Location: Royston, Ga.
Course architect: Denis Griffiths
Remodel: 2000 | expanded from nine to 18 holes
Tee – Yardage l Rating / Slope:
Blue — 6,503 | 71.4 / 131
White — 6045 | 69.6 / 128
Green — 5,664 | 67.6 / 125
Red — 4,657 | 67.7 / 120
Green — 2,623
Saturday morning green fee: $ (under $50)
Caddie service: No
Walker friendly: Yes
Fairways: Tifway 419 Bermudagrass
Greens: TifEagle Bermudagrass
Starter: As one of eight courses in Georgia’s state parks system, Highland Walk is located within Victoria Bryant State Park in northeast Georgia. The rural setting amid the foothills of the Piedmont plateau, midway between Atlanta and Greenville, S.C., about 10 minutes off of I-85, provides a beautiful palette for golf. Architect Denis Griffiths, who is based in suburban Atlanta, has designed courses worldwide, but some of his best work can be found in his adopted home state of Georgia. He did three courses at Chateau Elan in Braselton, and has created routings from the mountains (Brasstown Valley) to the lowlands (Georgia Veterans Memorial, another state parks course), with dozens between. Griffiths took the original scruffy nine-hole routing and reimagined an 18-hole gem that rolls with the heaving topography — Nos. 1, 5-9, 10-11 and 18 formed the original nine holes. Even the Bermudagrass – Tifway 419 on the fairways and TifEagle on the greens – is pure Georgia, having been developed at the U.S. Department of Agriculture research center downstate, in Tifton.
Play because …: Simply put, it’s fun. If you’re up to a challenging walk, go for it. Otherwise, hold on for a rollicking ride. The first two holes are short and downhill par 4s, offering the classic friendly opening handshake, times two. The wakeup call arrives quickly with the uphill dogleg-left par-4 third, signaling a pitched, rolling round that awaits. Highland Walk plays uphill, downhill and sidehill all day long. By the time you climb the fairway of the ascendant 487-yard, par-5 18th hole, you will have earned a cold drink on the clubhouse veranda.
Takeaway: Highland Walk delivers quality conditions at a bargain price. You’ll love the roll of the TifEagle Bermudagrass greens. The remote setting within a state park – no daily admission fee required to access the golf course – offers a pure, uncomplicated golf experience. Highland Walk is not long by modern standards, but mounded fairways place a premium on driving accuracy for approaches into canted, tiered greens. If you’re looking for level lies, keep driving south out of the Appalachian foothills until the land levels out a bit. Otherwise, enjoy the unspoiled surroundings.
RATINGS [1 to 10 scale, 10 being the highest]
Food | Beverage: 7.0
Pro shop: 7.5
Course difficulty: 8.0
Pace of play: 8.0
Best par 3: No. 10 (182 | 160 | 141 | 136 yards)
After a par-37 front side with only one par 3, the uphill No. 6, this downhill hole serves as a welcome change of pace. But on an elevated course with so much pitch and roll to it, the 10th hole presents one of many tee shots over which you will want to pause and admire the surroundings. A hogback divides the canted putting surface in half, placing a premium on the accuracy of the tee shot. The 10th plays much easier with the hole cut on the left side, away from the bunker that guards the right side of the green. It should be a short-to-mid-iron shot for most players.
Best par 4: No. 17 (374 | 336 | 286 | 207 yards)
An elevated tee provides one more scenic drive late in the round, but don’t be lured into complacency surrounded by so much beauty. The 17th requires a solid pop to clear the creek and rough at the front of the bowl-shaped fairway, before an uphill semi-blind wedge shot into the 36-yard-deep green with a false front. This is not the most difficult par 4 on the course – Nos. 3, 5 and 13 punch much harder – but it’s certainly one of the most memorable.
Best par 5: No. 4 (520 | 477 | 452 | 386 yards)
The shortest distance between two points isn’t always the most prudent play in golf. A split fairway tantalizes with a more direct route to the hole left of a wooded area that dissects the fairways, but don’t be tempted. Aim right, toward the canted fairway, and then favor the right side of the shallow, kidney-shaped green that is guarded in front by three pesky bunkers. This is a rare hole that rewards erring long rather than short.