Reynolds Lake Oconee-22

Reynolds Lake Oconee Golf: The Platinum Membership is….Incredible

When you live in the Pacific Northwest, Reynolds Lake Oconee isn’t generally the first place that comes to mind when you’re thinking of golf destinations.

I’ve heard wonderful things about the golf courses and the Ritz Carlton Reynolds Lake Oconee, but to be honest? I really didn’t know much about the Reynolds community until recently. 

This is too bad, because I’ve clearly been missing out.

I recently spent 4 days experiencing all that Reynolds has to offer.

Rather than bury the lede, I’m just going to come right out and say it:

Reynolds Lake Oconee exceeded all of my admittedly lofty expectations.

In fact, I’m not sure I’ve been to a golf community that offers so much both in terms of golf and lifestyle activities. 

In this recap, I want to show you what it’s all about. If you’ve been considering a golf getaway with your buddies, a family trip, or perhaps a second home or relocation, read on. We have a lot to cover.

History of Reynolds Lake Oconee

I’ll be honest, I expected Reynolds to be out in the sticks. Yet as I learned in the easy 90-minute drive from the Atlanta airport, there’s a lot more going on in this community than I expected.

Reynolds began in the early 1980s when the Oconee River was dammed up to form Lake Oconee.

The lake itself is unlike anything I’ve seen. It covers a huge area and has more fingers and peninsulas than any lake I’ve ever heard of. There’s more shoreline on Lake Oconee than the entire Atlantic coastline in Georgia.

Reynolds Lake Oconee

A look at the lake from one of the docks at the Ritz Carlton Reynolds Lake Oconee.

And this is part of what makes the region so unique.

As this was happening a man named Mercer Reynolds began buying up thousands of acres of land forming what is now known as Reynolds Lake Oconee.

In the early days, it truly did embody what I kind of expected it to be now: a small golf resort out in the middle of nowhere.

The Bob Cupp designed Preserve course was built in 1988, and at that time you really did have to meander down dirt roads in order to find it.

One person said: “I remember being back there in the 80s and saw a sign for a cow crossing. And sure enough, a rogue cow came bounding down the hill and crossed the road right in front of me. To this day, I’ve never seen it happen again.”

While these days I don’t know how many cows you’ll find bounding across the road, there’s certainly no shortage of wildlife.

Over the next 20 years the resort continued to grow until 2008 when the housing crisis hit, and Reynolds fell into receivership.

By 2012, Met Life had bought it, and during the past 9 years it completely transformed Reynolds into a world-class destination. 

First Impressions of Reynolds Lake Oconee

Despite having to fly across the country to do it, I was surprised by how easy it was to get to Reynolds from the west coast. There was a direct flight from Portland that got me in at about 5:30 in the morning, and after getting my bags and rental car, I pulled up to the Ritz Carlton by 7:30. 

My room wasn’t ready yet, but I was able to recover from the flight with a shower and a little time at the fantastic spa:

Ritz Carlton Lake Oconee Spa

Any spa with a cold plunge and a fireplace is ok by me.

From the time I left my house to the time I pulled up to the hotel, it was a grand total of about 9 hours. Not too bad.

The sun was shining when I pulled in on a perfect November day. As I neared the hotel I could see the 17th hole of the Oconee course over to my left. It was so beautiful that I found the closest parking spot I could and ran out to the course to shoot some photos before the sun came up.

Oconee Golf Course

My first look at Reynolds Lake Oconee.

I crossed the bridge to the 18th tee and as I neared it I saw what looked to be a statue of a heron in the center of the bridge.

“Oh that looks nice,” I thought, right as it flew away into a nearby tree.

Reynolds Lake Oconee

A heron(?) sitting on the bridge. I thought it was a statue.

2 minutes later as I was trying to photograph the beautiful bird, a family of deer came trotting by right below it.

While Reynolds has far more people than I expected, there’s still plenty of room for amazing wildlife – which you’ll see no matter where you go.

Reynolds Lake Oconee

Same bird in the tree.

It’s safe to say within minutes of stepping on property, I got it. And over the course of the next 3 days, it only became more clear how special this place truly is.

The Platinum Membership at Reynolds Lake Oconee

Over the course of the next week I’ll be doing posts dedicated to the Great Waters course, Creek Club, as well as the Ritz Carlton Reynolds Lake Oconee Resort.

