Atlanta public golf: Head out to the suburbs for the best selections

While Atlanta is best known for its private golf clubs like East Lake Golf Club and Atlanta Athletic Club, it has a nice selection of public courses, too.

A few are located inside the city, like the popular John A. White Park Golf Course and Bobby Jones Golf Course (which may be renovated soon).

For the best daily fees, though, your best bet might be the suburbs. Fortunately, there are courses in every direction. Here are 10 worth checking out:

The Frog, Villa Rica

Designed by Tom Fazio, The Frog is one of the Atlanta area's favorite daily-fee courses. Located about a half-hour west of downtown, the course features bentgrass greens, Fazio's signature bunkers and plenty of undulation. It's also an Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary course.

Bear's Best Atlanta is a collection of Jack Nicklaus' favorite holes, which includes the par-3 sixth, a copy of the famous 12th at Muirfield Village.

Bear's Best, Suwanee

Located in about 40 minutes northeast of downtown Atlanta, Bear's Best Atlanta compiles the greatest Jack Nicklaus golf course designs into one 18-hole golf course. Like its sister course in Las Vegas, Bear's Best Atlanta is a selection of 18 holes from Jack Nicklaus' nearly 300 course designs worldwide. Among the featured courses are Castle Pines, Muirfield Village, PGA National's Champion Course, Sherwood Country Club, Shoal Creek and the PGA Centenary Course at Gleneagles.

Echelon Golf Club, Alpharetta

Built as a high-end private club, this Rees Jones design offers tee times to the public as well. With plenty of elevation change and impeccable conditions, Echelon Golf Club is laid out over 600 acres of rolling hills, known for its horse farms and polo fields. There's also a 35-acre practice facility where you can work on any shot imaginable.

Chateau Elan, Braselton

Chateau Elan is both a resort and public golf venue. As you might expect, the resort is located amid the largest winery in Georgia, which makes the perfect backdrop for 63 holes of golf. Two of the 18-hole courses, the Chateau Course and Woodlands Course (both designed by Denis Griffiths), are open to the public as is a par-3 course there. The best course, the Legends Course (designed by legends Gene Sarazen, Sam Snead and Kathy Whitworth), is private, but there is limited access for guests.

On the east side of Atlanta, Stone Mountain Golf Club offers two completely different courses.

Stone Mountain (Ga.) Golf Club

Just minutes from downtown, Stone Mountain Golf Club, one of the most popular public offerings in the Atlanta area, has two courses that wind through a forest of Georgia pines and around Stone Mountain Lake. Designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr., the original Stonemont Course is the more difficult of the two layouts, with narrow fairways, plenty of bunkers and thick Georgia pines. The newer Lakemont Course, designed by John LaFoy, is more resort style and offers some of best views on the carving side of Stone Mountain.

Cherokee Run Golf Club, Conyers

This Arnold Palmer design, which features zoysia fairways, got new MiniVerde greens a few years ago as part of a complete restoration. The work also included the thinning out of trees. Cherokee Run Golf Club is a tough test and plays well more than 7,000 yards from the back set of tees. The final four holes are nicknamed "The Trail of Tears," evoking the unfortunate forced relocation of American Indians in the 1800s.

Cobblestone Golf Course, Acworth

Cobblestone Golf Course, located just northwest of Atlanta, features eight holes along Lake Acworth. Designed by Houston architect Ken Dye of Finger-Dye-Spann, this municipal course was renovated in 2010 and remains a local favorite. Discount programs are available for frequent players at this gorgeous 6,600-yard layout, which is one of the best values in the area.

Summer Grove Golf Club in Newnan, Ga., is owned by the Jemsek Family, which also owns Cog Hill near Chicago.

Summer Grove Golf Club, Newnan

At nearly 7,000 yards, Summer Grove Golf Club was developed to preserve natural obstacles such as creeks, wetlands, and stands of dogwood and pine trees. As such it is one of just two Audubon International Signature courses in the state. It was designed by Jeff Burton and Joe Jemsek, the latter of whom is part of the Jemsek Family, which also owns Cog Hill in the Chicago area. With plenty of doglegs and lush conditions, Summer Grove, located just less than an hour from downtown Atlanta, is worth the drive.

Fox Creek and Legacy Golf Links, Smyrna

Finally, if you're looking for a quick nine or 18 or just want to get some practice time, head over to Fox Creek Golf Club or Legacy Golf Links, located near the new Atlanta Braves stadium, about 25 minutes northwest of downtown off I-75. Both are executive golf courses in good shape and fun to play. Fox Creek was designed by John LaFoy, while Larry Nelson designed the Legacy. There are also 100 hitting stations on the range, short-game area and plenty of instructors to help you with your swing and player programs.

Mike Bailey is a former Golf Advisor senior staff writer based in Houston. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America with an occasional trip to Europe and beyond, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 25 years in the golf industry. He has also been on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeBaileyGA and Instagram at @MikeStefanBailey.
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Atlanta public golf: Head out to the suburbs for the best selections