Finest areas to keep, courses to perform

Aiken Golfing Club in South Carolina, in close proximity to Augusta, Ga. (Annette M. Drowlette/The Augusta Chronicle )

Positioned about 20 miles northeast of Augusta, Aiken is exactly where federal and confederate cavalry clashed in the Fight of Aiken in 1865. The city’s vacation resort status was proven in the early 20th century with its fame as a “winter colony” made by Northerners who crafted homes and sports activities services these as polo fields, racetracks and stables. Right now it types the centre of South Carolina’s “Thoroughbred Country” and is dwelling to 1st-class polo, racing and even the Aiken Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame. 

And golf, much too. PGA Tour golfers Kevin Kisner, Scott Brown and Matthew NeSmith serve as modern day-day ambassadors for Aiken’s abundant golf roots. 

Originally known as Highland Golf Club, Aiken Golfing Club was the city’s 3rd study course when it opened in 1912. The bones of the structure are deemed to have been intended by Donald Ross with John Inglis, a Ross protégé, dependable for its building. Amid its statements is becoming the very first training course to give tees for gals commencing in 1916, web hosting superstars Babe Zaharias and Patty Berg in the Women’s Invitational Match from 1937 to 1939, and it’s the place Corridor of Famer Julius Boros cashed his 1st pro check out.

Jim McNair Sr., who after played an exhibition with Sam Snead, Bobby Locke and Billy Joe Patton, bought the course from the metropolis in 1959. His son, Jim Jr., has introduced the “Ross” again to the club in just one of the far better do-it-yourself program renovations you’ll ever see. There is a framed estimate in the golfing store from McNair Jr. on the course’s 100th anniversary that sums up why he and his household have poured so substantially blood, sweat and tears into the area. 

Aiken Golf Club (Adam Schupak/Golfweek)

“The earlier will lead the potential of golf and very long immediately after I am gone the Aiken Golf Club will nevertheless be difficult golfers and remain a ‘hidden gem’ for those fortunate plenty of to locate her. For that I am incredibly happy,” he claimed.

At 5,800 yards from the back tees, this par-70 reopened in 1999, however possessing all the little quirks and attraction that make up so quite a few of the good older, shorter classes about the place that lie just off the overwhelmed path. If you didn’t know any better, you’d assume you were taking part in in the Carolina Sandhills at a single of Ross’s greatest. Just take for occasion Aiken’s fifth, a 403-lawn, tree-lined par 4 that includes sandy waste locations, appreciate grass and a tiny turtle-backed green. The very first hole and seventeenth share a environmentally friendly, and the format has a hard set of par 3s, including the downhill 16th wherever Fred Astaire supposedly danced down the methods with his golfing club. 

“It’s quick and you can shoot a variety,” explained NeSmith, who grew up playing there, “but it calls for positioning your ball thoroughly.”

The attraction is obvious in the quaintness of its smaller pro shop, wherever a credit card receipt still is published by hand, and the hospitality is real. It warrants a go to by any golfer who seeks what is excellent in the video game. Michael Bamberger of Golf.com may have set it greatest in a 2015 write-up on the course, producing, “Charm is tough to determine, but you know it when you see it.”

A further golf-producing pal, Jim Dodson, had informed me to make positive to sample the home made banana bread sold at The Shack involving the eighth and ninth holes in a Ziplock bag for a greenback a slice. Early morning produced. Aiken Golfing Club doesn’t return to the clubhouse at the switch, so it was a excellent factor we picked up some nourishment. 

The city’s downtown shopping centre is found not far from the system, and we headed there to refuel just after the round. It doesn’t take very long to see why Southern Living tabbed Aiken the finest little town in the South a handful of decades in the past. Just off Laurens Road, we loved The Alley, a preferred accumulating place with a cluster of restaurants wherever open up-container rules are suspended. We grabbed a chunk at Takosushi. If you go for supper, you may possibly operate into Kisner at Whiskey Alley across the way. I’m also advised you just cannot go wrong at Casa Bella for Italian or at Prime Steakhouse, a trencherman’s delight and the equivalent of any steakhouse in the region. High praise, in truth.

