Great Public Courses to Play Around Augusta During Masters Week
By Brendon Elliott, PGA
(Photo courtesy of Forest Hills Golf Club)
Everything stops in Augusta, Georgia, when the Masters rolls into town – or maybe, it’s just the opposite.
Homes are rented out, it’s spring break for the entire city and the golf courses, in and around Augusta, from nearby Evans to across the Savannah River in North Augusta and Aiken, South Carolina, roll out the red carpet for visiting golfers.
With specials for visiting patrons, spots like the private Palmetto Golf Club in Aiken, just 25 minutes north of Augusta National golfers can spoil themselves a bit while in town. Golf has been played at Palmetto since 1892, and the throwback course was retooled and expanded by Alister MacKenzie in the early 1930s – the same time he was laying out Augusta National with Bobby Jones.
Other private clubs such as Champions Retreat – home of the first two rounds of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur – West Lake Country, and the Reserve Club at Woodside Plantation also offers great experiences but maybe limited in availability . . . and carry a higher price tag.
There are a wealth of public golf options, though, and below is a compiled guide of courses you can play based on proximity to the home of the Masters.
Under 30 Minutes from Augusta National
Augusta Municipal Golf Course
($80 for Masters Week; $40, Non-Masters)
Augusta Municipal Golf Course was opened in 1928 and designed by David Ogilvie. This historic facility is run by the City of Augusta and Cypress Golf Management. Affectionately known as “The Patch,” this course is a gem and part of the history of Augusta – it’s just 15 minutes from Augusta National, too.
The par-71 layout runs between 5,046 yards from the up tees, and roughly 6,000 yards from the back tees. Incidentally, in an interesting piece of course history, course designer David Ogilvie, along with Dr. William Henry Harison, also helped take the former Bon Air Golf Club into what is known today as Augusta Country Club.
To improve public golf in the Augusta community, Fred Ridley, the Augusta National Golf Club and Masters Tournament Chairman, announced during his annual press conference on April 5 that Augusta National will partner with the Augusta Municipal Golf Course, Augusta Technical College and The First Tee of Augusta in a “model for other communities” to elevate public golf in the Augusta area. The partnership builds on Augusta Tech’s current efforts with the City of Augusta to assume operation of The Patch by 2025 and is a massive win for golf in the local Augusta community.
Bartram Trail Golf Club
($100 - $175 for Masters Week)
This fairly young track was built in 2005 and designed by Rick Robbins. In 2017, Golf Advisor rated the course No. 18 on a top courses in Georgia list, and in 2018, it was ranked No. 21. The par 72 layout runs from a youth tee of 2,317 yards and on up to a back tee of 6,706 yards.
Just a little under a half hour from Augusta National, the course has a unique layout with 5 par fives and 5 par threes and is the only public golf course in Columbia County to offer Mini Verde fine-bladed Ultra Dwarf Bermuda grass.
Plus, during Masters Week, the course runs a golf and all-you-can-eat-and-drink special for $300.
Forest Hills Golf Club
($200 for Masters Week; $30-60, Non-Masters)
Augusta University’s Forest Hills Golf Course is a treat. Founded in 1928 and designed by the legendary Donald Ross, Forest Hills saw renovations in 1984 by Arnold Palmer and Ed Seay, and again in 2004 by Palmer.
Forest Hills is right down the road from Augusta National, around 15 minutes by car. The par 72 layout plays from an up tee of 5,098 yards, and all the way back to a yardage of 7,140 yards.
During Masters Week, golf, cart, range balls and a buffet lunch will run around $200.
The course is home to the Augusta University’s men’s and women’s golf teams, the former of which won back-to- back NCAA Division I national titles in 2010-11.
30-45 Minutes from Augusta National
Aiken Golf Club
($120 for Masters Week; Non-Masters, $25 - $60)
The Aiken Golf Club in South Carolina is steeped in history, making it a must play for any golfer. The course opened with 11 holes in 1912 and in 1915 was completed. The principal developers were I.W. Fowler and E.J. Egerrton, who served as club president and treasurer. In 1915, John Inglis, a founding member of the PGA of America, became Head Professional.
The course was then purchased in 1939 by the City of Aiken and operated by it until 1959. The City of Aiken decided to sell the course in 1959 due to the lack of funds to operate the club properly. The club was purchased by James McNair Sr. and the name was changed to Highland Park Country Club.
In 1987, James McNair Jr. took over the club. Ten years later, McNair decided it was time to rebuild the course from the ground up, and with the help of the City of Aiken, the vision came to reality. McNair and the city also brought back the original name, Aiken Golf Club.
Acclaimed sportswriter Michael Bamberger calls it, “The most charming course in the United States.” The long-time host of the Aiken City Am plays to a par of 70, and with three tee boxes, the course plays from 4,572 yards and up to 5,795 yards.
During the week of the Masters, the rate is $135 per player including cart.
Mount Vintage Golf Club
($200-250 during Masters Week; $50-70, Non-Masters)
Mount Vintage Golf Club is a 27-hole facility located in North Augusta, South Carolina, around 35 minutes from Augusta National.
The original 18 was built in 2000 by Tom Jackson and the third nine came online in 2008. The original 18 played host to the LPGA Asahi Ryokuken International Championship from 2000-04, and has garnered several awards over the years.
All three courses have five different tee boxes for every player. The Chester 9 plays to a par of 36 and runs between 2,304 yards and 3,495 yards, while the Vintage 9 plays to the same par and is a tad longer (2,426-3,595 yards). The Independent 9 is also a par 36 and the longest of the three nines at Mount Vintage (2,313-3,610 yards).