ALPHARETTA, Ga. – Paying a visit to the Golf Club of Georgia nestled on 466 acres among the pines and deer surrounding Lake Windward in Alpharetta, it is almost like traveling back in time to a place where golf is the single purpose and devotion.
They talk about the game with the same reverence one finds at Augusta or St. Andrews. Yes, golf, that most humbling of sports. But it is a sport celebrated for its sportsmanship and collegial atmosphere.
You’ll find no country club here, no swimming pool or tennis courts. These 36 holes – labeled the Lakeside and Creekside courses – are member-owned.
“That’s what you’ll find at Golf Club of Georgia – just golf,” said GCOG Director of Golf Jeff Paton. “Because that is what the culture here attracts. The members here are all about golf, and the Golf Club of Georgia. They’re crazy for golf.”
Half the membership lives in the Windward area and in South Forsyth. But the other half live inside I-285, Paton said.
“If you are a golf fanatic, then you’re going to find us,” he said.
Since the club was established in 1990, the two Arthur Hills-designed courses have been the centerpiece of the club, but it is much more than that.
One popular feature is the only PING nFlight Center outside of PING Headquarters in Phoenix, Ariz. Todd Gilgrist, PGA, is the PING fitting specialist who uses the company’s software and virtual driving range to scientifically fit a PING club to the golfer’s swing.
“We start with a detailed questionnaire to create an outline of where the client is in golf,” Gilgrist said. “We diagnose the ball flight and what the guy can do with the club. It is about a two-hour process.”
The data collected is run through the nFlight software to find what club to fit with that golfer.
Bill Donan has been a GCOG member for 18 years. He started playing at age 30 on the advice of his boss. The man told him that as a rising company executive, he would never rise far unless he learned to play golf. Now retired, Donan doesn’t need the business contacts golf supplied. He just loves the game and the chance to improve.
“I play four or five times a week, so I guess you could call me an avid golfer. The people I play with, we laugh and kid each other. But the bottom line is we all want to beat the other guys,” the Johns Creek resident said with a laugh. “I don’t need a country club. I like [GCOG] because it is just golf. I enjoy the camaraderie and the exercise and playing with some level of skill,” Donan said.
Another feature of the club is its own onsite expert to fix clubs. “We have a full-time craftsman to repair clubs for our members. They don’t want to be on the course and not have the use of their clubs,” Paton said. “It is all part of the total picture – physical fitness, equipment and instruction. It’s a turnkey process.”
That is why GCOG attracts not only serious amateurs but has a become home to a number of pros such as Stewart Cink, Matt Kuchar and most recently Roberto Castro, who shot a sizzling 63 at TPC Sawgrass in his debut round in The Players Championship just a few weeks ago.
Castro, 27, said GCOG has been a special place for him since his days as a member of the Georgia Tech golf team.
“But it was really an honor and a privilege when [GCOG] presented me with an honorary membership when I turned pro. To have a place you can call home is huge,” Castro said.
Castro said it is a great place to train and improve his game.
“It has pretty much everything you could want. It has a great driving range, short game facilities and 36 holes. So one course is always going to be in great shape. And it has a lot of good member-players you can get a good game up with,” Castro said.
Asked what he liked best about the course, Castro thought a moment.
“I love the back nine at Lakeside. Those holes on the lake there are as pretty as you’ll find in the state of Georgia,” he said.
Call it a good walk unspoiled.