I spent four days at Reynolds Lake Oconee playing golf with a group of people who write about golf for a living. Strong opinions were not in short supply, and nothing divided the group like Jim Engh’s Creek Club. Is it a contrived mockery of good course design or a really fun 18 holes of golf? Maybe it’s both.
In a group of courses that all have good practice areas, the members-only Creek Club may have the best. The driving range is massive, and the severe elevation change is a great and necessary tool for figuring out your distance adjustments. You can warm up your flat stick on two putting greens – one near the range, the other near the first tee – however neither will prepare you for the roller coaster breaks you’ll see on the course.
Customer Service & Amenities
The staff at Creek Club maintained the high standards for customer service that had been set earlier in the trip, but what stood out most was the food. Before our round, we were treated to a buffet of delicacies that I’ve never seen in a clubhouse before. You can certainly opt for more standard golf course fare, but I’d recommend taking advantage of the more adventurous options.
Just as at The Landing, guests of Creek Club are given a yardage book. Especially with the elevation changes and penal hazards, it’s essential to approach each hole with a good strategy.
Beauty & Scenery
Creek Club does everything it can to create visual drama: huge elevation changes on nearly every tee shot and approach, mounds of all shapes and sizes, and doglegs at a variety of angles.
From the tees, the tall native grasses frame the holes beautifully. There’s not a ton of sand or water, but the hazards that do exist grab your attention and add needed aesthetic variety.
There’s width off the tee and then there’s Creek Club. I have never seen larger landing areas in my life. If you find a way to hit it in the trees, you probably need a lesson and a new driver.
While you can spray it anywhere, there are two significant advantages to being able to drive it accurately. First, you set up the correct angles into the green. There are plenty of hazards around each green, but you can minimize them by playing from the right line. Second, you can add significant distance by hitting the right slopes. These fairways have some huge swells, and they can be the difference between a drive landing and rolling back toward the tee or bounding forward twenty or thirty yards.
Many of the approach shots at Creek Club look intimidating, like the 18th, shown above: five bunkers tucked between large mounds. But there’s a simple secret: don’t be short. Every single approach hazard is in front of the green, and most of the back edges and surrounds are banked to bring a long approach back toward the flag (see the picture below).
If you make sure that your approaches fly to the green, you’re likely to get good results. The greens are roller coasters, and many of the breaks are going to be very friendly. Creek Club is home to more holes-in-one than all the other Reynolds courses combined!
The other side of the coin is that sometimes seemingly-good shots will be dead. The ninth green, for example, has two tiers that are separated by ten vertical feet (shown below). If you’re on the upper tier putting to the lower tier, there’s no way to keep your ball on the green. There are similar – though less extreme – possibilities on almost every hole.
A final note: trust your yardages. The mounds and elevation work together to deceive your eyes. Commit to playing the number on the card, and you’ll be in good shape.
Greens & Surrounds
Putting at the Creek Club is a wild ride. As you see above and below, Jim Engh is not afraid of huge breaks or huge greens, so putting is what will separate great rounds at Creek Club from average ones.
Your attitude about these huge breaks will likely dictate your feelings about Creek Club and your success on the greens. I found the greens – and the course – to be a lot of fun. Over the top? For sure, but also fun.
If you don’t get your approach shots close, you’ll be doing a lot of creative thinking on the greens. In my group, there were numerous putts that were aimed 90 degrees away from the hole. You may also need to roll the ball past the hole and use a slope to bring it back. If that kind of putting sounds too extreme for you, this course probably isn’t your cup of tea.
We come back to the word divisive. Creek Club is a love or hate course. I loved it. I thought the greens were over the top but also a lot of fun. I enjoyed seeing the ball roll all over on approaches and pitches. If you’re a traditionalist, you can stick the other five courses at Reynolds Lake Oconee, but if you’re game for something different, find a member to get you on at Creek Club.