The AJC’s Top 18 public golf holes: Southside

Aerial view of the 5th hole at Summer Grove in Newnan. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Combined ShapeCaption
Aerial view of the 5th hole at Summer Grove in Newnan. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Editor's note: This is the fifth 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: SouthsideSunday: The Grand 18

Finding a place to play golf isn’t always simple for South Metro golfers. Many of the top courses are private. Other facilities have struggled to stay open, even under economic boom times. Sometimes the conditions aren’t the best.

One of the success stories has been the Summer Grove Golf Club in Newnan. The course is owned and was built by the Jemsek family, which operates famed Cog Hill outside Chicago, former site of the Western Open and the place where Georgia Tech’s Matt Kuchar won the 1997 U.S. Amateur. The Jemseks are noted for their devotion to public golf and earned the Jack Nicklaus Family Golf Award in 1991.

The Jemseks have retained their high standards for public golf in Newnan. Summer Grove winds through wetlands and forests and around lakes and creeks to create a lovely setting for golf. It was one the first courses in Georgia to meet standards and earn certification as an Audubon International Signature Program. The visitors with golf clubs share space with the critters who inhabit the 250 acres.

And the golf course, designed by Joe Jemsek and Jeff Burton, uses all the natural elements to produce an enjoyable, memorable 18 holes.

Veteran PGA professional Wyatt Detmer said, “The course is just so pretty. No. 4 is a crescent around the lake, and it’s such a beautiful hole, but there’s just a lot of good holes on the golf course.”

When it came to selecting the AJC’s Top 18 public golf holes in South Metro (South Fulton, Henry, Coweta and Clayton counties), two holes from Summer Grove were included. The list includes public, municipal, resort and semiprivate facilities that are open to outside play. Yardages listed are from the back tees. The holes appear in no particular order.

1. Browns Mill Golf Course, Atlanta: No. 1, par 5, 515 yards – This is one of the better opening holes in the city. A long hole that lets you flex your muscle off the tee, but requires you to avoid water on the left off the tee and on the right a bit further down the fairway.

2. Browns Mill Golf Course, Atlanta: No. 3, par 4, 435 yards – Accuracy off the tee is critical here; there are trees on the right and a fairway bunker on the left. The uphill elevation change – about 30 degrees from tee to green – makes this play like a par 5.

3. College Park Municipal Golf Course: No. 4, par 5, 445 yards – The hole is dubbed "Rolling Hillacious" and requires a decision on the second shot – blast a 3-wood to an elevated green or layup to a rolling hill and face an easier approach. The green is sloped and slanted downhill. It's a quality hole on a historic nine-hole course (built in 1929) that recently received a major upgrade to the greens and clubhouse.

4. Cotton Fields Golf Course, McDonoughNo. 15, par 3, 193 yards – It takes a nice poke off from the back tees to clear a small pond in the middle of the fairway. A large bunker is there to catch anything that rolls long. The Cotton Fields was closed for two months during the coronavirus pandemic. Numerous holes were worked on, and the course is in outstanding condition.

5. Coweta Club at Arbor Springs, Newnan: No. 10, par 4, 454 yards – A unique risk-reward hole that features a big dogleg right with a drop off. Find the sweet spot and you're looking at a wedge into the green, but miss it in the wrong spot and you could be facing a 200-yard approach.

6. Coweta Club at Arbor Springs, Newnan: No. 17, par 4, 294 yards  Another short risk-reward hole. A poor tee ball can bring in trouble on the narrow fairway, but the hole is drivable. Others remove the fear factor by simply hitting a couple of short irons to reach the green.

7. Crystal Lake Golf and Country Club, Hampton: No. 14, par 4, 437 yards – The dogleg right demands a long straight tee shot. Anything short will make it impossible to turn the corner and transform the hole into a par 5. The approach must carry a wetlands area and is protected by a bunker.

8. Crystal Lake Golf and Country Club, Hampton:  No. 15, par 3, 240 yards  The signature hole is a testy one with plenty of length and danger. There's water all the way down the left side, bunkers in the front, bunkers on the left and hill on the right. It's certainly a handful, especially when the fountain is turned on.

9. Heron Bay Golf Club, Locust Grove: No. 15, par 4, 478 yards -- Probably the toughest on the course. Comes with the length of a par 5 and requires a carry to a green guarded by a small creek.

10. Alfred "Tup" Holmes Golf Course, Atlanta: No. 17, par 4, 260 yards – One of the more intriguing holes on his historic course is drivable for the bombers. But be forewarned: if you come up short, the second shot will be quite difficult. "If you don't carry it all the way to the green, the second shot is so uphill about all you can see is sky," said golf instructor John Marshall, a frequent visitor to the course.

11. Lake Spivey Golf Course, Jonesboro: No. 9, 560 yards, par 5 – There is plenty of fairway here, but slicers face an out-of-bounds scare on the right. A pond guards the green on the front and left sides, making for some interesting hole locations.

12. Lake Spivey Golf Course, Jonesboro: No. 19, par 4, 366 yards – Not many courses have 19 holes, but this one is more than a novelty. A pond on the right side looks ominous, but there's more room than there appears. A good drive will reward a player with a short approach into a tiered green. Players can use No. 19 to settle bets or discard a score from either the 11th or 18th hole. It adds some spice to the finish.

13. Panola Mountain Golf Course, Ellenwood: No. 11, 425 yards, par 4 – The challenging hole has a narrow fairway and features a pond on the right side. Pay attention to your game, though, because the views of Panola Mountain and surrounding environs can be distracting, especially late in the day.

Combined ShapeCaption
Aerial view of the 5th green at Summer Grove in Newnan. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Aerial view of the 5th green at Summer Grove in Newnan. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Combined ShapeCaption
Aerial view of the 5th green at Summer Grove in Newnan. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

14. Summer Grove Golf Club, Newnan: No. 5, par 4, 323 yards  The shortest par 4 on the course probably is the prettiest on a lovely golf course. But there is water that runs the length of the hole and guards it short and right.

15. Summer Grove Golf Club, Newnan: No. 18, 479 yards, par 4 –An elevated tee shot opens this long hole, which features a narrow landing area accentuated by a pair of fairway bunkers. The second shot plays back up the hill, where a hard-fought par is a nice way to finish the day.

16. John A. White Golf Course, Atlanta: No 5, 325 yards, par 4 – You don't need a driver since the tee shot comes out of a narrow chute. The second shot goes into an undulating green that is protected by two greenside bunkers. Miss the green and you'll have trouble getting up and down for par.

17. Wolf Creek Golf Club, Atlanta: No. 10, 431, yards, par 4 – It plays long and straight to low-profile green. Don't dare go right or you'll likely be wet, since there's water that comes into play over there for almost the length of the hole.

18. Wolf Creek Golf Club, Atlanta: No. 14, 151 yards, par 3  This Mike Young design, located only 10 minutes from Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, has numerous scenic holes. None are better than this one, where the green juts into the water and is protected on three sides by wetness.

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