But for this particular piece, I want to highlight all of the amenities and activities at Reynolds through the lens of their Platinum membership, which is something pretty special.

There’s one thing the developers of Reynolds Lake Oconee have figured out, which I think is very smart: modern couples and families are looking for more than just golf.

If you’re going to build a home for you and your family, there’s a good chance that golf is only one of the things you’re interested in. 

Historically, we’ve seen resorts and communities like this revolve entirely around the golf culture. That isn’t necessarily any different here, but what they’ve recognized is that people want more options.

And the lifestyle amenities that are offered at Reynolds for both members and guests is unparalleled. 

Reynolds Lake Oconee Golf Courses

Creek Club Reynolds Hole 5

The 5th hole at Creek Club

Before we cover all of the unique lifestyle features at Reynolds Lake Oconee, I want to give you an overview of the courses. This is a golf blog after all.

In total there are 6 courses at the resort, 5 of which are open to resort guests to play.

There are two memberships at Reynolds: the Silver and the Platinum. 

As far as golf goes, the Silver membership gives you unlimited access to the Landing and Preserve courses. The Platinum membership gives you full access to all 5 resort courses, as well as the fully private Creek Club, which is arguably the most unique course on the property.

After personally experiencing about half of the golf at Reynolds, there was one thing that became really clear: there’s a ton of variety.

When you visit a lot of golf resorts, often all of the courses feel very similar. 

At Reynolds, I found each golf course to have a very distinct personality. They all feel different from one another, and I think that’s one of the best compliments you could give a golf destination.

Great Waters Golf Course

#11 at Great Waters

#11 at Great Waters

The crown jewel of the club, and what first turned me onto Reynolds is the Great Waters Golf Course. Originally designed by Jack Nicklaus in 1992, it’s been a mainstay on Top 100 public lists for years.

And it isn’t hard to see why.

The first 8 holes are inland holes that are solid, but it’s at the 9th you really get a taste of what makes this course so special.

9 of the last 10 holes are right on the water, and there are some truly spectacular views and golf holes.

The entire course went through an 18-month renovation that was completed in 2019. I’ll have a more detailed review of the course and the changes up on Breaking Eighty soon.

  • Year Built: 1992
  • Designer: Jack Nicklaus
  • Length: 7,436
  • Slope: 75.7/143
  • Greens Fees: $280-300

Oconee Course at Reynolds

Oconee Golf Course

My first look at Reynolds Lake Oconee.

The Oconee Course opened in 2002, at the same time the nearby Ritz Carlton resort opened for business. Designed by “The Open Doctor” Rees Jones, it’s a challenging course that weaves perfectly through the lakeside landscape.

It was being overseeded while I was there so I didn’t get a chance to play it, but in talking with one local member he said it was his favorite of all the courses on the property.

This became a theme. Similar to Bandon Dunes, all of the courses are so unique, and strong in their own right, that when you ask members and guests to rank their favorites, you’ll often find very different answers.

  • Year Built: 2002
  • Designer: Rees Jones
  • Length: 7,158
  • Slope: 73.8/139
  • Greens Fees: $280 peak season

The Preserve at Lake Oconee

The Bob Cupp designed Preserve Course was finished in 1988 and was the first course Reynolds opened on Lake Oconee. Whereas many of the other courses have a more challenging, Championship feel, the Preserve is a little bit softer.

I played the back 9 and thought it had some wonderful holes. The 18th gave me some Augusta vibes, and the dogleg right 12th, was another highlight.

If you’re looking for a round to play with your family, this course would be great for it.

  • Year Built: 1988
  • Designer: Bob Cupp
  • Length: 6,674
  • Slope: 71.2/133
  • Greens Fees: $160-195 depending on time of year.

The National at Reynolds Lake Oconee

Reynolds Lake Oconee National Golf Course

Third hole on the Cove 9 at National.

The National at Reynolds Lake Oconee is a set of 27 Fazio-designed holes that opened in 1997. The Cove, Bluff and Ridge nines each have their own personalities and the course as a whole is widely regarded as the most challenging on the property.

You feel it too.

After playing the Preserve which gives you some friendly resort course bounces and breaks, the National is a true test.

It stretches out to around 7,000 yards, the bunkers are deep, and the greens are no joke.

