Atlanta Athletic Club (Highlands and Riverside courses)Golf Course Review by: Bill Satterfield
Designer: Robert Trent Jones Sr. in 1964 (Highlands) and in 1967 (Riverside); Rees Jones in 1995 and 2005 (Highlands) and in 2003 (Riverside)
Phone Number: (770) 448-2166
Course Website: Official Website - Visit Atlanta Athletic Club's official website by clicking on the link provided.
Directions: Get here! - 1930 Bobby Jones Drive, Johns Creek, GA 30097
Accolades: Highlands course ranked on Golf Digest's Top 100 Courses in America from 1979-1989. Highlands course ranked 4th and Riverside 14th in Georgia on Golf Digest's 2013-14 Best in State list.
What to Expect: The Atlanta Athletic Club has roots to Bobby Jones when the phenom grew up playing on the East Lake Country Club course and continued to be an active member after the club was moved north to its current Johns Creek location. The club has hosted virtually every significant golfing event including the 1963 Ryder Cup, 1976 U.S. Open, and multiple PGA Championships including 2011. Every par three is lengthy and plays over water that runs right up next to the putting surface. Since the original Robert Trent Jones Sr. layout was installed in the 60s, Rees Jones has made multiple trips to the site remodeling the course in an effort to challenge the world’s best golfers. David Toms made the par three 15th hole famous when his 5-wood tee shot found the bottom of the cup and propelled him to a victory in the 2001 PGA Championship. The Riverside is the less acclaimed course of the two at AAC, but the more beloved track of the membership. The course looks more intimidating than it plays and features a handful of attractive water hazards along the way. Large trees line the fairways and the Chattahoochee River comes into play on the back nine following Rees Jones’ reversing of three of the holes in 2003. AAC has the unique setup where different grass types are found at each course and thus delivering a unique experience (Diamond Zoysia fairways and Ultra Dwarf Bermuda greens on Highlands and Zion Zoysia fairways and Bentgrass greens on Riverside). If you want to put your skills to the ultimate test then Highlands is awaiting your visit, but if you want a fun course to place bets on with your buddies than Riverside is the call of the day.
Signature Hole: Highlands 15th - 260 Yard Par 3 - This is the hole that David Toms made famous by carding a one on during the Saturday round of the 2001 PGA Championship. For that shot, Toms used a 5 wood to find the bottom of the cup, but that was when it played 30 yards shorter; it can now be stretched out to 260 yards. A pond runs the up the right side of the hole and protects that side of the green. A collection of bunkers hunker across the back of the green while the bail out area sits short left. The elevated tee provides both beauty and drama as you watch your ball sail towards the green hoping it carries the pond. Every par three at the Highlands course is long and plays over water; none more intimidating than the 15th.
Runner up: Riverside 18th - 586 Yard Par 5 - Riverside’s finishing hole provides one of the finest backdrops at the entire complex. This par five is lined by trees and finishes at a green that is fronted by a pond and boasts Atlanta Athletic Club’s impressive clubhouse as the background. This hole is a common favorite among the members and certainly one of the most memorable.
By the Numbers:
By the Numbers:
Individual Hole Analysis
Best Par 3: Highlands 17th - 210 Yards - The last and arguably prettiest par three leaves little room for error as a pond covers the entire front of the hole and comes all the way up to the putting surface with just a rock retaining wall sitting between the green and the H2O. Four bunkers sit behind the green that is wider than it is deep. While the other par threes offer a bail out area, the 17th hole demands a great shot; no exceptions. This impressive one-shotter consistently plays as one of the toughest holes on the course.
Runner up: Riverside 6th - 200 Yards - Riverside is more player friendly than the neighboring Highlands course, but Riverside’s 6th hole stacks up with Highland’s challenging par threes. Tipped out at 200 yards, this beautiful one-shotter plays over a pond to a green that is protected by a bunker on the left. Unlike the Highlands course that features elevated tees on its par threes, #6 at Riverside plays flat and represents the best and toughest three par on the track.
