Kinderlou Forest shows Valdosta golfers a lot of Love

By Tim McDonald, Contributor

VALDOSTA, Ga. - "Created by nature, designed by Love" is the slogan for the Kinderlou Forest Golf Club, but that is only partially accurate.

The dominant feature of this terrific, new course in south Georgia is an old borrow pit that comes into play early on. The dirt from the ravine was used to help build U.S. Highway 84, which was started back in the 1920s and which now reaches to Colorado, with one extension running to the Texas/Mexico border.

The deep ravine is a dramatic, man-made feature, with its red Georgia clay, and gives some holes an almost, canyonesque, Southwest feel.

The slogan, though slightly flawed, is a good one, but a better, more prosaic one, might be: "Created by Love, not by the developer."

Love refers to Davis Love, the accomplished PGA Tour pro and golf course designer. Although the course is a part of the Kinderlou residential neighborhood, it stands apart from it more than most similar arrangements.

"Most designers are told by the developer to design around the homes and lots," said Kinderlou head pro Jim Bishop. "Here, it's the opposite. They were given the land first. It will never have that crowded feel. Not too many golf courses are like that."

No, they aren't. The course opened in April of this year, and as of this writing, there were few homes to mar the landscape, particularly on the front nine. There are very few lots destined for homes on the course - between 15 and 20, according to Bishop - and another atypical quirk is that those homes will face the course, not back up to it. Other homes will be separated from the course by green space buffers.

That's great, but what of the course itself? It is one tough cookie. It measures 7,781 yards from the back tees, which is a handful even for the pros. The club has already hosted a Hooters Tour tournament, with the winning score 3-under - that's far tougher than most venues that host the tour.

"That kind of set the tone for the kind of golf course it is," Bishop said.

That tone is set fairly early, on the 657-yard, par-5 fourth hole, a dogleg right. Your second shot is over a creek, if you want to play it safe. It you're going for the green in two, you're facing down the aforementioned borrow pit with its steep embankment looming like a fortress. It's like something out of the wild West.

Has anybody ever reached this monster in two?

"It's been done," Bishop said.

Not by Love. No. 4 was Love's only bogey on his way to a still-record 65 at the official opening.

The course is rated 76.6 with a slope rating of 144, but officials say they haven't heard a complaint so far about its difficulty.

"No, not at all," Bishop said. "We have five sets of tees out every day. You just need to find your tee. Those intermediate tees are about 6,600 yards, which is about average for a country club course. I can look you straight in the face and say nobody has walked in here and said they didn't enjoy the course."

There is the length to deal with, of course, but there are other hazards as well, like water, including some hard-to-see ditches and creeks, sloping greens and fairways. There are a handful of blind shots, but not many.

"I don't think it's a golf course where you can play scared. You can't play timid," Bishop said. "But, it's a pretty straightforward course. Even on No. 4, you can still see everything in front of you; you know where to hit it."

Knowing where to hit it is different than actually hitting it there, obviously, and you'll have to hit over your share of creeks, chasms, pits and ravines. Still, Bishop is right in saying there isn't a great deal of trickery.

He is also right in saying the course is straightforward, but that doesn't mean it's boring.

"It's a real diverse type of golf course," he said. "The diversity is probably its best feature."

The first three holes are tree-lined, giving way to four and five, which are the canyon holes, and No. 6 through 9 are wide open with long views, providing almost a links-like feel. Scattered throughout are typical southern hardwoods - oak, magnolia, dogwood and birch.

The back nine is set in a planted spruce forest, with tall pines and rolling terrain that starts at No. 12.

The course is set on an old family farm once owned by the McRee family, which planted cotton, sugar cane and tobacco, among other crops. The Langdale Company bought George Randolph McRee's 600-acre farm back in the 1950s.

The Verdict

Do yourself a favor and play this course when you're in the area. It's one of the best in south Georgia and compares favorably to the storied Florida courses to the south, and to the Atlanta courses to the north.

"I think the more people hear about this course, the bigger its reputation will grow," said Bob Stephens, an Ohio golfer who has played the course twice.

Being in south Georgia, the green fees are more than reasonable, too: $65 weekdays and $75 weekends.

Stay and play

Being only three miles off the interstate, the area has more than its share of chain motels nearby.

For something not quite so generic, try the Fairview Inn Bed and Breakfast on River Street in the city's oldest residential neighborhood.

Dining Out

The 9,400 square foot clubhouse has a glass-enclosed dining area. There is a Sonny's close by, if it barbecue you're hankering for, as well as a Bob Evans and other assorted, mid-level dining closer to town, on the other side of the interstate. For fine dining, try Lulu's Restaurant on North Patterson Street.

Fast Fact

"Kinder" is German for children and "Lou" is dedicated to Louisa McRee.

Tim McDonaldTim McDonald, Contributor

Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment