The spotlight of the inaugural Augusta National Women's Amateur will undoubtedly be on the world's best women amateurs getting to compete at the home of the Masters just days before the world's biggest golf tournament takes place there. But golf fans will be introduced to Champions Retreat, a 27-hole facility on 365 acres in Evans, Ga., with nine-hole routings designed by Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player, the first club to boast courses by all three legends.
At the Champions Dinner before the 1999 Masters, Player grabbed Jack's and Arnie's attention to discuss the possibility of working on a project together. The trio scribbled some initial ideas on napkins at Augusta National, inspiring the groundwork for what would become a private oasis along the Savannah River 15 minutes away from Augusta National.
The first two rounds of the Augusta National Women's Amateur—before Saturday's finale at Augusta National—will take place on the club's Palmer (Island) and Nicklaus (Bluff) nines. Those are the same nines our Golf Digest course-ranking panelists evaluate, which earned the club the No. 14 spot in our last Best in State ranking.
Here's a brief look at some of the most notable holes the competitors will play Wednesday and Thursday at Champions Retreat:
The first hole on Palmer's Island course will also mark the opening hole for competitors. A large fairway bunker will collect errant drives that miss the landing area to the left. The fairway cants to the right and plays to a kidney-shaped green that cants from front to back.
An overview look at the par-5 third hole, which plays toward a green that's fronted by water to the right.
The fifth hole on Palmer's Island course is guarded by the Savannah River on the left side and plays to an elevated green guarded by a collection of bunkers to the right.
Another body of water that meanders through the property, the Little River, fronts the green on the Island's eighth hole, which will play around 175 yards. Boulders separate land and sea before this massive, two-tiered green with six feet of elevation change.
The opening hole on Jack's Bluff course, the 10th hole in competition for the ANWA, provides a bit of an opening handshake a la Donald Ross' school of architecture. Jack's nine is the most challenging of the three nines at Champions Retreat, but the opening hole, playing around 385 yards, plays downhill and features a downslope in the fairway that will award well-placed tee shots with another 25-30 yards of roll.
The 11th hole in competition, the second hole on Jack's Bluff course, is a 145-yard one-shotter with a ton of contouring that requires precision on your approach. A false front protects the first three to four yards of the green, as do bunkers surrounding the green.
Impressive, rolling terrain tumbling down through the large Georgia pines will evoke images of Augusta National on the tournament's 13th hole, a par 4 playing about 425 yards. This is one of the more demanding holes on the property.
Jack provides a break after a stretch of tough holes with a short, 325-yard par 4 (which will play as the 1`5th)—but a player must position their ball well to get the proper angle to this green. An errant shot flared to the right might find the stream running along the right side.
The event's 17th hole, the eighth on the Bluff, is a par 3 that offers some incredible views of the surrounding wetlands. A downhill tee shot demands precision to this multi-tiered green.
All photos courtesy of Champions Retreat/Martin Miller.