Best Par 4: Highlands 11th - 457 Yards - This demanding par four doglegs hard left about 300 yards off the tee. Bunkers protect each side of the fairway near the turn in the dogleg and should be avoided at all costs if you want to keep par as a reasonable goal. The approach shot play down to a green that is deeper than it is wide and is protected by two ‘U’ shaped bunkers on the left and a pond on the right. The green slopes towards the water and makes for a very testy up and down from either greenside bunker. No bones about it, this hole demands a great tee shot and even better approach shot. During the 2011 PGA Championship, Atlanta Athletic Club’s finest par four yielded over 50 birdies but also forced seven “others” on scorecards; the second most of any hole on the course.
Runner up: Riverside 14th - 393 Yards - The 14th at Riverside reflects the course’s namesake by playing along the historic Chattahoochee River. Doglegging to the left, trees and the river hand out to the right while a pond covers the left side of the hole. A pin tucked in the back left portions of the green will make you pucker as the pond looms to the left and a bunker that wraps around the entire rear.
Best Par 5: Riverside 18th - 586 Yards - Already featured as the signature hole, the 18th at Riverside turns left and provides a risk/reward approach shot to a green fronted by a pond. The right side of the green can be approached on the ground due to the fairway that runs right up to the putting surface, while approaches towards the left side of the green must be aerial to avoid a watery grave. This is a great finishing hole since it is a par five that creates a birdie opportunity while being challenging enough to create drama at the end of the round.
Runner up: Highlands 12th - 555 Yards - The downhill 12th hole creates a scoring opportunity if you can pound a draw around the corner of this dogleg left; successfully avoiding the collection of bunkers on the right. A pond comes into play 100 yards out and runs up to the right side of the green. A large bunker protects the left side of the green while smaller bunkers protect the rear and far right of the putting surface. The fair sized opening in front of the green welcomes the opportunity to reach this green in two, while the trouble on each side of this approach can open the door to a big number. In the 2011 PGA Championship, this hole yielded more eagle and birdies than any other, but also bit five golfers with “others,” the third most among the first 16 holes.
Birdie Time: Riverside 13th - 536 Yard Par 5 - You don’t have to study golf statistics long to understand one simple concept; par fives create scoring opportunities. The 13th hole on the Riverside course is a relatively short downhill par five with little trouble to contend with, thus rating on the scorecard as the easiest par five on the course. The right side of the green houses a large bunker, but plenty of room exists to the left while attacking this green. You can get away with a bad shot here and still card a birdie, so get your confidence up and take a stroke, or two, back from old man par.
Runner up: Highlands 10th - 436 Yard Par 4 - There was only one non-par-five hole that played to an under par average during the 2011 PGA Championship, and it was the opening hole on the back nine. Most players will elect to hit a 3 wood off the tee to position themselves in the middle of the dogleg and avoid the bunkers awaiting to engulf tee shots that go long. Heading into the green there is a large bunker on the left and safety on the right. A fade around the corner will shorten the hole and leave you with a shorter iron for your approach shot. The green isn’t very intimidating and you should be able to take dead aim. This hole also happened to be the only birdie I was able to card during my round.
Bogey Beware: Riverside 1st - 616 Yard Par 5 - When you see a 600+ yard hole on the card, you likely don’t plan on reaching it in two and would be happy to walk away with a par. When it is the 1st hole of the day however, it can be a nightmare come to life if you haven’t taken the time to warm up. The combination of early round jitters, a monster long hole, and no playing time under your belt is the perfect storm for a potential bogey.
Runner up: Highlands 8th - 467 Yard Par 4 - This hole played as the most difficult test on the front nine during the 2011 PGA Championship. If the pros are having that much trouble with it, you know that the common golfer is shaking in their spikes standing on this tee. The entire left side of the hole is protected by a lake with a monster drive required to attempt to carry the corner of this dogleg left. Playing up the safer right side lengthens the hole and features three bunkers outside the short grass. The challenging uphill approach shot features a very lengthy bunker on the left and a second bunker short right of the green. Anything long results in a brutal chance of saving par, especially due to the slick green that you can’t afford to be aggressive with. More double bogies were carded on the 8th hole than any other on the front nine during the 2011 PGA Championship.
Final Cut (Highlands): Grade A-
Final Cut (Riverside): Grade B+
Flyover Tour (Highlands Course):