Golf near Augusta National: Plenty of courses to play during Masters week

Legend has it that a few years ago an international guest showed up at the gates of Augusta National with his golf clubs and pull cart. It was Wednesday, and this gentleman had purchased a ticket for a practice round. Where, he asked, was the starter's box, and how soon could he play?

That gentleman did not get a chance to play that day, although legend also has it that the club did allow the plucky fellow to come back and play another time.

Say you're fortunate enough to land some tickets to attend the Masters. Maybe you even hit the lottery and have passes for more than one day. Once you arrive in Augusta you'll soak in the atmosphere, watch the greatest players in the game at one of the greatest golf courses in the world and immediately be in the mood to play a round.

But since you're not going to be allowed near the practice range -- much less the first tee at Augusta National -- just where can you go to scratch that golf itch?

Fortunately there are places where you can play if you're going to be in the Augusta area during the Masters. Just keep in mind that tee times are in high demand, and they come with a premium price tag. After all, it's a seller's market, and they're selling high.

With that in mind, here's a look at some of the places you might be able to play while you're visiting for the Masters. They all accept advanced tee times, and some of them aren't even going to raise their prices.

Golf courses in Augusta

Forest Hills Golf Club : If you have a chance to play one round during your visit to the Masters, be sure it's Forest Hills. This is an original Donald Ross design that opened in 1926 and was the first stop on Bobby Jones' historic Grand Slam of 1930; Jones won the Southeastern Open there before going overseas. The special Masters packages include lunch and range balls. Although the course offers a wonderful walking experience, carts are required during Masters week.

Gordon Lakes Golf Club : You have to jump through a couple of hoops to play here, because it's on the Fort Gordon Army Base, but it's well worth it. This is a 27-hole facility; the original 18 designed and built by Robert Trent Jones in 1976. People assume that because it's on the base that it's only open to active and former military personnel, but that's incorrect. Anyone can play Gordon Lakes, as long as they have a driver's license, proof of insurance and automobile registration when they enter Gate 1. (If you're driving a rental car, you show the rental agreement instead of registration.) Of course, having a military affiliation is helpful; they maintain the regular rates for active and retired personnel during Masters week.

Jones Creek Golf Club : Long considered the best public facility in Augusta, Jones Creek will be slammed during Masters week. The course will be starting players off both nines in the morning and the afternoon. The best availability to play may be late in the day. The special Masters package includes a tee gift and a buffet lunch. The course was designed by Rees Jones, with Tom Fazio overseeing a redesign in 2003. Jones Creek sits on a piece of property with rolling hills and some nice elevation changes. The greens are Tif Eagle Bermuda.

Augusta Municipal Golf Course : Better known as "The Patch," this muni has been around since 1928, although it almost died in 2012. Although the course is rough around the edges (perhaps less so since new management took over in 2014), it remains a popular spot for the locals. Designed by Scot David Ogilvie in 1928 (he also helped design Augusta Country Club), it still retains many of those original features.

Goshen Plantation Golf Club : This traditional parkland course is deviating from most other courses in the area and keeping its price low. The rate for 18 holes with cart and range balls during Masters week will be $50. That means Goshen will likely be in high demand that week. The Ellis Maples design, which opened in 1968, is relatively open and appealing to all levels of golfers.

Golf near Augusta

Bartram Trail Golf Club , Evans: Excellent Ultra Dwarf Bermuda greens are the centerpiece of this lovely course in the Augusta suburbs. Bartram is unique because it features five par 5s and five par 3s. Bartram is a member of the Audubon International Wildlife Sanctuary program, so expect to see plenty of wildlife as you drive around.

Pointe South Golf Club , Hephzibah: You can find this one on the south side of town. It's not very long (6,460 from the back tees), but has enough water and doglegs to keep your brain engaged. There are eight ponds and more elevation changes than you might expect when you look at the back door of the pro shop.

The River Golf Club , North Augusta, S.C.: This semiprivate club has been taking tee times for Masters week for the last year and will be packed during tournament week. The Jim Fazio design, which opened in 1998, features miniverde Bermuda greens that are frequently framed by well placed bunkers. The course plays around lakes and through wetlands to offer visitors a unique experience.

Drivable from Augusta

The Harbor Club , Greensboro: Tom Weiskopf finished second at the Masters on four different occasions, but his Harbor Club design is a real winner. The golf course, designed by Weiskopf and the late Jay Moorish in 1991, is the centerpiece of a 1,000-acre resort on the shores of Lake Oconee. The Harbor Club course touches Lake Oconee on six different occasions as it winds around. Newcomers will enjoy two drivable par 4s, as well as top-notch conditions. The club is taking advanced tee times for the week.

Reynolds Plantation, Greensboro: There are tee times available for Masters week, limited in the morning and more open in the afternoon. Courses include the Plantation Course , designed by Bob Cupp, Fuzzy Zoeller and Hubert Green; the Jack Nicklaus-signature Great Waters Course ; Tom Fazio's 27-hole National ; the Rees Jones-designed Oconee Course , and The Landing , the original course designed by Cupp that was renovated in 2013.

The Creek at Hard Labor , Rutledge: Many people consider Hard Labor to be the best of the Georgia State Parks Courses. The course is even better since architect Dennis Griffiths renovated the course and made the switch to Bermuda greens. It's just off Interstate 20, not a bad drive from the Augusta area. Tee times here fill up quickly, but they don't inflate the prices just to take advantage of the situation.

Stan Awtrey spent 25 years as a sports writer with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He is editor of Golf Georgia, the official magazine of the Georgia State Golf Association, and writes a weekly column for PGATOUR.com. His work has appeared in dozens of newspapers, magazines and Web sites.
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It's the holy grail of golf, and several Golf Channel team members have had the opportunity to play Augusta National over the years. See what they had to say about their respective rounds.
Forest Hills Golf Club in Augusta, Ga. has managed to retain its place in the game's history and still remain relevant today. The Donald Ross design, which was established in 1926, is steeped with tradition. Play this course whenever you get a chance. It's one of those places that you could never grow tired of playing. You'll find something different on every visit, Stan Awtrey writes.
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Golf near Augusta National: Plenty of courses to play during Masters week
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