It's not like there aren't plenty of great golf options in Atlanta, home of the Tour Championship at historic East Lake Golf Club. But sometimes you just want to get away.
Fortunately, for those who live in or are staying in the area, there are plenty of great golf courses surrounding Georgia's capital city, and most of them are less than a four-hour drive.
And if you stay within the state of Georgia, there are some good choices, too.
Here is a look at some drive-to golf options from "The ATL," some pretty much around the corner, others just a few hours away.
Reynolds Lake Oconee, Greensboro, Ga.
On the way to Augusta, Reynolds Lake Oconee is a Georgia golf mecca a little more than an hour from Atlanta. Five of the six golf courses at Reynolds Lake Oconee offer public play and include Jack Nicklaus' Great Waters Course, which opened in 1992 and features nearly half its holes on the shores of Lake Oconee. Bob Cupp designed the two oldest golf courses -- The Landing and the Plantation Course. The National Course, designed by Tom Fazio, is 27 holes. Rees Jones designed the Oconee Course, which is named, of course, for its proximity to the lake. Also, the practice facilities at Reynolds Lake Oconee are among the best in the country. If your game needs work, the Reynolds Kingdom of Golf presented by TaylorMade, led by top-100 instructor Charlie King, is sure to help. In addition to a large pool of condos you can rent, accommodations include The Ritz-Carlton at Reynolds Lake Oconee.
Obviously, the ultimate would be to get an invite to play Augusta National, but short of that, Augusta (and nearby Aiken, Ga.) is still a pretty cool golf destination a couple hours from Atlanta. If you're making the trip during Masters week, you'll pay a little more for green fees and a lot more for hotels, but these courses are fairly affordable the rest of the year. Among the most popular open to the public in North Augusta, S.C., is The River Golf Club, a Jim Fazio design at a facility that also offers cottages, perfect for buddy trips. You can also try the semi-private Jones Creek Golf Club, which is nestled in an upscale neighborhood where many of its residents rent out their homes the week of the Masters. Designed by Rees Jones and Tom Fazio, it's a good test of golf, albeit a little tight in some areas.
Over in Aiken, S.C., the Tom Jackson-designed, 27-hole Mount Vintage Plantation Golf Club has elevation changes, bentgrass greens and awesome conditioning, which might remind you of that course you see on TV every year in April. In short, it's a must play. Semi-private Cedar Creek Golf Club is an Arthur Hills design that tops out at 7,000 yards and is very affordable. Or check out the quirky and historic Aiken Golf Club. This 1912 layout was the first course in America to feature "ladies tees," and you'll love the oddly shaped greens and tee boxes.
Chateau Elan Winery and Resort, Braselton, Ga.
About an hour north of Atlanta is the perfect couples destination, not just for the golf. Chateau Elan, which was established in 1981, is the largest winery in Georgia. Dining is pretty good as well. There are nearly 300 guest rooms, which have been renovated in recent years, as well as a conference center and the Versailles Restaurant and L'Auberge Lounge.
As for golf, the original Chateau Course, which opened in 1989, is a Denis Griffiths design. The 7,030-yard par-71 layout isn't as forgiving as your typical resort course, with tall stands of pines and hardwoods lining the fairways, thick Bermuda rough and plenty of lakes and ponds. The Woodlands Course, also designed by Griffiths, has plenty of elevation change and great views. But the golf course that Chateau Elan may be best known for is the Legends Course, which was designed by Gene Sarazan, Sam Snead and Kathy Whitworth for the members of Chateau Elan with limited access to resort guests. The three World Golf Hall of Famers selected six of their favorite holes from around the world and crafted them on the Legends landscape. The 7,100-yard, par-72 course was the site for the Sarazan World Open Championship from 1994-98.
Callaway Gardens, Pine Mountain, Ga.
Like Chateau Elan and Reynolds Lake Oconee, historic Callaway Gardens is also an easy trip from Atlanta. Located in Pine Mountain, Ga., a little more than an hour southwest of Atlanta, Callaway Gardens has two excellent courses -- the 7,100-yard Mountain View that once played host to the PGA Tour's Buick Challenge, and the shorter Lake View Course, which as the name implies, has nearly half its holes on the water. Callaway Gardens can trace its roots back to 1949 when the first nine holes on the Lake View Course were built. In 1965, Dick Wilson designed the Mountain View Course, and the resort was represented by none other than Tommy Aaron when he won the 1973 Masters. There's also an extensive practice facility, and Callaway Gardens offers enticing golf packages.
Around 200 miles to the northeast and a little more than three hours from Atlanta, you can find some fine mountain golf in the Asheville, N.C. area. With the change of colors, fall is a great time of year to hit courses like The Omni Grove Park Inn, a Donald Ross design that Golf Digest listed among its best classic courses. With views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, this 6,700-yard championship design moves from a flat front nine to a back nine with all kinds of views and slopes.
You can play another Ross layout at the Waynesville Inn Golf Resort & Spa, which actually has three nines. Ross designed the original Carolina Nine, which lies on pastures of an existing dairy farm. Also, the accommodations at the Inn are top-notch. Reems Creek Golf Club in nearby Weaverville, N.C., is another worthy choice, offering a Scottish Highlands look with rolling terrain and deep knolls. And if you're looking for a terrific municipal course, there's another Ross design, the Asheville Municipal Golf Course, which opened in 1927. Other good choices include Broadmoor Golf Links, Black Mountain Golf Course, Etowah Valley Golf & Resort and the family-owned Springdale Country Club. All of these places come with the hospitality for which North Carolina is famous.
Hilton Head, S.C., and beyond
Hilton Head is a little beyond our criteria of four hours or less. But there's so much golf, and golfers from Atlanta certainly almost always drive there. It's home to Sea Pines Resort, of course, and Harbour Town Golf Links, host of the PGA Tour's RBC Heritage. It also offers the terrific Heron Point by Pete Dye and the Ocean Course. There's also Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort with its three championship courses, including one by Robert Trent Jones. And then there's the Heritage Golf Collection, which features seven courses, including Palmetto Hall Plantation Club, Oyster Reef Golf Club, Port Royal Golf Club and Shipyard Golf Club.
Hilton Head also has a great tennis scene and is a pretty good cultural destination with dozens of terrific restaurants, museums, galleries and theaters. On top of that, there are some pretty decent golf offerings in nearly Bluffton, which sits on a river bluff near the Atlantic Ocean. Bluffton's daily-fee options include May River Golf Club, Old South Golf Links, Hilton Head National Golf Club, Crescent Pointe Golf Club and Eagle's Pointe Golf Club.
And while Hilton Head is just more than four hours from Atlanta, it's also worth noting that if you're willing to drive around five-and-a-half hours or so, you really open up your golf possibilities. Myrtle Beach, S.C., for example, is less than six hours away and there are more than 100 courses you can play there, plus affordable accommodations on the beach. And you can get to the Jacksonville, Fla. area in about the same amount of time, or the Panhandle of Florida. Jacksonville, of course, is near Ponte Vedra Beach and the PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass as well as the World Golf Hall of Fame and its two golf courses. And the Florida Panhandle has plenty of fun tracks, from Pensacola to the Destin area, all along some of the prettiest beaches in the world.