Aerial view of the 9th hole from the green (bottom) to the teeing ground (top) on the Heritage course at Heritage Golf Links in Tucker. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

The AJC’s Top 18 public golf holes: East Metro

Editor’s note: This is the third in a six-part series feature the 18 best public golf holes in metro Atlanta. The series is divided into regions and will culminate with a Grand 18 on Sunday. 

The area to the east of Atlanta has provided public golf opportunities for many years. It is a fertile and welcoming area for golfers who choose to avoid the obligation to join a private club. And it features courses that were designed by some of the game’s most notable architects. 

There is the venerable Mystery Valley in Lithonia, which opened in 1966 and was the final course designed by Dick Wilson -- Doral, Laurel Valley and Bay Hill among his credits -- before his death. 

Stone Mountain features the only course in Georgia designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr., whose Stonemont Course opened in 1969. The John LaFoy-designed Lakemont Course came along in1988 and provided 18 more holes. 

Cherokee Run in Conyers was designed by Arnold Palmer and is adjacent to the Georgia International Horse Park that hosted the 1996 Olympic equestrian events. “The King” himself even attended the grand opening in 1995 and played the first round with members of the country-music group Alabama. The City of Conyers currently owns and operates the course. 

Atlanta native Mike Young drew up plans for Heritage in Tucker and followed his marching orders to make it the most difficult course in the metro area. Although softened today, it still has a 146 slope rating from the gold tees.

Here are the AJC’s Top 18 public holes in East Metro, which includes DeKalb, Rockdale and Newton counties. The list includes public, municipal, resort and semiprivate facilities that are open to outside play. Yardages listed are from the back tees. The list appears in no particular order.

1. Ashton Hills Golf Club, Covington: No. 8, 523 yards, par 5 – Designer Desmond Muirhead put several artistic touches on the course, and it’s quite evident here. The hole is shaped like a mermaid. There are two small hills 50 yards short of the green, which is surrounded on three sides by a bunker.

2. Ashton Hills Golf Club, Covington: No. 14, 463 yards, par 4 – The most difficult hole on the course is a dogleg right with little room for error. The green is guarded by wetlands and a par here definitely feels like a birdie. 

3. Cherokee Run Golf Course, Conyers: No. 12, 196 yards, par 3 – A beautiful hole that sits in front of a rock outcropping. The opening shot from an elevated tee requires you to carry a gully to a green guarded by a bunker. Don’t be short; anything without enough oomph will roll down the hill and leave a difficult up-and-down. 

4. Cherokee Run Golf Course, Conyers: No. 17, 301 yards, par 4 – A fun risk-reward hole that gives big hitters a chance to fire at the green – if they have enough juice to carry the creek that runs across the front. Shorter hitters may even use an iron to find the fairway and have a pitch into a sizable green. 

5. Cherokee Run Golf Course, Conyers: No. 18, 553 yards, par 5  The approach to the green is guarded by a pond and is reachable for the aggressive player. But a wayward second shot could be destined for one of the nine bunkers that await on the right. The more conservative player and likely will end up 100-yard pitch into the green

6. Heritage Golf Links, Tucker: Heritage No. 2, 238-yard par – Load up on energy drinks before taking on the Heritage nine, which starts getting real with this uphill hole. Other than its length or its bunkers or that fact this often plays into the wind, this one’s a pushover. 

7. Heritage Golf Links, Tucker: Heritage No. 9, 442, par 4 – The tee shot must carry to lake to reach the fairway. But you still aren’t finished with the water. It’s there to taunt you on the right side all the way to the green.

Aerial view of the second hole from the teeing ground (bottom) to the green (top) on the Heritage course at Heritage Golf Links in Tucker. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

8. Mystery Valley Golf Course, Lithonia: No. 1, 506 yards, par 5 – A wonderful opening hole. There’s plenty of room to bang it off the tee on this big dogleg left. Anything left is a problem – there are trees and the practice range is over there -- but once you turn the corner it’s time to go birdie hunting. 

9. Mystery Valley Golf Course, Lithonia: No. 10, 488 yards, par 5  An elevated tee on this dogleg left requires a carry over water. Find the fairway and you’ll be thinking birdie. The green is reachable in two shots by those who play the proper set of tees. 

10. Mystery Valley Golf Course, Lithonia No. 15, 381 yards, par 4 – This is one of the most difficult holes in Atlanta. Long and narrow on both sides, with a spot of water near the landing area. Par here is worth celebrating. 

11. The Oaks Course, Covington: No. 1, 347 yards, par 4 – The opening hole is a slight dogleg right and features a small creek on the front and right side. A small pond on the right will keep slicers honest. The green is elevated and slopes toward the fairway. 

12. The Oaks Course, Covington: No. 12, 362 yards, par 4 – This dogleg left doesn't have a hazard, but is difficult because of an elusive green that’s shallow and elevated. It is possible to cut the dogleg, but that risk comes with the threat of tall trees. The green sits up high and will penalize those too bold or too timid. 

13. Southland Golf and Country Club, Stone Mountain: No. 3, 211 yards, par 3 – Not only is this hole long, it plays to a green the size of postage stamp. 

14. Southland Golf and Country Club, Stone Mountain No. 18, 512 yards, par 5  The scenic signature hole features a lake and a view of Stone Mountain. You can’t hit the mountain, but the lake is in play from tee to green on the right side and the fairway tends to run that way, too. A second shot struck toward the big rock will set you up nicely to finish the double dogleg.

15. Stone Mountain Golf Course: Stonemont, No. 1, 451 yards, par 4 – Considered by many the most difficult opening hole in metro Atlanta. Nothing fancy. Just a long hole with a fairway that slopes to the right before you reach the deep green – the only thing friendly about this hole. This sets the tone that this course means business. 

16. Stone Mountain Golf Course: No. 2, 289 yards, par 4 – After slapping you with the beastly first hole, Jones follows with this risk-reward dandy. The hole plays slightly uphill and is drivable for big hitters who are able to avoid the trees. A less-aggressive tee shot leaves you 100 yards away from a well-guarded green. 

17. Stone Mountain Golf Course: Lakemont, No. 3, 408 yards, par 4 – Think accuracy, not distance on the tee. You’ll want to be in the fairway when attacking the island green protected by a creek in the front and the lake in the rear. Make a par and enjoy one of the many excellent views that Lakemont offers of the world’s largest piece of exposed granite. 

18. Stone Mountain Golf Course: Lakemont, No. 17, 349 yards, par 4 –The uphill dogleg right has trouble on the right, but a risk-taker who is able to go over the trees will be rewarded with a short approach to a flat green. A conservative, shorter tee shot down the safe left side leads a 125-yard uphill approach. The wind is often a factor on this hole.

Best of series

• AJC’s Top 18: Cherokee/Cobb
• AJC’s Top 18: North Fulton/Forsyth
• AJC’s Top 18: East Metro
• AJC’s Top 18: Gwinnett
• AJC’s Top 18: Southside
• The Grand 18

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