By definition, a links-style golf course is one that is built on sandy soil along the coastline; there is very little elevation change other than the surrounding sand dunes. These courses are usually susceptible to strong winds, which is why you will find deep bunkers; digging them deep is the only way to keep sand in them. A true links course has little if any trees; in fact, other than tall sea grasses and gorse – a hearty low-growing evergreen plant – there is little vegetation at all!
Mountain golf is the antithesis of links golf, plenty of rolling hills, dramatic elevation changes and trees everywhere. To many golfers, it offers the ultimate golf challenge.
I submit to you a new category of golf course: Links Mountain Golf. The best of both worlds: sandy soils, lots of sand dunes, steep elevation changes and trees, lots of trees. We’ll leave the strong winds up to God!
Old Toccoa Farm in Mineral Bluff, Georgia is the poster child of links mountain golf. Step up to the first tee and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Everything except the uphill trajectory!
Design and construction on what was originally known as the Blue Ridge Golf & River Club (which began in 2005), was led by Dan Proctor and Dave Axland of Bunker Hill Golf with Jack Dredla as the Master Shaper. In 2008, the hopes of completing the Blue Ridge Golf & River Club were lost as that year’s real estate crash claimed yet another victim. When the project was abandoned in 2009, 17 of the 18-holes were shaped, but only 9-holes were irrigated, and only 7 holes had been sodded. By the time the project was foreclosed on in 2012, the grounds were overgrown and unrecognizable as a golf course. In 2013, Current Managing Partners, Kevin Hermetz and Peter Knutzen put together an investment team and were able to purchase the property at a fraction of its original value. They Immediately contacted Bunker Hill Golf and asked them if they wanted to return to complete the project. The response was unanimous – absolutely. In 2014 Bunker Hill Golf returned to compete the initial 9-holes and the course was opened in September of 2015.
Ask Knutzen or Dredla what they think of the course and they’ll tell you it’s a “minimalist” golf course, except when it came to moving dirt. According to Dredla, he can’t even hazard a guess as to how much earth was moved. We were standing outside the temporary pro shop and he pointed to the ridge at the end of the driving range. The ridge stands about 20’ high behind the range and according to Dredla, it was all that height at one point. They literally dug out the driving range and moved the dirt around the course. In true minimalist fashion, there are no tee signs with diagrams of the hole and the various yardages; that’s what the scorecard and Visage GPS system are for!
Old Toccoa Farm offers golfers 5 sets of tees and can be played anywhere from 6,707 (73.8/149) to 4,525 (67.2/123) yards. No matter your golf competency level, you’ll find a set of tees that will let you thoroughly enjoy the golf course. Old Toccoa Farm has some pretty impressive practice facilities too, including a full-length driving range, chipping area and a putting green and in the spring of 2020, they will open their Family Par-3 Course located inside the driving range!
As you traverse the course at Old Toccoa Farm, you’ll encounter scenic vistas, fields of native grasses, and thick stands of hardwood trees, each adding to the overall aesthetics of the course. The massive bunkers are very rugged looking and remind you of the traditional links style courses with thick grass collars, and tall-wispy grass edges. Advancing the ball from many of the traps can be difficult. Often – as in Scotland – your best (only) play out is either sideways or backwards.
The greens at Old Toccoa Farm are 007 Bentgrass and feature a great deal of undulation. In fact, undulation may be an understatement; hills or mounds may be more suitable. According to Knutzen, they’ve buried their fair share of elephants out here! As far as speed, they typically run between 8 and 9 on the stimpmeter and can be taken up a notch or two for tournaments and special events.
Hole # 2 is very interesting, playing over 400 yards downhill from the back two sets of tees. Accuracy off the tee is a must, finding the fairway is imperative if you want to score well, or at the very least find your ball so you can hit it again. Push anything right towards the fairway bunker and you’ll have a totally blind second shot – albeit downhill – to a green that leaves very little margin for error. A good drive in the fairway can roll a long way and could very well be that 300 yard drive you’ve been dreaming about and put you in a good position for a birdie.
Several fairways – and cart paths for that matter – are reminiscent of a roller coaster and with over 280 feet of elevation change, Old Toccoa Farm rivals the best coasters out there. The shortest hole on the course (Hole # 12, 116 yards) is followed by the longest hole on the course (the par 5 13th hole at 626 yards), which plays downhill and is, believe it or not, reachable in two. Sometimes looking where you’ve been can be a beautiful thing. Case in point: Stand on the green on Hole # 5 and look back at where you’ve just come from. Downhill off the tee, uphill to the green never looked so good!
If you’re looking to get back to nature, you’ve come to the right place. This private, gated community with semi-private golf, consists of over 420 acres and is located just 5 miles from the charming mountain town of Blue Ridge, GA. The nearby Chattahoochee and Cherokee National Forests offer more than 1,000,000 acres of managed wilderness, for hiking, and biking. Old Toccoa Farm also boasts over 4,300 feet of frontage on the clear-flowing Toccoa River, a world-class fishery. The river also offers plenty of other river activities including, canoeing and kayaking. Currently, there are 3.5 miles of walking trails on property that meander along the Toccoa River and next to small slow-moving creeks. As the community grows, plans call for an expansion of the trail system.
Old Toccoa Farm is open six days a week and closed on Tuesdays. One way to become a member of Old Toccoa Farm is to purchase property; Property owners must become members. Not looking for a new primary or second home or already have a home in the area? You can apply to become a Non-Resident Member but better hurry, ultimately there will be a cap on the number of Non-Resident memberships. Corporate Memberships are also available.
Not sure if Old Toccoa Farm is a place you want to call home? They have a way to help you decide. It’s called a Discovery Visit and gives you the opportunity to explore the community and preview the upcoming plans for the development. You’ll also have the opportunity to play one of the most impressive courses I’ve ever had the privilege of playing. If you’re looking for something more than golf, the friendly and amenable staff can help you arrange water activities and other outdoor pursuits during your visit.
If you enjoy the game of golf and find yourself anywhere in the Blue Ridge Mountains of north Georgia, you owe it to yourself to go and play a round at Old Toccoa Farm and experience links-style golf in the mountains. You can find them online at www.oldtoccoafarm.com.