Wallace Adams is Georgia course that time forgot

By Tim McDonald, Contributor

McRAE, Ga. - If it weren't for lawn mowers, the town of McRae (pronounced locally as mac-ray) might have disappeared from the map.

Though it's the county seat of Telfair County, west of Savannah between Helena and Lumber City along Highway 341, the town lost 10 percent of its nearly 3,000 residents between 1990 and 2000, while the rest of Georgia was growing.

Named after a pioneering Scottish family, McRae is now the site of the largest single-plant lawn mower factory in the world, and the town square shows off its version of the Statue of Liberty and Liberty Bell.

If that isn't compelling enough, sorry. There isn't much more to it. Good luck trying to find a place to eat - or drink - on Sunday. Fine dining means Huddle House or Burger King.

It is peaceful, though, set in the typical, south/central Georgia terrain of gently rolling hills with all the pines you care to look at, far from the temptations of Atlanta, or anywhere else for that matter.

If you're looking to play golf in a place like this, you'll have several options, one of which is the Wallace Adams Course at Little Ocmulgee State Park, just outside McRae.

One of eight courses in the Georgia state park system, the front nine was designed by Southern Engineers and the back by O.C. Jones, a little-known relative of his better known kin, Robert Trent Jones Sr.

O.C. was a hard-living, hard-drinking man who was known to be enticed by a bottle of whiskey if you wanted any work out of him. But, he did design several courses in the South, including Houston Lake in Perry.

Wallace Adams was once rated by Golf Digest, given 3 ½ stars in 1997 and three stars in 2001. But, it hasn't been rated since; it, too, seems to have been left behind. A forsaken course, designed by a minor, long-gone architect in a place time seems to have forgotten.

The most rounds Wallace Adams ever accommodated was 32,000, according to General Manager Ray Gentry. Now it's down to about 26,000.

The facility draws most of its customers from Atlanta and those on their way to and from Jekyll Island and Florida. You want to wind down from hot golf and wild nights, and still get 18 in, this could be your place.

The problem is, there are other, cheaper options.

"There's so many courses around here that charge less," Gentry said, noting the course's green fees of just under $35. Still, the course is one of only a few state park courses turning a profit.

Wallace Adams is 6,625 yards from the back tees, and although several holes are too close to Highway 441, it does have an air of serenity about it. The front and back nines are decidedly different.

"It's like you played two different courses," said Gentry. "The front is beautiful and scenic with all the foliage and mature pines. It's so peaceful and quiet. There are no houses, there's nothing to do here except play golf. The back nine is a shot-maker's course; it makes you think. You've got to position the ball well."

Still, the newer, front side is a bit tighter. No. 1 requires a second shot over water to the green, which is adorned by a beautiful, old stone walking-bridge. No. 5, a 425-yard par-4, requires a short carry over water and a long hitter can fly the trees to the left, though the safer play is to the right.

The No. 7 fairway wriggles like a rattlesnake, which are plentiful in the area, along with alligators and lightning in the summer, and again, you can try to carry the trees to make it shorter.

The back nine has even more doglegs and smaller, sloping greens. No. 13 requires a carry over two large trees in the fairway, but too long to the left will put you behind more trees, blocking your view to the green.

No. 14 is a short, 460-yard par-5 easily reached in two.

"We thought about making it a par four, but left it short," Gentry said. "People like to score, so we just left it a par-5. They like to make birdies; they always remember that."

Reynard Wilson, a 9-handicapper who had finished the course about an hour earlier, including a near-birdie on No. 14, agreed.

"He's right, I would have remembered that," Wilson said. "I hit a wedge to about three feet, then missed the putt."

The verdict

This is a moderately interesting course to play; it has enough angles and obstacles, as well as risks, to keep you interested, especially trying to cut corners on the doglegs. You can score well here, but don't expect a serious challenge.

It has the quiet, state park ambience, but the lodge is a disappointment. It's more of a one-story, generic building that is a long way from rustic.

Still, it has 60 rooms, many of which look out onto the course, and a small swimming pool. For those wanting to mix in other outdoor adventure, the park has a 265-acre lake with a swimming beach. The park also has the Oak Ridge Trail that winds through scrub oak and pine toward a "buzzard roost"and a boardwalk.

There are also tennis courts, picnic shelters and four other state parks within driving distance.

Stay and play

The park has 55 camping sites for tents, campers and RVs. In addition to the somewhat generic lodge, there are 10 cottages, ranging in price from $70-$90 a night.

Dining out

There aren't many dining opportunities, other than the state park lodge restaurant, which is closed on Sundays. Try the Southern Star Grill (229) 868-2507 or EL Aguila Mexican Restaurant (229) 868-4428.

Fast fact

Ocmulgee is a Creek Indian word, meaning "turbulent stream," referring to the nearby river.

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.

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