MetLife injects renewed optimism into Georgia's largest golf resort: Reynolds Lake Oconee in Greensboro

GREENSBORO, Ga. -- It didn't take long for MetLife to pump new life into Reynolds Plantation, the golf resort community in rural Georgia it rescued from receivership in August 2012.

Mark Lammi, the vice president of Golf Operations at Reynolds Plantation, said within 60 days of the purchase date a two-year golf improvement plan was put in place. "It was amazing how quickly they stepped up," he recalled.

At the time, morale of the staff, club members and property owners had been bogged down by the threat of lawsuits against the original developer, bad press and hard feelings. MetLife's commitment to spend several million dollars on capital improvements injected hope and some healing back into this secluded retreat on Lake Oconee halfway between Atlanta and Augusta.

Four of the six courses on property have been renovated or upgraded under MetLife, the last being The National, which will open this spring. The Ritz-Carlton Lodge -- Reynolds Plantation (a 2013 AAA Five Diamond Lodging and 2012 Forbes Four-Star resort) -- has undergone a suites and rooms refurbishment as well. The entire destination appears ready to compete with the Southeast's top golf resorts once again.

Lammi said MetLife has brought a positive "energy" that has started to "ramp up."

"We are content with the renovations, but we are not content with the experience," he said. "MetLife has a long-range vision. It is exciting to see what comes down the pipeline. How can we go from being the best in the Southeast to a whole different stratosphere? That is what we are pushing for."

Golf at Reynolds Plantation

The rolling hills -- reminiscent of northern Michigan -- and seemingly endless shoreline of the lake form a union made in golf heaven for Reynolds Plantation's 117 holes.

Great Waters, a beauty built by Jack Nicklaus in 1992, features some of the best lake views in the country, on par with Lake Michigan's terrific trio of Wisconsin's Whistling Straits and Michigan's Arcadia Bluffs and Bay Harbor.

Great Waters, The Oconee by Rees Jones, The National's 27 holes by Tom Fazio and The Landing by Bob Cupp all rank among Golfweek's top 15 public golf courses in Georgia. Every track kisses the lake shore at some point.

The National and The Oconee boast all new Champion Bermuda greens and renovated bunkers, among other changes. In 2012-13, Cupp revived The Landing by planting decorative grasses to better define fairways and redesigning the 15th hole.

Reynolds Plantation aims for a consistency of service and conditioning from course to course. All operate out of their own clubhouse (construction on The National's new clubhouse/restaurant will begin later this year). Only the Creek Club by Jim Engh is off-limit to resort guests.

"We want golfers to come here and stay a week because they feel like they have to play all five courses," Lammi said.

Even if you must skip a round, find time for The Kingdom at Reynolds Plantation, a first-class club-fitting operation run by TaylorMade-adidas Golf. Need a driver? An entire set of irons? After testing, any combination can be quickly constructed inside the on-site equipment trailer and be ready to play the next day. A new Quintic high-speed camera in the Putting Lab at Reynolds Plantation takes a putter fitting up a notch.

Top-100 teacher Charlie King and partner Rob Akins team up to deliver cutting-edge instruction at the Reynolds Golf Academy. They are releasing a new book, "Anti-Method Golf," and Web site, King said since no golfers swing the same, they shouldn't be taught the same, either.

The Reynolds Plantation lifestyle

Life revolves around the lake. The lodge's walking trails were made for exploring. Unique excursions such as Segway tours, wave-runner schools and kayak rentals keep adventurers happy. Boaters can motor across the 19,000 acres of fresh water while water-skiing, fishing or just strolling.

Guests looking to relax might whittle away their day by reading at the infinity pool or escaping to the spa. "The spa is very impressive, and I'm a spa snob," admitted guest Christine Yocke, of Hilton Head Island, S.C.

Hard as it is to believe, there are more restaurants than golf courses at Reynolds Plantation. The Great Waters Overlook dining room and Georgia's Bistro in the Ritz-Carlton were recently redecorated.

The Linger Longer Steakhouse inside the Oconee clubhouse serves killer cuts of meat, fish and chicken dishes, and then finishes with a flourish. The wait staff at the steakhouse will bring a puffy stick of cotton candy for the table to share.

Guests of the lodge gather around the outdoor fire pit nightly for s'mores, the perfect after-dinner treat.

If you just can't bear to leave, Reynolds Plantation will be more than happy to accommodate. Buy a house and stay awhile.

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed and photographed more than 1,000 courses and written about golf destinations in 20 countries for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Instagram at @jasondeegangolfpass and Twitter at @WorldGolfer.

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MetLife injects renewed optimism into Georgia's largest golf resort: Reynolds Lake Oconee in Greensboro