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 is a visually breathtaking 18 holes of championship golf along Georgia’s Lake Oconee shoreline that looks almost exactly the way Jack Nicklaus first designed it—but better.
“’Spectacular’ is a pretty good word for the golf course,” said Nicklaus, the living legend who devoted considerable time and attention to taking Great Waters back to the future. “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 (Zeon zoysia) and rough (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.
The “wow factor” is stronger than ever with the opening of lake views on the 9th, 11th, and 13th holes. For all that, the par-3 8th is the only completely remodeled hole: It now plays over or along bunkers to a more receptive green.
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 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.”
Great Waters has been a favorite course of both members and visitors to Reynolds Lake Oconee since it opened in 1992. The course has been highly praised and is regularly rated as the #2 course in Georgia—second only to famed 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 is considered one of the country’s most diverse golf experiences, with 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.
Along with its highly-regarded golf courses, Reynolds Lake Oconee features a full range of sporting activities, with access to more than 350 miles of Lake Oconee shoreline and four marinas; shooting sports at the Sandy Creek Sporting Grounds; hiking trails; and an award-winning tennis center, together making it one of the most impressive community and golf destinations in the world.