But as with all the courses, the scenery is there too.

During a drive-through of the Cove 9, I literally had to stop on every hole to take photos. I feel like that’s a good sign.

  • Year Built: 1997. Cove nine opened 2000
  • Designer: Tom Fazio
  • Length: 6,955 (Ridge/Bluff)
  • Slope: 74.2/143
  • Greens Fees: $180-225

The Landing at Lake Oconee

The 5th hole at The Landing.

The 5th hole at The Landing. Photo Courtesy Reynolds Lake Oconee

Also, a Bob Cupp design, the Landing was the very first course at Lake Oconee when it was completed in 1986. It was acquired by Reynolds in 2005, and since its opening has received a number of accolades and has been considered among the best courses in the state.

This was the only course at Reynolds that I didn’t have a chance to see. I was there for 3 full days, with every second packed with activities. And the fact there was golf I still didn’t see is a testament to just how much there is to do and see in the community.

With at least 6 holes touching the lake, the Landing has both fantastic views and an excellent layout making for what I’m told is an excellent golf experience.

  • Year Built: 1986
  • Designer: Bob Cupp
  • Length: 6,991
  • Slope: 74.5/138
  • Greens Fees: $160-195 depending on season.

Creek Club

11 at Creek Club Reynolds

11 at Creek Club

Creek Club is the only fully private course at Reynolds Lake Oconee, and it’s one of the most unique courses I’ve ever played. 

A Jim Engh design completed in 2007, it has the most elevation change of any course on the lake. Engh is a master at designing beautiful golf courses on difficult terrain and this is exactly what he did here.

There are a ton of similarities with The Golf Club at Black Rock, his Coeur d’Alene design, which is one of my favorite courses.

It’s the only course not on the lake, but you could easily make the argument that it’s the most scenic course at Reynolds.

I was also impressed by how much it really does feel like a private club – in a good way.

At Reynolds where you have a very large membership and a set of courses that are mostly open to resort play, I wasn’t sure what the vibe would be like at Creek.

But you take one walk into the clubhouse, and you can tell its members treat it as a place to relax and enjoy the company of other members. Not to mention, the clubhouse which is perched up above the 18th green(s) allows for some spectacular views.

And oh, yes, I said greens. 

Creek Club is the only course I’ve ever heard of which features three different green locations on the 18th hole. Throw in the 100+ foot drop on your tee shot, and you have one of the most spectacular and unique finishing holes in golf.

18th Hole at Creek Club Reynolds

The 18th with different greens.

  • Year Built: 2007
  • Designer: Jim Engh
  • Length: 7,079
  • Slope: 72.1/131
  • Greens Fees: Private

The Kingdom at Reynolds Lake Oconee

The Kingdom at Reynolds Lake Oconee

Going beyond just golf courses, Reynolds is also home to the TaylorMade Kingdom – one of only two in the world.

Think basically the most high-tech and impressive club-fitting experience you’ve ever had. The Kingdom has it’s own full driving range, short game area, and putting greens. Ensuring you’re getting one of the most boutique fitting experiences in golf.

When I asked what the difference between the Kingdom and a standard Taylormade Performance Lab is, I was told a big difference was the increased focus on instruction at the Kingdom.

When you come to get fit, whether for one club or a full set, they take the time to dig deep into your golf game and goals.

Are you trying to fix things? Change your swing? Maintain your current game?

They marry instruction and fitting in a way that most club fitters don’t take the time to do.

Not to mention the fact that since they build all of the clubs on-site, by the time you’re done? You’ll be walking out with your fully tailored clubs on the same day.

A Few More Thoughts on Reynolds Lake Oconee Golf

As I mentioned above, I was very impressed by the consistent quality and the variety of the golf courses at Reynolds. 

Each course and location has a different vibe, and the clubhouses at each are all spectacular and provide a different experience for members and guests.

Greens fees are varied, although across the board they’re on the high end of resort golf. There are a number of stay and play options available through the resort at both the Ritz Carlton, as well as in cottages or condos on the property.  So I’d definitely look into those if planning to visit.

The 9th hole at Great Waters.

The 9th hole at Great Waters.

In my mind, this would make for a phenomenal stay and play long weekend with friends. There isn’t a bad choice among the courses, and we haven’t even got to the food, lake, or the insane number of other activities available to you.

