during our careers and child care days, but when it comes time to retire, the only remote most of us want is the one that controls the TV and other electronics.
    But for those of us who want to be on a permanent relaxing vacation, and don't mind sharing a little space with those who come to relax for a week or two, there are communities cum resorts like Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, GA.  But beware if you need the attraction of night life and shopping nearby; the nearest town of consequence is LaGrange, and that isn't exactly Charleston.  Pine Mountain's commercial district is about three blocks long, with one modest sized supermarket.  
    The golf at 14,000-acre Callaway Gardens is almost as manicured as the renowned gardens themselves.  As

I found myself humming "moonlight through the pines."

I made my way around the Mountain View Golf Course, one of two at the resort, I realized I was making like Ray Charles and humming the words "moonlight through the pines."  Virtually all holes are framed with those tall Georgia pines, and the addition by venerable designers Joe Lee and Dick Wilson of deep bunkers in fairway landing zones and nestled up against the side of slick and sloping greens takes nothing away from the pines.  They command the stage.
    The course is devilish, especially with wind gusts to 25 mph as the area gets ready today for a severe band of storms making their way across Alabama and Mississippi.  I followed a group of college golfers competing in the Callaway Collegiate Invitational.  Half the field did not break 80.  Greens were firm and fast, and it was clear many of the kids hadn't putted on such fast greens for some time.  Just because they are young, they show their nerves the way the rest of us do, and I saw a lot of missed four footers and a number of delicate chip shots hit too delicately.
    The toughest hole on the scorecard, the 520-yard par 5 15th, actually is indisputably the toughest hole on thecallaway15thteemarker.jpg course (that isn't always the case).  You must play defense on your first two shots because the fairway slopes hard from left to right and down into trees and lake.  The lake cuts in front of the elevated green making a go in two, especially into the wind, foolish indeed.  You do well to hit a four or five iron lay-up shot high on the fairway inside the 150 yard post and let it scoot down to a collection area about 125 from the green.  A sadistic greens keeper has a number of options for pin position, with front being the toughest, the right third of the green with a sharp drop off down toward the water almost as tough, and everywhere else just plain hard.  Bunkers surround the green except for directly in front, where the water lurks at the bottom of the hill.  Add wind to the equation, and the 15th at Callaway is probably as tough as the par 5 15th at a much more famous course up the road a piece in northern Georgia.    

    I'll include a few more photos of the course over the coming days and some information about homes and other activities in Callaway Gardens.

    Callaway Gardens Mountain View Course, Pine Mountain, GA.  Designers Joe Lee and Dick Wilson (1963).  Tournament tees 7,057 yards, rating 73.7, slope 139.  White tees 6,630, 71.9, 134.  Green tees:  5,789 yards, 68.2, 126.  Ladies:  4,883, 69.4, 120.  (800) CALLAWAY.  



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Larry Gavrich

This blog was conceived and is published by me, Larry Gavrich, a former corporate communications executive who founded HomeOnTheCourse, LLC, in 2005.  Our firm advises baby boomers and others seeking a lifestyle in which golf is a major component.  My wife Connie and I own a home in Connecticut (not on a golf course) and a condo at Pawleys Plantation in Pawleys Island, SC, on a Jack Nicklaus layout.  We began our search for our home on the course more than 15 years ago, and the challenges of the search inspired me to research golf communities and write objective reviews of them.


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