The AJC’s Top 18 public golf holes: Gwinnett

Aerial view of the 8th green (foreground) and fairway at Chateau Elan Golf Club in Braselton. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Combined ShapeCaption
Aerial view of the 8th green (foreground) and fairway at Chateau Elan Golf Club in Braselton. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Editor's note: This is the fourth 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. Today: GwinnettTomorrow: Southside

Architect Denis Griffiths has created some notable golf courses in his adopted home state. His work can be found from the far north (Brasstown Valley Resort in Young Harris) to the deep south (Gordonia-Alatamaha State Park in Reidsville).

But some of his best work can be found at Chateau Elan, where his original Chateau Course and the Woodlands Course remain two memorable layouts. Griffiths liked Chateau Elan so much that he still lives and works there.

When Griffiths was hired by Chateau Elan founder and developer Don Panoz to create the course in 1989, it helped bring quality public golf to a growing area that had limited opportunities. It remains one of the more popular destinations in the northeastern suburbs.

“I have trouble picking out one hole that is particularly that much better,” Griffiths said. “That’s our goal, to have 18 good golf holes and not three great holes and six bad holes.”

There are five of Griffiths’ holes from the Chateau portfolio on AJC’s Top 18 public golf holes in the Gwinnett County area – three from the Chateau Course and two more from the Woodlands. Griffiths also designed the nearby Chicopee Woods Golf Course, which has two holes on the list.

The list includes public, municipal, resort and semiprivate facilities that are open to outside play. Yardages listed are from the back tees. The holes are listed in no particular order.

1. Bear's Best Atlanta, Suwanee: No. 18, 483 yards, par 4 There are 18 replica holes from the Jack Nicklaus portfolio. This one duplicates the 18th at Castle Pines Golf Club outside Denver. The difficult hole plays slightly uphill to a landing area guarded on the left by a large bunker. Any approach from the left side must carry 11 fairway bunkers – pleasant to look at, difficult to deal with – to reach a green protected by sand on three sides.

2. Chateau Elan Golf Club, Braselton: Chateau No. 8, 200 yards, par 3 – There's a challenging tee shot on his hole, as you emerge from a chute of trees and typically into the wind. Fortunately, there's a big green waiting for you.

3. Chateau Elan Golf Club, Braselton: No. 13, par 4, 444 yards – This hole plays uphill and longer than advertised. Aim for the bunkers, and you should be OK. Any hole location on the left side will add to the difficulty.

4. Chateau Elan Golf Club, Braselton: No. 18, par 4, 455 yards – This is a big golf hole, so Griffiths recommend players to let it rip off the tee. The large green has three different target areas. "I'm really fond of No. 18. I love it as a finishing hole," Griffiths said. "From my perspective, it's almost the epitome of a perfect finishing hole."

5. Chateau Elan Golf Club, Braselton: Woodlands No. 2, par 3, 209 yards –- A fun hole. There's water in the front and a sculptured backdrop in the back.

6. Chateau Elan Golf Club, Braselton: Woodlands No. 12, par 4, 367 yards – It may be smart to drop down and hit a 3-wood off the tee across the hollow. The approach plays to a terraced green that is well-bunkered on the left.

Combined ShapeCaption
View of the 8th green at Chateau Elan Golf Club in Braselton . (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

View of the 8th green at Chateau Elan Golf Club in Braselton . (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Combined ShapeCaption
View of the 8th green at Chateau Elan Golf Club in Braselton . (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

7. Chicopee Woods Golf Course, Oakwood: The Mill No. 5, 257 yards, par 3  When you get on the tee and take a look at the task at hand, a driver may not be a bad option – especially if the wind is blowing.

8. Chicopee Woods Golf Course, Oakwood: The School No. 9, 566 yards, par 5  After thinking birdie on the other par 5 on this nine (No. 5), you'll be trying to avoid a big number on the closing hole. There's plenty of landing area for the second shot, but a pond protects the right side and there's more water if you go long.

9. Collins Hill Golf Club, Lawrenceville: No. 3, 325 yards, par 4 – The hole is almost a 90-degree dogleg right. You don't have to be a big hitter to take a shot at the green because there's ample room to bail out on the left side of the fairway. Too much slice likely will find the hazard. This fun hole comes right after playing the grueling No. 1 handicap hole.

10. Country Club of Gwinnett, Snellville: No. 1, par 4, 392 yards – The opening hole plays downhill to a dogleg right with water in the equation. If you're feeling frisky and can carry the water, you'll have a short pitch to the green.

11. Legacy Golf Course at Lanier Islands, Buford: No. 14, 441 yards, par 4  From the back tees, it's a 200-yard carry over water and three big fairway bunkers. The fairway turns into a ribbon about 150 yards away, and there is no bailout room for the approach, with Lake Lanier eagerly awaiting anything sliced its way. 
12. Legacy Golf Course at Lanier Islands, Buford: No. 15, 186 yards, par 3  The green juts out into Lake Lanier, leaving little margin for error off the tee. There's a big bunker on the front of the green – but that's for your protection and to prevent short shots from rolling into the drink.

13. Providence Golf Club, Monroe: No. 4, 436 yards, par 4  If you're feeling aggressive, there's an opportunity to trim a big chunk of this hole by carrying the lake and a fairway bunker. The "chicken right" is a safe zone and still gives you an opportunity to find the green,

14. Reunion Country Club, Hoschton: No. 15, 447 yards, par 4  This hole features a 90-degree dogleg right. A short tee shot will leave you blocked out by trees and destined for bogey. A straight drive will leave you a mid-iron into a green carved into the hillside, protected by two big bunkers. Anything short likely will roll into the expansive hazard.

15. Sugar Hill Golf Course: No. 5, 399 yards, par 4 – One of the more demanding tee shots. Golfers need to clear a lake – that's a 200-yard poke from the back tees – before the hole doglegs left. The green is sloped, and approaches that come up short will roll back 20 yards into pit area.

16. Summit Chase Country Club, Snellville: No. 14, 447 yards, par 4 – The back nine at "The Chase" is the tougher side, and this is the toughest. A long hole that requires a straight drive; right is in the trees and anything left will roll down the granite and into the woods. A mature tree guards the right to make the long approach even more daunting.

17. Trophy Club of Apalachee, Dacula: No. 6, 480 yards, par 5  The dogleg right features water the entire way on the right side. Keep the drive left and watch the slope take it and go. A good drive gives the opportunity to go for the green in two, but the hazard is a bigger threat than it looks.

18. Trophy Club of Apalachee, Dacula: No. 10, 485 yards, par 4 – A creek angles through the fairway and makes for an interesting decision on the tee. Even a good drive leaves a player with a long approach to a green guarded by a bunker and a hazard.

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