The Dynamic and Devilish Duo: Holes 6 & 11


Bear's Best - Atlanta:

A Premiere Experience on Some of Jack's Favorite Holes.

Posted by: Rick Parnham


Very few athletes have had the success in their sport to be considered the game’s best. When discussing golf, a few names get tossed around, but arguably it is Jack Nicklaus that bears the crown in that debate. With 18 major titles, countless PGA victories, and a highly regarded portfolio as a course designer, Jack represents all that can be in the sport while being a beacon to the current generation of players. With the spring tradition of The Masters nearing and with all the success had by Jack there, it was special to pay a visit to one of the Golden Bear’s designs in suburban Atlanta.


Aside from his still untouched playing accomplishments, Nicklaus has a plentiful portfolio of golf designs numbering well into the hundreds worldwide. Drawing on his vast international playing experiences, his diverse collection of courses lends many to debate his greatest designs. ClubCorp worked with Nicklaus to create a most unique golf experience by developing a pair of Bear’s Best compilation courses, one in Las Vegas and the other in the rolling hills beside the Chattahoochee River northeast of Atlanta. At each of these facilities, the design team selected favorite Nicklaus creations from around the world and routed players through 18 holes of Jack genius.


Number 12: The Finishing Hole at Gleneagles


Having had the chance to sample many courses where replica or inspired-by holes are the marketing hook to get you to play, there was a mild sense of trepidation as to how good Bear’s Best would be. Too often when designs are recreated for the novelty of the chance to play a world famous hole or two, the quality of the design gets lost on the attempt to visually replicate the original. In this case, with Jack replicating Jack, Bear’s Best is a marvellous golf course despite being a collection of replicated holes from other courses. Unfortunately, I had not played any of the originals which were replicated to build this routing, but I must say the holes on this compilation are world-class on their own.


Atlanta’s version of Bear’s Best opened in 2002 and is widely considered to be in the upper echelon of premiere public play in this golf rich region. Being a true daily fee facility, a visit is all about creating the member-for-the-day feeling. General Manager, Ian Grimwade, a transplanted Scotsman from Fife, is well-versed in creating an environment to maximize your Bear’s Best experience. Having started his golf career here as a caddie and eventually becoming head professional, Grimwade jumped at the chance to return to Bear’s Best to lead the charge as GM.  “It was my dream job to come back from seven years away in Scotland when my former boss retired; I love this place.” After our round, it is easy to see what brought him back to the South.


The Impressive Clubhouse


The routing starts with a trip to St. Mellion in England that plunges down to the lower reaches of the property and wraps up with the beastly finishing hole at Castle Pines in Colorado. The array of holes come from designs in the UK, Ireland and the US with names like Muirfield Village, Shoal Creek, Sherwood Forest and Gleneagles all lending themselves to this unique course. Spread over a varied canvas, the layout offers a series of opening holes that route through a lowland corridor lined with thick forests. The river flats in the middle of the round create holes that are perfect for those looking to take the cover off the driver, while the final stretch of the routing navigates a fairly hilly landscape bringing elevation and uneven lies to the forefront. It is clear from the outset that in keeping with Nicklaus’ design principles, the round will be generous off the tee, but puts a premium on the approach shots to the small, well protected greens.


Following a pair of scorable par 4’s to open, the first truly daunting shot is found at the third tee. The start of a quartet of remarkable short holes, the replicated 13th at Spring Creek Ranch sternly tests your accuracy with a short iron so as to navigate the multi-tiered putting surface that is surrounded by bunkers and wetlands. The 16th is a remake of the 15th hole at Elk River.  Playing downhill from the tees, the green is well guarded by a pair of bunkers both on the right and left, making for an exacting challenge. Accurate club selection while factoring in the wind is crucial for any chance at par. The star attractions are holes that are familiar to those who enjoy watching the pros struggle on tour. Sharing the same pond, Nicklaus recreated the famous Bear Trap hole 15 from PGA National and the devilish 12th from Muirfield Village, not coincidentally host to Jack’s own Memorial tournament in early June. Both are knee knockers and round wreckers, but stunningly beautiful and most memorable.


A Trip Through "The Bear Trap"


The quality of the design along with the top-notch service and inviting playing experience make for a truly fine day at Bear’s Best. Stocked with a new fleet of carts all equipped with the “Shark Experience” GPS, you can navigate the round with your own built-in caddie while keeping up with the highlights and scores of that week’s tournament or enjoy a range of music selections from the state-of-the-art Bose speakers. The menu of delicious food and beverages in Jack’s Place is perfect for the post round bragging of who took the best shot at Mr. Nicklaus that day.


Walking in with a bit of skepticism from having been disappointed more than a few times before by replica golf, the trip to Bear’s Best countered all those past experiences admirably. The remarkable piece to this course is that you could take away any mention of this being a compilation of previous Jack designs and the course would stand alone as a fine test of golf. The fact that this challenging, fun and demanding course has the added bonus of providing the opportunity for golfers to sample holes on courses they will never get to play, or only see on TV each year, makes the premier public play experience, that much more memorable.  As the flocks of golf fans migrate to the pampered spoils of the place where Jack won six green jackets, a visit to Bear’s Best along the way to Augusta would be a masterful idea.































The Opening Tee Shot
























Bear's Best: Par 72

Tees Yards Rating Slope
White (M)
White (L)























Jack's Place



























Bear's Best

5342 Aldeburgh Drive
Suwanee, GA





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