by John Kim
Bear's Best is a unique idea from none other than Jack Nicklaus, showcasing eighteen of his best hole designs from all over the world. Having designed over 200 courses, obviously he has an impressive collection to draw from. From the distance of the hole, placement of bunkers, to even the pitch and slope of the fairways and greens, great care was taken to recreate the holes represented to as much exact detail as possible. Atlanta is currently one of two cities (Las Vegas is the other) that is home for a Bear's Best design, though several others are being considered.
Another unique characteristic of the course is the use of forecaddies for each group. Many golfers in Atlanta have not had an opportunity to enjoy a round of golf while using a forecaddie, you might find it makes a world of difference. There is a customary gratuity for these forecaddies (industry average is $20/golfer).
Setting up your round: You can call up to two weeks ahead for tee times, a credit card number is needed to hold your time. You can also make a tee time online at their website (bearsbest.com) You will also be mailed (or emailed) a confirmation of the time. The course is very popular for outings and visitors from out of town, so be sure to call ahead and leave yourself options depending on course availability. Cancellations must be made 48 hours ahead of time or you could be subjected to full charge. No shows will be charged.
When you arrive: A bag attendant will meet you out at your car as you pull up, all you have to do is not get lost on the way to checking in at the pro shop. A large driving range (complete with the pyramid of Nike practice balls) awaits you, as does a huge putting green. Your forecaddie will be waiting for you by your cart. The restaurant and grill (and of course, the pro shop) will also provide for you anything else you could need to fully enjoy your round.
Hole you will love: Hole #6 is a gorgeous recreation of #12 at Muirfield Village, which is a great recreation itself of #12 at Augusta. A short but deadly and beautiful par 3 entirely over water, it gives little room to miss but great visuals and if you hit the shot, a great memory.
Hole you won't: Hole #1 is very tough, especially for an opening hole, but hole #18 is a killer. A 446 yard par 4 (483 from the tips) means you're going to have a long iron or wood into a green that doesn't give you much room in front or back to miss. Many matches will swing two or three shots here so no lead is safe as you finish your round.
Overall: Obviously, I had very high expectations of this course before ever teeing it up. Many people had written or said to me that this was their favorite daily fee offering in the city. After playing here, I can't argue with their reasoning. The layout and conditions were outstanding, the amenities and graciousness of all the staff were top notch as well. The use of forecaddies is a nice touch, tip them well, they really do a great job of making your round more enjoyable and memorable. If this course isn't in a class of its own, it's in one that doesn't take long to call the roll. I'd say a top three daily fee course in the Atlanta area and a "must play" for any who haven't tried it.