We had some lunch in the clubhouse and headed over to the 1st tee on the Highlands Course. It continued to be a quiet afternoon at Hampton Cove and we got out early, which was nice since we had a long drive back to the Atlanta area. I guess a three hour drive isn’t really “long”, but that’s about my max after two rounds of golf! We were also hoping to beat some more storms!
Like so many of the courses on the trail, the Highlands Course is on the opposite side of the clubhouse from the River Course. The Highlands Course is further from the Flint River and located at the base of a hillside. While the River Course doesn’t have any homes bordering it, the Highlands Course is located in a community and out of all the courses that we played on the trail, this one had the most homes surrounding it. The homes were a little closer than I like, but the scenery of the surrounding hillsides overshadowed the homes, especially on the back nine!
One of the employees mentioned that the Highlands Course has a little bit of everything! That turned out to be true as it has some elevation change, water, and a mix of open and tree-lined holes. It has plenty of pine trees and even some linksy looking holes with fescue covered mounds framing the fairways. The course looked great, there’s no doubt about that!
The front nine has most of the homes around and plays into the hillside. Honestly, I’d say that the homes could be in play on the 3rd and the 6th but that’s about it. The front features minor elevation changes, a club at most and meanders its way down towards some lakes which start coming into play on the 8th. The most interesting scenery on the front is an old barn which is visible on the 4th and 5th holes. When playing the 5th, that barn is an easy target so make try not to hit it!
The back nine is centered around two par 3’s requiring a carry over water (the 11th & the 16th) and four lakes. The four lakes affect play on seven different holes and because of the way the holes are routed, most of the trouble is on the right side. Make sure your misses are off to the left! The back nine is on a lower part of the property in an open area and offers great views of the area! There isn’t much elevation change on the back, but it is still scenic.
We played the Orange tees which are 6806/72.8/128 and I found the Highlands Course to be so much more playable than the River Course! It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t like the River Course which crushed my desire to golf! Except on the water holes, I had a calm feeling on the tees even if the fairways weren’t what I would consider wide. There are some great driving holes here, although you can always chop it up one side if you’d like! The trees added a nice look and you could play whatever shot shape that you wanted. I found that there was a lot of flexibility on the drives and approaches here.
As far as individual holes go, there are plenty to talk about on the Highlands Course. As a group I thought that the par 3’s and par 5’s were the best! The 11th and 16th are 177 and 211 yards, respectively. They both play over water to greens on a peninsula. The 11th has more room to bail out while you have to hit a good long iron on the 16th to find the ball! Depending on the pin locations, to get one close you might have to fire at a section of green the size of your kitchen countertop!
The par 5’s are well designed too. The 3rd is reachable after a good drive, but you will have to skirt a hazard on the right side if you want the shortest yardage to the green. The 9th is the other par 5 on the front and it doglegs left and plays uphill. It is unique because the fairway stair steps up to the green which could leave you with multiple blind shots or a severely uneven lie. The 17th, at 570 yards, is the longest hole on the course and is a real beast! Water runs all down the right side and short of the green which affects the layup and the third shot.
The course conditions were nice and once again I was impressed with how the trail courses drained. We just about made it through the front nine when a line of storms blew through. We waited close to an hour for them to pass and then headed back out for the remainder of our round. I’m no meteorologist, but I’d guess at least half an inch of rain fell while we were waiting! It was sloppy in spots, but by the time we played three holes the course looked great!
The greens were top dressed with sand which caused them to be slower and every now and then they would bump or wobble. Oddly, the greens were about the same speed after the rain and they rolled smoother! The rain seemed to wash away the sand so that’s probably why. The fairways were cut down and nice and full.
I enjoyed playing the Highlands Course and it was my favorite course at Hampton Cove. There was plenty of variety, interesting holes, and I thought the course looked great. The one knock against it that I can see is that it is the type of course that could be found in many parts of the country. There isn’t anything unique to the RTJ Trail about this setting compared to the other courses we played.
Before getting to the pictures of the Highlands Course, I’ll post some random thoughts about the RTJ Trail in general. These aren’t in any specific order and I’ll try to keep them brief.
- The courses aren’t walker friendly, if you are the type of golfer who loves to walk then you’ll have to be picky about where you play.
- The convenience of 36+ holes at most sites is nice. You can park the car and leave it in the lot all day.
- Try to pack light if you are playing multiple sites as we stayed in a different hotel every night, except one.
- Most of the courses on the trail need combo sets of tees! Seems I was forced to play 6,500 or 7,000 yards, neither of which are ideal for my game.
- The courses aren’t all that player friendly. I was expecting the courses to cater more towards the casual golfer rather than high level amateur play.
- There are a lot of mid-length par 4’s.
- The maintenance was consistent from one site to the next, no surprisingly poor conditions.
- Compared to other top public courses in various states that I’ve played, the greens were slow.
- I found the value to be average, not great. We paid $600 for 8 rounds of golf. If you are one of those folks who want to utilize the unlimited feature of the package you could increase your value. We intentionally made a choice to play more sites and fewer rounds.
#1 (394 yard par 4):
#2 (372 yard par 4):
#3 (518 yard par 5):
#4 (183 yard par 3):
#5 (378 yard par 4):
#6 (406 yard par 4):
#7 (424 yard par 4):
#8 (190 yard par 3):
#9 (511 yard par 5):
#10 (434 yard par 4):
#11 (177 yard par 3):
#12 (347 yard par 4):
#13 (391 yard par 4):
#14 (382 yard par 4):
#15 (520 yard par 5):
#16 (211 yard par 3):
#17 (570 yard par 5):
#18 (398 yard par 4):