Callaway Gardens, Pine Mountain, Georgia just might be the definition of Golf Garden Heaven. Located SW of Atlanta in the southern foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, this historic retreat has hosted the PGA Tour, gardeners and botonists from around the world, military and civilian families and PBS film crews of "The Victory Garden". Open year-round, it is as famous for its spring azaleas as it is for its winter holiday lights.
Founded by Cason and Virginia Callaway, its gates opened in 1952 after decades of coaxing a botanical wonder from exhausted, over-farmed agricultural lands. Perfect for a family-friendly vacation or romantic get-away, our 2 days were not enough. But we did get 2 rounds in on the Lake View Course. Georgia Bulldogs had the Mountain View Course tied up in an Alumni tournament, but that second round on Lake View produced a gem we were glad not to miss.
Our starter, Bob, had played this course as a boy, back when it was only a 9, back when Cason and Virginia were just dreaming of the gardens that they would present the world.
In a grandfatherly way, he would pop up occassionally along our round to "see how we were doing". He told us things we would never have known - to look for the bluebird houses along the sides of the woods that mark the 100 yard distance to the hole, that the original 9 were actually holes 2-10, and that he remembered the day they got the first riding carts.
Hole 10 is a par 3 that hits to an island green at the base of the original clubhouse, now a restaurant. If you miss it and put it in the drink, the ride across the serpentine bridge would be a long one, indeed. No one was out on the restaurant veranda, but Bob had appeared across that bridge on the far side of the green. He was settled back in his starter's cart enjoying a hushed conversation with an older greenskeeper who leaned for a minute on his rake. They watched as we teed up our golf balls. Funny. They didn't make us nervous. For them, we were going to play our best. Over the water and pars for both of us! I'll never forget it.
Callaway Gardens, Georgia