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Great Waters, hole 1: a gentle handshake of a par 4. Tim Gavrich/Golf Advisor
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Great Waters, hole 2: a shortish par 5 where contouring short and left can help a ball onto the green. Tim Gavrich/Golf Advisor
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Great Waters, hole 3: the approach plays about a half-club longer than the yardage on this par 4. Tim Gavrich/Golf Advisor
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Great Waters, hole 4: this par 3 plays about a club downhill over a reconfigured pond complex. Tim Gavrich/Golf Advisor
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Great Waters, hole 5: Nicklaus seems to have had Augusta on the brain when assembling this par 4. Tim Gavrich/Golf Advisor
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Great Waters, hole 6: a ditch crosses the fairway of this par 5. Players going for it in two would do well to land their approaches just past the front-right bunker. Tim Gavrich/Golf Advisor
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Great Waters, hole 7: this long par 4 is the toughest hole on the front side. Tim Gavrich/Golf Advisor
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Great Waters, hole 8: this long par 3 was almost totally reconstructed, and now plays sort of like a Redan with its front-right kickslope past the bunker. Tim Gavrich/Golf Advisor
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Great Waters, hole 9: the lake is now visible from the tee, thanks Chad Goetz and the Nicklaus team lowering the landing area by some 10 feet. Tim Gavrich/Golf Advisor
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Great Waters, hole 10: this centerline bunker complicates the tee shot on an otherwise straightaway uphill par 4. Tim Gavrich/Golf Advisor
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Great Waters, hole 11: this short par 4's green is a bit out-of-the-box as Nicklaus designs go, but its 50-yard width means it can play very differently one day to the next. Tim Gavrich/Golf Advisor
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Great Waters, hole 12: with the lake lapping below the tee boxes, this par 5 heads inland, uphill and to the left. Tim Gavrich/Golf Advisor
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Great Waters, hole 13: a fabulous, angled quasi-Biarritz green makes this one of Great Waters' best holes. Tim Gavrich/Golf Advisor
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Great Waters, hole 14: this mid-length par 3 requires a direct confrontation with Lake Oconee. Tim Gavrich/Golf Advisor
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Great Waters, hole 15: the turtlebacked green mimics the shape of the treetops against the. sky beyond. Coincidence? Either way, it's a cool effect. Tim Gavrich/Golf Advisor
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Great Waters, hole 16: the narrowest tee shot on the course gives way to a wonderful view of the lake. Tim Gavrich/Golf Advisor
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Great Waters, hole 17: another par 3, another tee shot over a cove. Lack of bunkers gives this hole means less definition of the target, which can make the shot a little trickier. Tim Gavrich/Golf Advisor
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Great Waters, hole 18: the closing par 5 pushes the golfer to the edge of the lake the entire way home. Tim Gavrich/Golf Advisor
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New Golden Bear tee boxes stretch Great Waters to 7,436 yards. Tim Gavrich/Golf Advisor
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Reynolds Lake Oconee uses a crisp yellow-and-black color scheme for its flags. Tim Gavrich/Golf Advisor

The sparkling, new-look Great Waters Course at Reynolds Lake Oconee in photos

Nicklaus polishes up one of his most famous resort courses.

GREENSBORO, Ga. - As golf courses that are part of residential developments go, Great Waters is something of a rule-proving exception.

When developers set about turning parcels of land on oceans, seas, rivers and lakes into homes, with golf as an amenity, they tend to cordon off the choicest land for big-money lots.

That's why there are so many resort and private golf courses near oceans, seas, rivers and lakes, rather than on them.

But the Reynolds family, who developed Reynolds Lake Oconee, made a wise decision when they yielded up dozens of acres of lake frontage to Jack Nicklaus to route holes along.

As Nicklaus put it at last week's Grand Reopening event for the course, that concession has proved to be "well worth the investment." The course ranks 94th on Golf Digest's most recent "100 Greatest Public Courses" list, and Golfweek has it 91st on its own list of top American resort courses.

They gave us more water [frontage] than I would have ever asked for.
Jack Nicklaus
Jack Nicklaus at Augusta

"They gave us more water [frontage] than I would have ever asked for," Nicklaus said. Whereas many golf courses may offer a token glance at some consequential body of water, the fact that half of the holes at Great Waters come into direct contact with the lake helps make it a destination course.

That, and the recent 15-month renovation undertaken by Nicklaus Design, overseen by the Golden Bear himself and design associate Chad Goetz.

Opened in 1992, Great Waters sits in the latter part of an era when Nicklaus was in high demand among clients who wanted courses of the sort of stern test that he conquered so many times in his career.

And like all golf courses as they age, Great Waters came due for some refurbishment. Nicklaus cited tee-to-green grass contamination, greens mix deterioration, drainage and bunkering as the main reasons for the renovation effort. All of that has been addressed, and after two rounds on the new version of the course, the most striking positive change is the use of Zeon zoysia grass on the fairways.

A relatively up-and-coming grass type that tends to be more popular in the deeper interior South, fairway-cut Zoysia is a joy to play off of because the stiff blades hold the ball up as if on a tee. This is particularly helpful on in-between wedge shots for players wanting just a little bit of extra cushion under the ball. The drawback for zoysia is usually that it doesn't play particularly firm and fast, but in the care of course superintendent Brandon Hayes and VP of Agronomy Lane Singleton, Great Waters' fairways offer some excellent roll to a well-struck tee ball.

Nothing about the routing of the course changed, but a few select alterations have made formerly underwhelming holes much better. One of them is the lakeside par-4 13th, whose green was shifted some 30 yards closer to the lake. The new green complex is the best on the course: a slightly angled Biarritz variation where the clever shotmaker can use the central trench in the green to sling a ball toward a back hole location. The satisfaction of watching a ball roll toward trouble but come to a stop safely short of it is something that was missing in the hole's previous life, and makes an already star-studded back nine even more exciting.

Another boon to the playability of Great Waters was the removal of more than 400 trees. Though houses are in view on every hole, they are well in the background, and the peeling back of trees from the fairways means players can feel better about swinging away off the tee, especially on the front side. Fairways like the par-4 7th invite a confident swing.

Now that the course is once again open to members and visitors ($330), let the swings begin.

Eatonton, Georgia
4.9411764706
4

GOLFPASS members save $100 on Reynolds Lake Oconee golf packages. Sign up here.

Tim Gavrich is a Senior Writer for Golf Advisor and the Managing Editor of the Golf Vacation Insider newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @TimGavrich and on Instagram @TimGavrich.
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The sparkling, new-look Great Waters Course at Reynolds Lake Oconee in photos
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