Four Great Public Courses Around Augusta for Masters Week
By Brendon Elliott, PGA
(Photo courtesy Forest Hills Golf Club).
Everything stops in Augusta, Georgia, when the Masters rolls into town – or maybe, it’s just the opposite.
Homes are rented out, it’s spring break for the entire city and the golf courses, in and around Augusta, from nearby Evans to across the Savannah River in North Augusta and Aiken, South Carolina, roll out the red carpet for visiting golfers.
You can enjoy a few hours of pampering at the Palmetto Golf Club in Aiken which is only 25 minutes north-east of Augusta National. Golf has been played at Palmetto since 1892, and the throwback course was retooled and expanded by Alister MacKenzie in the early 1930s – the same time he was laying out Augusta National with Bobby Jones.
Other private clubs such as Champions Retreat – home of the first two rounds of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur – West Lake Country, and the Reserve Club at Woodside Plantation also offers great experiences but maybe limited in availability . . . These items are more expensive.
There are many public options for golf. Below is a list of courses that you can play near the home of the Masters.
Augusta National: Under 30 minutes
Augusta Municipal Golf Course
($80 for Masters Week; $40 for Non-Masters).
Augusta Municipal Golf Course opened in 1928. It was designed by David Ogilvie. This historic facility is managed by Cypress Golf Management and City of Augusta. Affectionately known as “The Patch,” this course is a gem and part of the history of Augusta – it’s just 15 minutes from Augusta National, too.
The par-71 layout measures 5,046 yards from up tees and approximately 6,000 yards at the back tees. In an interesting bit of course history, Dr. William Henry Harison and David Ogilvie, the course designer, helped transform the Bon Air Golf Club into Augusta Country Club.
Fred Ridley is the Augusta National Golf Club Chairman and Masters Tournament Chairman. His goal is to improve public golf in Augusta. Announced during his annual press conference held on April 5 that Augusta National will partner with the Augusta Municipal Golf Course, Augusta Technical College and The First Tee of Augusta in a “model for other communities” to elevate public golf in the Augusta area. The partnership builds on Augusta Tech’s current efforts with the City of Augusta to assume operation of The Patch by 2025 and is a massive win for golf in the local Augusta community.
Bartram Trail Golf Club
($100 – $175 Masters Week)
This track, which is relatively new, was built by Rick Robbins in 2005. Golf Advisor rated this course No. 18 on a list of top Georgia courses. In 2018, it was ranked No. 21. The par 72 layout starts at a youth green of 2,317 yards and continues to a back green of 6,706 yards.
It is located just a little over half an hour from Augusta National. The unique layout features 5 par fives, 5 par threes, and the only Columbia County public golf course to offer Ultra Dwarf Bermudagrass Mini Verde fine-bladed Ultra Dwarf Bermuda.
Plus, during Masters Week, the course runs a golf and all-you-can-eat-and-drink special for $300.
Forest Hills Golf Club
($200 for Masters Week, $30-60 for non-Masters)
Augusta University’s Forest Hills Golf Course is a treat. Forest Hills was established in 1928 and designed in 1928 by Donald Ross. It underwent renovations by Arnold Palmer and Ed Seay in 1984 and again by Palmer in 2004.
Forest Hills is just 15 minutes drive from Augusta National. The par 72 layout starts at a tee of 5,098 yards and ends at 7,140 yards.
Masters Week: Golf, cart, range balls, and a buffet dinner will cost around $200
The course is home to the Augusta University’s men’s and women’s golf teams, the former of which won back-to- back NCAA Division I national titles in 2010-11.
30-45 Minutes to Augusta National
Aiken Golf Club
($120 for Masters Week; Non Masters, $25 – $60
The history of the Aiken Golf Club is a great reason to visit South Carolina. The course was opened in 1912 with 11 holes and was completed in 1915. I.W. Fowler, and E.J. Egerrton was the clubs president and treasurer. John Inglis, a founding member of PGA of America, was elected Head Professional in 1915.
The City of Aiken then purchased the course and operated it until 1959. The City of Aiken decided that the course should be sold in 1959 because it was not financially feasible to run the club properly. James McNair Sr. purchased the club and changed its name to Highland Park Country Club.
James McNair Jr. assumed control of the club in 1987. McNair decided that it was time to rebuild the course. This vision was realized with the help of Aiken. McNair and the City of Aiken also brought back the original title, Aiken Golf Club.
Acclaimed sportswriter Michael Bamberger calls it, “The most charming course in the United States.” The long-time host of the Aiken City Am plays to a par of 70, and with three tee boxes, the course plays from 4,572 yards and up to 5,795 yards.
During the week-end of the Masters, the rate is $135 for each player and cart.
Mount Vintage Golf Club
($200-250 during Masters Week; $50-70, Non-Masters)
Mount Vintage Golf Club, a 27-hole facility, is located in North Augusta (South Carolina), approximately 35 minutes from Augusta National.
Tom Jackson built the original 18 in 2000. The third nine were added in 2008. The original 18 was home to the LPGA Asahi Ryokuken International Championship 2000-04. It has won many awards over time.
Each course has five different tee box options for each player. The Chester 9 has a par 36 and plays between 2,304 yards & 3,495 yards. While the Vintage 9 has a par of 36 but plays a bit longer (2,426-3.595 yards) The Independent 9 is also par 36 and is the longest of all three nines at Mount Vintage (2.316-3.610 yards).