Following an 18-month total renovation, Great Waters at Reynolds Lake Oconee has re-opened. The completely rebuilt, modernized and reconditioned version of the 1992 original includes 18 holes of championship golf along the Lake Oconee shoreline that looks almost exactly the way Jack Nicklaus first designed it.
“‘Spectacular’ is a pretty good word for the golf course,” Nicklaus said. “We created a little more of an exciting golf course with more variety, a golf course that is really strong again.”
Working within the guidelines of the original routing and strategy, the Nicklaus Design team rebuilt Great Waters from beneath the ground up, including new drainage and irrigation systems, as well as updated bunker designs that are a major part of the modern infrastructure.
“Every golf course has a life cycle, like a car,” said Chad Goetz, the Nicklaus Design associate who oversaw the Great Waters project. “Things wear out and things change a lot in 30 years. Technically, we rebuilt the golf course. It is the same golf course but now it is really polished.”
Extensive tree clearing took place to reduce shade and improve overall turf quality. This also allowed for wider fairways, which are Zeon zoysia, and rough, which are TifTuf Bermuda. Greens complexes are all new and have been converted to TifEagle Bermuda, a grass that should perform better in the shade and hold color in the fall. The grasses were selected for their ability to remain in top condition year-round.
New back tees were added to modernize the course without moving many fairway bunkers: As a result, Great Waters now plays to 7,400 yards, which should challenge the top college players in the annual Linger Longer Invitational. A new set of forward tees—at about 4,500 yards—will increase playability, improve pace of play, and encourage all players to move forward.
The par-3 8th is the only completely remodeled hole: It now plays over or along bunkers to a more receptive green.
“The nuts and bolts of the golf course were fantastic,” Goetz said. “We tried to distill the essence of the original golf course with a new one that accents the amazing land features that were already there.”
Reynolds Lake Oconee has been highly praised since opening in 1992 and is regularly rated as the No. 2 course in Georgia behind only Augusta National.
“The first time I went to Reynolds, I knew we had the potential to have a great golf course,” Nicklaus said. “I think we found it then, and now, more than a quarter of a century later, a wonderful golf experience remains but was in need of a little updating. It’s one of the really great pieces of property with which I have ever had the experience to work.”
Located between Atlanta and Augusta, Reynolds Lake Oconee includes courses designed by legendary architects: the aforementioned Great Waters by Nicklaus, The National by Tom Fazio, The Oconee by Rees Jones, The Landing and The Preserve by Bob Cupp, as well as the Members-only Creek Club by Jim Engh.