I truly mean this. To the point where I’m considering putting a trip together for some my friends from the west coast to come out and experience it.

Ritz Carlton Reynolds Lake Oconee

If you’re visiting Lake Oconee, there’s a very good chance that your jumping-off point will be the Ritz Carlton Reynolds Lake Oconee.

I’ll be doing a dedicated post about the resort, but it’s worth mentioning here as it is such a pillar in the community.

Platinum members have access to many of the facilities at the resort, and even get discounted food and spa treatments, which is a great bonus.

The lakefront location is spectacular, and the pool? Definitely, a place you wouldn’t mind spending an afternoon…or a whole week for that matter.

I stayed in a Fireside Room, and would highly recommend it. Whether it was morning breakfasts on the patio, or an evening bourbon, it truly added a nice ambiance to the experience.

A fireside room and breakfast at the Ritz Carlton.

A fireside room and breakfast at the Ritz Carlton.

Sandy Creek Sporting Grounds

While the golf is great, it’s once you start looking at some of the other unique amenities that members and resort guests have access to that you begin to see what makes Reynolds so unique.

And one of the most unique (and my personal favorite) features? The Sandy Creek Sporting Grounds.

The Sandy Creek Sporting grounds is right across the lake from the Ritz Carlton resort and it’s a haven for outdoor activities. 

Specifically shooting, fishing, and off-roading.

The Sporting Grounds are available to Platinum members as well as Ritz Carlton Reynolds Lake Oconee resort guests.

The Sporting Clays Experience at Reynolds

Nailed it.

I’ve been skeet shooting a handful of times, but nothing could prepare me for what was on offer at the Sandy Creek Sporting Grounds.

The sporting clays course and Five Stand were designed by the world-renowned Justin Jones. Not only has did Justin design the shooting courses at legendary locations like Gleneagles and the Greenbrier, but he may very well be the most genuinely nice human I’ve ever met.

Not to mention, he’s a heck of an instructor.

Whether shooting is a regular passion or a vacation curiosity, there is something for you at Sandy Creek. The Five-Stand was my first foray into shooting at Lake Oconee. Perched up over a small lake, there are machines located on literally every angle of the lake in front of you that shoot clay pigeons. The variety is unbelievable. Everything from your typical clays, to “frogs” that skip along the water toward you, to “rabbits” that run laterally across the lake.

I hit one of each back to back, giving you a sense of how good the instruction must have been. It was a high point of the whole trip.

The Sporting Clays course is also one of a kind. While most courses of this type feature around 10 stations, this mile-long loop features 20 different stations. Each of which has 2-4 machines sporting a huge variety of moving targets to shoot at.

 

Sandy Creek Sporting Grounds

Station 15 on the 20 station shooting clays circuit.

To complete it, it’s 5 shots on each station, for a total of 100 possible points as you work your way around.

Guns not your cup of tea? Try the archery range.

This was truly one of the surprises of the trip, and the feeling of hitting your first hard-to-get clay is a very fun experience.

Fishing at the Sandy Creek Sporting Grounds

Sandy Creek Sporting Grounds

Looking back at the sporting grounds from across the private lake.

One of the first things you notice when you arrive at the Sporting Grounds is just how peaceful the setting is. Located right on a private 40-acre lake, you’d be just as happy sitting there and taking in the setting as you are doing any of the activities.

But on top of shooting, the bass fishing is also fantastic. Boats are available to take out onto the lake, or you can find a quiet spot along the banks as well.

We ran out of time before I had a chance to get some fly-fishing pointers, but I can’t imagine many better spots to spend a few hours.

The Off-Road Experience at Reynolds

I’ve never been proper off-roading, so when I was given the choice of what I wanted to do first at the Sporting Grounds, this was a no-brainer.

We hopped in a new Jeep Rubicon, and over the next 45 minutes proceeded to wind through tight trees, up steep ravines, tilt sideways on steep rutted creeks and tracks, and go down hills so steep I didn’t think there was any way we’d hold traction.

And I did it all with a giant grin on my face.

Off roading at Reynolds Lake Oconee

The full route takes you around the lake, before ducking back into the trees near the archery stand for a little more advanced driving.

I was told that for this experience it was around $100 for two people, so for $50 a person you get to drive most of the course.

Whether you’re a resort guest or a member, this seems like such a cool opportunity.

