If you're lucky enough to attend the Masters, you're going to want to bring your golf clubs, right? There's probably nothing that gets the golf juices flowing more than watching the best players in the world navigate pristine Augusta National.
While playing Augusta National is unlikely for 99.999 percent of us, there are some good options in the Augusta area. In fact, even a couple of the nicer private clubs open up their tee sheets during Masters week.
Of course, tee times fill up fast even though the rates are "dynamically priced" during Masters week (translation: green fees are a lot higher during Masters week). Replay rates are also generally available and are substantially less, so spend the whole day out there. And while getting the premium times can be tough right before the Masters, there were some available at the following courses just three weeks out from the 2017 tournament. Most courses, however, are not offering those times online, so call the respective golf shops to reserve your times.
Here's a quick guide on where you can tee it up around Augusta.
Last fall, I had the chance to spend three days at Champions Retreat, where there are three nines designed by three of golf's biggest legends, and this is a bucket list experience – especially if you do it during Masters week. In fact, for non-members, this is their only opportunity really, but it is costly. The three nines – Island, Bluff and Creek – were crafted by three Masters champions, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player respectively. All three are outstanding and unique and produce almost Augusta National-like conditions. You can also stay at Champions Retreat in luxurious housing and enjoy some of the finest dining and hospitality in Georgia.
Green fees during Masters $2,200 to $2,500 per foursome.
Forest Hills Golf Club, Augusta, Ga.
Certainly one of the top two public courses in the area, Forest Hills Golf Club is the home of the two-time men's national champion Augusta State University golf team. More significantly, perhaps though, is that it was originally designed by Donald Ross (1926) and renovated by Arnold Palmer in 2004, so it's a real gem. It's also less than than five miles from Augusta National. Golfers who play during Masters week get range balls, cart and a boxed lunch included with their green fees.
Green fees during Masters week: $150 per player, $75 on Monday after Masters
Aiken Golf Club
Talk about a club with history. Aiken Golf Club goes back to 1912, and claims to be the first course in America to feature "ladies tees." We call those forward tees now, though I'm guessing that greats Babe Didrikson Zaharias and Patty Berg weren't teeing it forward back then. Although it's relatively short (par 70, 6,048), Aiken GC, which hosts the city amateur, is anything but easy. And it's fun to manage your game around the quirky doglegs and bunkering.
Green fees during Masters week: $100 per player
The River Golf Club
The River Golf Club, a semi-private club, is a terrific playing option for golfers during Masters week or any week, for that matter. Also, the golf course is overseeded, so you can expect outstanding playing conditions in April. At 6,847 yards, this Jim Fazio-designed par-71 course has variety of scenic holes and lots of water hazards. The clubhouse is also very inviting. From the veranda, golfers can sip on a cool drink and watch players play the ninth hole or just take in the scenery. The River Golf Club also has excellent practice facilities, which include a grass range, putting green and extensive short-game area. Lessons are available from the professional staff. It's a popular spot, so if you're looking to book during Masters week, don't delay any further.
Green fees during Masters week: $200-$300 per player (depending on day)
Bartram Trail Golf Club
Rating just over four stars on Golf Advisor, Bartram Trail Golf Club is a 2005 Rick Robbins design that features five par 3s and five par 5s. It’s the only public golf course in Columbia County and the only course in the area to offer Mini-Verde Bermuda greens. The course features five par 5s and five par 3s. An Audubon International Wildlife Sanctuary Course, Bartram Trails is routed through rolling hills, natural wetlands and the meandering Euchee Creek.
Green fees during Masters week: $110-$150 per player (depending on day)
Applewood Golf Course
Applewood Golf Course might be the best bargain of them all. Located under 40 miles south of Magnolia Lane, the club doesn't really jack up its rates during Masters Week. In fact, in 2017, there were coupons available in the shop or in the local newspaper for further discounts. The course, built on an abandoned apple orchard, was completed in 1997 and is perfect for every level of player. Designed by Chuck Baer, there are four sets of tees that range from just under 5,000 yards to 6,935 yards. There are plenty of trees, as well excellent Tif-Eagle green and five ponds that come into play on six holes. The course offers a 6,000-square foot clubhouse with a restaurant and golf shop.
Green fees during Masters week: $54 per player
About 6 miles from Augusta National you'll find the Rees Jones-designed Jones Creek (with Tom Fazio serving as a redesign consultant), a challenging and pristine test of golf located in the upscale master-planned development of Jones Creek. Because so many residents rent out their homes during the Masters, the course is a popular option for those who are looking to tee it up that week. The club also has nice golf shop as well as a teach center with club fitting and repair services. The Masters package includes green fees, cart, practice balls, hat, yardage book, and tees. There are also breakfast and lunch buffets. (Editor's note: Course is currently closed as of September, 2018)
Green fees during Masters week: $900 per foursome
Worth the drive
If your group is driving to the Masters from the north, check out Arrowhead Pointe Golf Course at Lake Richard B. Russell. This is a terrific municipal that rated almost five stars on Golf Advisor (ranked no. 21 in the U.S. in 2016). The park is located south of Greenville, S.C. near I-85.
Also terrific are the six courses at Reynolds Lake Oconee, designed by some of the best in the business. With a Ritz-Carlton on property as well as home and condo rentals, it's a popular spot this time of year. But if you can't get on there, you might want to try Harbor Club on Lake Oconee. It's sort of on the way from Atlanta to Augusta and rated 4 ½ stars on Golf Advisor.