Beneath a blue sky and blazing sunshine, we walked beneath the archway of stay oaks together South Boundary Avenue and window-shopped amid the eclectic mix of boutique shops and galleries, paying longful gazes in a chocolate shop that was oh so tempting, but we’d satisfy our sweet tooth quickly sufficient. 

We hopped in the motor vehicle and returned to Georgia’s second-oldest town, positioned 150 miles east of Atlanta. Started in 1736 and detailed on the National Sign up for Historic Locations, Augusta stays a lively and varied cosmopolitan center seasoned with Southern appeal. How a great deal does the town enjoy its golfing legends? The major expressway is named for Masters co-founder Bobby Jones James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, in distinction, only obtained a boulevard named for him. 

Like Aiken, Augusta was a leading Southern vacation resort town for Northerners seeking delicate climes in the winter season for the reason that the rail line ended in this land of sunshiny days and moonlit nights perfumed with magnolias, dogwoods and azaleas. It was Florida right before Florida. Augusta was critical adequate in its early days to 2 times be named capital of Ga. The extension of the rail line to the Sunshine Condition and the advent of air travel helped carry an stop to the glory times of Augusta and Aiken as the most popular winter season playground for the elite.

Boll Weevil Cafe in Augusta, Ga. (Adam Schupak/Golfweek)

All those yearly visits to Augusta and I’d in no way spent the daylight hrs anywhere but going for walks as near as I could to the sloping fairways at the Countrywide. So, we pulled more than off of James Brown Boulevard and strolled the Riverwalk, a brick-lined, two-degree pathway following the Savannah River. Often identified as Augusta’s entrance porch, the Riverwalk is located between Sixth and 10th Streets and neighbors its other outdated-sq. gathering position, Augusta Typical.

If not for COVID-19, musicians most likely would have been warming up for an night live performance at the Jessye Norman Amphitheater, an 1,800-seat venue perched off the Riverwalk at Ninth Road Plaza, in which the entertainment is said to be rivaled only by the majestic river view. We experienced an ulterior motive for stopping listed here immediately after currently being told by John Bush, a PGA Tour media formal who was born and elevated near Augusta and even now phone calls the location property, to stop by The Boll Weevil Café, famous for its desserts and five-layer cakes. The cafe, situated in an previous cotton warehouse, is not to be missed except if you’re diabetic. We requested two slices of cake – purple velvet, that uncomplicated Southern basic, and canary lemon, layers of moist lemon cake with lemon custard and selfmade product cheese icing – large ample to feed a foursome.

The lavish cottages at Champions Retreat near Augusta, Ga. (Courtesy of Champions Retreat)

Afterward, we retreated to our lodging for the subsequent handful of evenings, the superb Champions Retreat in Evans, Georgia. This non-public club on the outskirts of Augusta opens its doors to the community for the duration of Masters week and is aware how to cater to out-of-city guests. The club’s cottages – 16 in all with 4 to 8 bedrooms every – greet you shortly just after you drive as a result of the gates, and we’d expend quite a few an hour taking pictures the breeze in the rocking chairs out again. 

A team from my dwelling club is in its fourth calendar year of web hosting what it phone calls the Birthday Cup weekend at Champions Retreat. The three-day golfapalooza every single November has developed to 40 guys on two teams unfold over eight to 10 houses. Richard Clark, one of the ringleaders, said they consumed $40,000 in booze and burned six cords of firewood previous time. They try to eat, snooze and communicate golf non-quit devoid of ever needing to leave the home. It seems like a hoot.

“It’s simply just cathartic for golf nerds like us,” claimed William Palmer, 1 of the birthday boys for which the Birthday Cup was named.

The program, which is woven into stately Georgia pines, experienced hardwoods and wetlands alongside the Savannah River, opened for participate in in 2005, that includes a few 9-gap loops. It has grown in stature as the host of the initial two rounds of the Augusta Countrywide Women’s Novice, for which the final round is played at Augusta Countrywide. Initially, it was planned to be a Gary Player style, but as Player stated, “We pivoted to make a just one-of-a-kind experience that had hardly ever been carried out right before.”