Have a friend in town and looking for something unique to do? THIS.

And you don’t even need to buy your own jeep…

The Sporting Grounds were truly one of the highlights of my trip.

To top it all off, we did a whiskey tasting with a selection of bottles from the wonderful collection at the Tavern at the National Golf course.

Reynolds Lake Oconee Bourbon Tasting

Not every day you see one of these…

They barely mark up the prices for members, in order to once again offer unique experiences that you may not have elsewhere.

Richland Pointe

Most of what I’ve mentioned so far has been available to general guests of the resort, but Richland Pointe is just for the Platinum members.

Richland Pointe is a fitness, spa, and restaurant facility that is brand new. There are two buildings: the spa/exercise facility, and the restaurant and bar, which features a members-only pool.

The family pool is absolutely gorgeous. It’s zero-entry and situated right on lake, making for a fantastic setting to spend an afternoon.

Reynolds Lake Oconee - Richland Pointe

The family pool at Richland Pointe

The Food

The food, as with every place I ate at Reynolds was fantastic. Their executive chef, Zouhair Bellout, has been around since 2016 and he’s created something truly special for members and guests with their culinary program.

Chef Z is of Moroccan heritage, which gave him a foundation of deep appreciation for street food. As that love blossomed over the years, he’s really done something special with a variety of cuisines, not just at Richland Pointe but at each of the (12!) restaurants on property.

At Richland, the sushi was wonderful, as was the butter chicken which has garnered a bit of a following around those parts.

I was also very impressed by the wine list at Richland Pointe, not just for the selection, but the prices. Many bottles were nearly half the price of what I’ve seen them for in high-end hotels and restaurants. 

Again, it’s nice to see them keeping those prices reasonable for their members, in order to help accentuate their goal of creating memorable experiences.

The Spa

While the restaurant and pool at Richland Pointe is fantastic, it may be the exercise facilities that truly take it to the next level.

As of the time of this writing they feature the only Technogym BioCircuit in the world.

Richland Pointe Gym

The Technogym BioCircuit at Richland Pointe.

What is that exactly? It’s a series of Technogym machines that are all coordinated to provide a personalized training session for you. You pair it with your account and a trainer can go in and set the workouts to be personalized for you. Then you go through the circuit which tells you exactly when to rest, when to work, and when to move to the next machine.

When I first heard about the Technogym equipment, it didn’t really get me that excited.

But after seeing it in person? I was left very impressed. 

There’s also a full Technogym spin studio, and a yoga room as well.

As for the spa, there are 3 treatment rooms offering everything you’d expect a high-end spa to provide, and right outside there’s another adults-only pool that, again, is the type of facility you’d love to have access to any time you want.

Reynolds Lake Oconee - Richland Pointe

The adults pool at the Richland Pointe spa.

Final Thoughts on Reynolds Lake Oconee

In terms of full disclosure, I was a guest of the resort and my accommodations and activities were paid for. 

I could easily just list off the facts of the experiences and the membership and call it good. I don’t say anything on this site I don’t mean 100%.

But the reason I bring it up here, is because I did truly get a window into what it would be like to be a Platinum member at Reynolds Lake Oconee.

Sure most people probably aren’t playing 3 golf courses, eating countless meals, shooting, driving, and doing a bourbon tasting in such a condensed amount of time – but I was able to see it.

I was able to truly visualize and start thinking about the possibilities of what it might look like if I were to spend part or all of my time in the Reynolds community.

And I’ve gotta say, I really liked it.

#12 Creek Club Reynolds

The 12th hole at the members only Creek Club.

What’s great is that all of this is evolving as we speak. Richland Pointe has just opened up. Only about half of the available acreage has been built on, so in the coming years you’re going to see even more value and features become a part of this membership. 

And if I lived in the southeast? I would absolutely consider it if I were looking for a home-away-from-home golf community.

I truly think they offer more amenities, activities, and features than any other club I’ve come across.

And while it’s not inexpensive, the value for what you get? Is very, very good.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the Reynolds Platinum Membership, you can do so here.

Questions about planning a trip to Reynolds? Drop a comment or shoot me an email at [email protected] Happy to help point you in the right direction or give any feedback I can.

Disclosure: I was a guest of Reynolds Lake Oconee and my accommodations and activities were sponsored. However, all opinions in this piece are my own.

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