As a kid, recess was essential. Twenty minutes of four square and kickball, or swinging from the jungle gym, made the rest of the day tolerable. A similar multi-sport oasis awaits less than three hours from Greenville, but with grown-up activities sure to revive the kid in everyone.
Reynolds Lake Oconee, a 12,000-acre golf and lake community, started as a simple, family retreat on the shores of the Oconee River. Early generations of the Reynolds clan first gathered in “Cracker’s Neck” in Greene County 100 years ago, inviting friends for sporting weekends to hunt and fish. When Georgia Power built the Wallace Dam on the river in 1979, it formed Lake Oconee, Georgia’s second largest lake. By the mid-1980s, the family was selling property, and building marinas and golf courses, to create a recreational haven 90 miles east of Atlanta and 30 miles south of Athens.
Hundreds of privately owned homes are nestled in the wooded hills, while visitors have the option to “linger longer” as the locals say, at the National Club cottages, Lake Club Pointe condominiums, or Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee. But no matter where guests stay, there are plenty of places to play.
Tee It Up Wide-open fairways. Tight, sand-trap-lined greens. Golfers will find a course to suit their preference and ability on Lake Oconee. Reynolds features six courses by five different designers. Tom Fazio, Rees Jones, and Jack Nicklaus are just a few of the top-name players and architects who have created 18-hole wonders to drive, chip, and putt through. “Great Waters is on the lake,” explains director of golf Wes Forester. “On The Preserve and The Creek, you go up and down hills, so you can hit different-quality golf shots. The best part about Reynolds is with these different designers and topography, you never feel like you’re playing the same hole twice.”
Those wanting to shave a few strokes off their game should visit the Reynolds Kingdom of Golf instructional campus with its classrooms, heated hitting bays, range, and a three-hole, short-game hitting area. The facility includes a unique partnership with TaylorMade, providing club fittings and coaching using TrackMan and GCQuad technology—advanced, sport engineering usually reserved for the pros. “Technology is ever evolving,” shares master club fitter Jeff Hinshaw. “If you’re playing with clubs more than five years old, you’re playing outside of technology. We go through the diagnosis process and determine what’s good and bad in your bag, and take you to the next level of play.”
get wet For those wanting to cool off—Lake Oconee offers 374 miles of shoreline, encompassing 19,000 acres of clear, blue-green water. Four marinas operate at Reynolds providing boat, Jet Ski, paddle board, kayak, and canoe rentals. Open waterways and quiet coves are easily accessible for wake-boarding highs and sunset lows. Large groups may want to consider a cruise on the Spirit of Oconee, which serves as a festive floating environment for social gatherings with plasma TVs, music, and a fully enclosed, climate-controlled lower deck.
No matter where the current takes you, lakeside visitors are sure to spot anglers in action trying to hook largemouth bass, bream, crappie, and catfish. Lake Oconee is reported to host an estimated 433 pounds of fish per acre—double what’s found in most middle-Georgia lakes. Largemouth bass alone are estimated at 36 pounds per acre, twice as much as that in other lakes in the region. All marinas have fishing guides and gear to take fishermen of all skill levels to secret honey holes.
ace it Visitors who prefer swinging rackets to golf clubs can play on 10 courts at the Lake Club Tennis Center. The USTA recently named the Reynolds site an “Outstanding Facility,” with its six clay and four hard courts. Head professional Eric Gessner, who runs the entire tennis program, can frequently be found near the pro shop giving group clinics and private lessons. “We’re the premier facility in the area,” states Gessner, who came from the Virgin Islands to coach. “We provide world-class instruction, and our programs run 12 months a year, every day except Christmas and Thanksgiving.”
Dozens of players can be found squaring off against each other across the net, some playing for state titles, others just for fun. Those wanting to raise their ranking should ask about securing time with the Dartfish performance analysis system that videotapes players and corrects strokes right on the court.
grab your gun The newest addition to Reynolds Lake Oconee brings archery, shooting, and off-road adventures to guests. The Sandy Creek Sporting Grounds sits a 15-minute drive from the heart of the resort. The 800-acre, country escape offers a sporting clays course, state-of-the-art rifle range, archery course, off-road SUV course, and 40-acre lake to fish and kayak. Wales native Justin Jones designed the site and directs operations. “It’s not just a gun club,” he reveals. “There’s so much more to do. We’ve achieved exactly what we wanted to do in the first two years, and there are more activities to bring in. We’re looking at extending the off-road driving courses, and bringing in falconry and ropes courses in the future.”
A 200-year-old barn, rescued from Pennsylvania, serves as the check-in center by day and entertainment venue by night, hosting concerts and seasonal gatherings. Reserve your shooting times at Sandy Creek well in advance, and avoid booking near large groups, as staff is small and still growing.
Give in to your inner child at Reynolds Lake Oconee—a playground for your grown-up tastes.
For more, go to ReynoldsLakeOconee.com.