Player chose the 1999 Masters Champions Meal as his placing to recruit Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer to share in building the layout. With a few unique sections of the home from which to opt for, Participant resolved to divvy up the land “scientifically,” and wrote Island, Creek and Bluff on the back of three index cards. Palmer was granted initially select as the senior member of the team. He drew the Island card and landed the most scenic of nines. Nicklaus went following for the reason that he had won extra green jackets than Participant and pulled the Bluff card, leaving Player with the Creek residence.

For the ANWA, the Island serves as the front 9 and Bluff as the back. Arnie’s loop commences with a pair of par 4s, then the subsequent five and a fifty percent holes are played on an island produced by the confluence of the Savannah and Small rivers, with the tee shot at No. 8 struck around h2o from the island to a inexperienced back again on the mainland. 

The Bluff nine at Champions Retreat close to Augusta, Ga. (Courtesy of Champions Retreat)

The fourth on the Island 9 begins from the creek and performs out to the majestic Savannah and an solution close to a giant oak guarding the center of the fairway. It is thought of the signature hole of the 27-gap advanced, and it’s straightforward to see why. This is a stout par 4 measuring 453 yards, where the caddies will suggest aiming for the broccoli-shaped tree in the center of the fairway. And make positive you get aspect in the club’s “tradition compared with any other” of attempting to strike a ball from the again tee of the par-3 sixth gap throughout the Savannah River, which functions as a border among Georgia and South Carolina some 230 yards absent. 

Player’s Creek nine is participant-welcoming and regarded as by numerous to be the favourite of the customers, highlighted by a Redan eco-friendly at the par-3 fourth gap. Nicklaus, in the meantime, moved tiny grime in earning the Bluff simply because he discovered the holes healthy nicely with the present rolling terrain and environment. The sharp doglegs, uneven lies and undulating putting greens on his loop will give opponents matches, commencing with the gnarly wrong front at the par-3 2nd, which led my caddie to shake his head and say, “These greens will make you dyslexic.”

Maybe they will be easier to read through immediately after the club replaces the bent grass on all 27 greens and the practice green with TifEagle in a challenge slated for this summer months. 

Thanks to COVID, our meal solutions ended up restricted and we grabbed acquire-out that night and nibbled on leftover cake. But the Augusta restaurant scene is at any time improving and much more than just the limitless rapid-foods dining places and strip purchasing facilities along Washington Street that appear as if they are the only choice during the Masters. To our dismay, neither Sconyers Bar-B-Que, found in south Augusta and serving its well-known brisket from Thursday to Saturday, nor Frog Hollow Tavern, recognised for its farm-to-table dining and substantial wine record from Wednesday to Saturday, were open in the course of our stop by. Scott Brown referred to as the latter the very best cafe from Charlotte to Atlanta, and Scotty Cameron ranks it as his beloved restaurant while traveling the Tour – he recommends the pork chop and the mac n’ cheese. 

My mainstays throughout Masters week are Abel Brown, a Southern kitchen and oyster bar frequented by Henrik Norlander and positioned in the Surrey Centre (along with well-liked Masters hangouts French Current market Grille and American bistro Finch & Fifth) and TBonz on Washington Highway, which manufacturers alone as the unofficial 19th hole of the Masters. All you want to know about the latter is that Fred Partners, the 1992 Masters champ, scribbled a take note over a framed picture of himself that hangs prominently on a wall near the entranceway that suggests, “I generally glimpse ahead to the Masters, but it’s the steaks at TBonz that make it this sort of a wonderful week.” Mark Cumins, one particular of the co-proprietors, presides in excess of what has develop into a relatives of buddies that gather at his institution from throughout the entire world for a memorable 7 days each calendar year. 1 pal of mine calls it their “annual assembly,” as if it were being the accumulating of the board of directors of a general public organization.

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