With 21 miles of lakefront, Reynolds Lake Oconee doesn’t lack for beautiful real estate, but none of their golf courses put this to use as well at Great Waters. With nine holes that prominently feature the lake, it’s not only the most beautiful course on the property, it’s one of the more picturesque courses I’ve played. But this course is more than a pretty face, it’s also a fun and challenging test.
The driving range, short game area, and putting green flow perfectly from the clubhouse to the first tee. Warm up on a two-tiered range and then walk fifty feet to get a feel for chipping and pitching.
The putting green is within sight of the first tee so that you can feel out the breaks before heading off. Great Waters also has a beautiful putting green between the club house and the lake for settling bets or honing your skills while staring at Lake Oconee.
Customer Service & Amenities
As is the case everywhere at Reynolds Lake Oconee, the customer service at Great Waters is excellent. There are ample staff members from the bag drop to the first tee to get your round started smoothly.
Great Waters features two restaurants: the Waterview Pub and a more formal restaurant above the pro shop. Both have gorgeous views of the lake and together they provide enough dining options to please any golfer.
Beauty & Scenery
Aesthetically, Great Waters is two different experiences in one. Holes 1 through 8 are inland, playing through the trees. These holes don’t have the dramatic elevation changes of Creek Club but instead have an understated elegance. The rolling elevation, tasteful bunkering, and meandering creeks keep you engaged.
From the approach at #9 through the end of the round, you will be stopping regularly to admire the views. Lake Oconee is your traveling partner through the back nine, whether you’re playing over it, around it, or alongside it.
Jack Nicklaus uses a combination of elements to make driving at Great Waters tough but fair. The space between the tree lines is wide on most of the holes, and there’s ample fairway. However, the rough is thick and long. Staying between the trees is not enough if you want to have a good play to the green.
Two other elements add to the challenge. First, a number of holes play uphill. This can take the legs out of your drives, particularly when the course is wet. Additionally, clever use of angles and trees makes some tee shots look uncomfortable. While there may be plenty of width, a single tree often changes the view enough to tighten your grip on the driver.
In short, Great Waters will only penalize the most reckless drivers, but it will only reward the most skilled.
The most common complaint about Jack Nicklaus courses (one which I’ve voiced myself), is that the approach shots are too demanding. This is not the case at Great Waters. Over half the greens have only one bunker or none at all. Even the holes with multiple greenside bunkers have safe sides and bail out areas that the strategic player can use to their advantage.
While there are always safe areas to play into, shooting a low score will require taking on some risk and executing great shots. #5 – a par 4 – is a good example and one of the strongest holes on the course. Your approach needs to carry a creek and the shallow green is angled so that the right side runs away from the golfer. There’s ample space short and left, or you can be long and safe, but to get near the flag you’ll need precise distance control and the willingness to take on the water.
Greens & Surrounds
The greens at Great Waters continue the theme of high playability combined with strong resistance to low scores. These putting surfaces are of average size and the breaks are mostly subtle. There are a handful of tiered greens and some big swinging putts, but mostly you’ll be working to decipher small breaks and hit precise lines.
Around the green, the fringe is allowed to grow a bit taller than at other Reynolds Lake Oconee courses. This removes the option of putting the ball from the surrounds and increases your reliance on good lies, but the extra grass can make chipping and pitching a bit easier. The key is keeping your ball in the right areas. If you play to the wrong side of the green, you may miss by only a few paces but find your ball in tall, thick rough. Short shots from the fringe are much more predictable, so make sure you’re planning your approaches carefully.
Great Waters at Reynolds Lake Oconee is easily the best Jack Nicklaus design that I’ve played, and one that I’d like to play again. This is the rare course that can be welcoming to the new or less skilled golfer (from the correct tee box) while also challenging the talented player. Add to that the beauty of nine holes of Lake Oconee, and you have the recipe for a truly top tier golf course.