Georgia Veterans Memorial a place for Civil War buffs to play golf
CORDELE, Ga. - Playing the Georgia Veterans Memorial Golf Course near Cordele may be one of the few opportunities the traveling golfer/Civil War buff will have to indulge both disparate passions.
Cordele is just off Interstate 75, south of the Andersonville National Historic Site. Andersonville, of course, was the notorious Confederate military prison, where nearly 13,000 prisoners died from poor conditions, starvation, malnutrition and exposure.
It was the largest of the Confederate prisons, where 45,000 Union soldiers passed through during the camp's 14 months of existence. You can see restored sections of the old stockade.
Cordele is on the Andersonville Trail, a 75-mile loop that includes historic sites and museums. The trail also takes you through rural Georgia, running through old Georgia towns, where you can check out antique shops and buy your fill of peanuts, pecans, watermelons and, of course, Georgia peaches.
If you ever tire of re-living one of the grisliest episodes in Civil War history, you should consider another, more modern form of torture, golf. The course, one of eight on the Georgia state park circuit, was designed by Dennis Griffiths, and winds through the rich bottom land of south-central Georgia.
At 7,059 yards, it runs through mature, loblolly pines, water, a lot of sand and mounds, with only a couple holes running parallel to U.S. 280.
With a course rating of 72.1 and a slope rating of 130, the course should provide just enough diversion to take your mind off the suffering of so many Union troops.
It's one of only two courses in the state park system independently operated, and was given a four-star rating by Golf Digest.
"The course is very playable, but challenging and interesting from the back tees," said head pro Matthew Barnes. "It gets narrower for the better players from the tips."
Veteran's Memorial logged more than 24,400 rounds of play this past year, 3,000 more than the previous year. Pace of play is rarely a problem, helped out by the continuous cart paths.
With a bigger budget this year, the course hopes to attract more resort play from the Lake Blackshear Resort and Golf Club, on the shores of Lake Blackshear.
The course is in a classic Georgia setting with all the stately pines, and the water and mounding manage to keep it interesting, though it isn't known as a particularly difficult course.
Several holes stand out. No. 6 is a 347-yard par-4 that demands you keep it in the fairway. It has an elevated, tiered green that falls off on all sides. The green is protected by sand and grass bunkers. Too far left here and trees will block your view of the green.
There is a large, mounded bunker on the left side of the No. 9 fairway. Don't hit it too far right or a large tree will block your approach.
The 370-yard 13th is an all-around difficult hole, with a small landing area and semi-blind shot to the kidney-shaped green. Use a three-wood off the tee because a driver could land you in the creek, especially with a fast, downhill roll. This is one of the holes that runs parallel to the road, but trees serve as a buffer to traffic noise.
The 15th, a 486-yard par-5, is probably the most scenic hole, a dogleg around the lake. Be wary here because the fairway, though open, slopes right to left and has a tendency to kick your tee shot toward water. There is a risk/reward factor here, too. If you can carry the water with your second shot, you'll be looking at a likely birdie opportunity.
The 18th is a strong, finishing hole, a dogleg left with an elevated green that also falls off on all sides. There are trees on both sides and the fairway slopes left to right.
Veterans Memorial is a very playable course, with greens fees to match: $16 for unlimited play on weekdays and $21 for 18 holes on the weekend. Juniors and seniors get special rates, and carts cost $12.
It's a fairly picturesque course, with the lake, ponds and some azaleas around many holes and lining the drive up to the course. It isn't as isolated as some of the other Georgia state park courses, but neither does it have any condos or housing developments to intrude.
This isn't a course to knock the socks off your competitive instincts, and it can be brutally hot and extremely buggy during the summer. But it's a fun, moderately challenging course to play if you want a short trip off I-75 on your way to or from Florida, or if you want to mix in a little Civil War history.
The course staff specializes in group outings and tournaments, having conducted 150 outings last year.
Stay and play
The Lake Blackshear Resort and Golf Club, formerly known as The Retreat at Lake Blackshear, is on the shores of the lake. It has 88 rooms, bar, restaurant, fitness center, indoor/outdoor pool, boating and fishing. For more information, call (800) 459-1230.
The state park also offers cabins and campsites. For more information, call (800) 864-7275.
Cordelia's Restaurant and nearby Cordele has Country Folks
602 S. 7th St.
Bryce's BBQ and Rib Shack
2444 Highway 300 South
August 13, 2004