Royal Lakes Country Club
by John Kim
Most famous for one hole in particular, Royal Lakes actually has 17 other holes which aren't that bad altogether. Located up in Flowery Branch, it's not a quick jaunt up the street for most Atlantans, but most that make the trip seem to return again at some point. I arrived on a busy Sunday afternoon, in the last group to tee off before the club's member-guest tournament started. Needless to say, my presence was a very low priority to the golf staff. Nevertheless, head pro Rodger Hogan was gracious enough to spend a few minutes visiting with me and discussing his course. I know he had a lot on his plate that day, so the hospitality was greatly appreciated.
Setting up your round: Despite it's remote location, the course maintains a pretty steady stream of players. I'd recommend calling at least a day or two in advance to ensure you have a tee time. The pro shop number is 770 535 8800. Weekend times should be planned three or four days in advance.
When you arrive: You can warm up at the range or putting green available to you. Neither is elaborate, but effective for their purpose. The putting green is pretty flat which isn't much help when you go out on the course and rarely have a flat putt, but try to get feel for speed at the least. Dining is limited to a snack bar type grill as opposed to a full service café. But you can still grab a sandwich and gatorade. (On Sundays, they do not serve alcohol).
Hole you will love: Hole #11 is a great par 5, requiring three exact iron shots to reach this island green. Your approach shot will be a short iron into this small target surrounded by potential penalty strokes. Maybe the closest many will get to the famed #17 at TPC at Sawgrass.
Hole you won't: Hole #11. Yeah, it's the same one that you'll love, but it's one of the more controversial holes in the city. There is a lot of trouble waiting you on every shot, and if you haven't played the course before, it's tougher than it should be since the yardages on the scorecard don't seem to align up as well out on the course. Honorable mention go to #3 and #18.
Overview: I enjoyed meeting the staff at Royal Lakes, and the course has a number of fun, challenging holes. It also has some strange holes that seem to be a little forced, and others where it just seems they ran out of land and stuck a fairway and green. The conditions of the course were above average, though there were a few spotty areas on both the fairways and greens. I'm not a huge fan of the layout, but I think most golfers would enjoy their time out there.