This week’s review covers a course I have wanted to play for awhile and finally got the chance to recently.

City Club Marietta is a municipal golf course in Marietta, GA. Although my impression of munis is usually that they’re not up to snuff, I had higher hopes for this course. I thought I had played all of the munis in and around Atlanta, so it was good to see that there was another out there.

In reality, the course was better in my imagination.

City Club Marietta is a very, very short course located on an old military site. The terrain is fairly undulating, with a large hill leading down into a valley through which the holes play, the hill being perhaps the most notable feature of the course.

At under 6,000 yards, the course is EXTREMELY short. It almost feels like playing an executive course. Par 5s are not greater than 500 yards, which seems very odd when coming from some other courses around. The course makes up for some of the length loss with tightness. However, nothing can make up for it completely. For example, the second hole is a 250-yard par 4. Even though it’s a dogleg with trees and a little uphill, I can probably hit a 4-wood onto this green from the tee box. And the trouble near the green isn’t so daunting that I would shy away from hitting it either. Although I admire some holes under 300 yards for being cleverly designed, this one does not offer any “risk” to go with the reward of going for the green.

Speaking of, the greens are nothing more than OK. I was surprised to find that they were bent grass, but they were not tight, had inconsistencies, and generally were just OK. Moreover, the course was not marshalled. My friend and I played the front 9 in about an hour and a half, but got caught behind a slow group that never let us through on the back side.

This course reminded me of Cobb County’s version of Bobby Jones Golf Course. Each county has a muni that plays about the same way. It’s designed to be very easy so beginners can play it, but inevitably it is just too much hassel to be worth playing for an experienced player. Moreover, they’re too expensive. $39/person on a weekday afternoon is WAY too much to play this course.

One interesting note as well: driving to the course feels very strange. The clubhouse sits as a nice, southern building. However, it appears that a Hilton was built next to the clubhouse a number of years ago. As such, when driving into the parking lot of the course, there is almost no signage to tell you that you are in the correct place. Instead, you see giant Hilton signs to the massive Grecian Empire hotel. Only when you near the front of the hotel do you find a sign directing you to the golf course on the left. Although it makes for an interesting view from the fairway on 9 and 18, the course has a strange feel to it–almost as if the hotel is an insane asylum, or the hotel from The Shining.

Moreover, the course is in an odd spot. Although it’s not far from Marietta, it’s kind of difficult to get to. I felt like there was too much driving away from the highway for as close as it looked on the map.

On a high note, however, I hit what is probably one of the top shots of the year for me. A 355-yard downhill par 4 10th, this was the result:

That is my ball mark to the right of the pin. Literally, I LANDED 5 feet right of the stick. Although I missed the eagle putt, that ball was KILLED. So that was a high point. The view from the tee is below, although you can’t see the green (it doglegs to the right).

All in all, the course is just not up to snuff. Too short, too bad of shape, too crowded. At $39/person, I would recommend skipping this one.

Cost: 2/10
Maintenance: 3/10
Greens: 3/10
Layout: 2/10
“Fun” factor: 3/10
Proximity to the City: 2/10
Overall: 2/10

Today’s post focuses on a course near and dear to my heart, Mystery Valley.

Mystery Valley is a municipal golf course in Lithonia, GA–very close to Stone Mountain and to Southland Golf course, the subject of a prior PF review (see https://thepowerfade.wordpress.com/2011/04/04/course-review-southland-atlanta-ga/). The course, nestled between majestic pine trees, plays 6700 yards around several lakes. Although not the longest test, Mystery Valley presents a fair challenge that rewards good shots and punishes bad ones.

Along with nearby Sugar Creek, Mystery Valley is the municipal golf course of DeKalb County, GA. The course opened in 1966 and has remained largely unchanged since Then. Although some landscape is different since when I started playing there in the early 90s, the layout is basically the same. The brother of famed Atlanta golfer Charlie Yates was the first head pro at the course. It is even rumored that Bobby Jones walked the grounds at one time.

However, none of this history is apparent when arriving at and playing the course. A long, winding drive previews the front 9 to the player as he drives into the course. A modest clubhouse with a chipping green, putting green, and substandard driving range greet the player.

At first glance, the course doesn’t look like much. However, it’s layout–meandering through the natural hills and elevation changes–provides a great test to the average golfer and some great opportunities for the advanced one. There are a good number of risk/reward shots for the long hitters as well as a number of bailouts for the average players. The fairways usually have nice green grass and are mostly wide and inviting.

Although not terribly fast, Mystery Valley is one of the few municipal golf courses in Atlanta that has not converted to bermuda greens. The bent grass is usually well-maintained but can become a little shaggy on certain days and after rains. And despite the work required for maintaining the greens, an average player can still walk on weekend mornings for under $30–plus, the course is especially easy to walk since it was built before carts were mainstream and is set up with tees in close proximity to greens.

Like all courses–and especially municipals–Mystery Valley has its drawbacks. There are several holes that border on unfair. For example, the par-3 second hole includes a green that is so severely sloped that certain pin placements are virtually unreachable. Bunkers typically lack sand and are very inconsistent if sand is included. Because it is a muni, weekends are typically packed, and 4.5-hour rounds should be expected; note, however, the course management takes their jobs very seriously, and only in very strange situations will a 5-hour round occur.

As stated, this course is very near and dear to my heart, as it is the place that I learned to play. If it were a private course located in the center of Atlanta–and if it had a little more length–it would be a likely spot for a tournament or at least a desired track. The enjoyment of the layout is comparable or superior to Druid Hills, East Lake, and Dunwoody Country Club, just to name a few. However, because it is municipal, it gets little credit for the true gem that it is.

There are many drawbacks to Mystery Valley–certainly. However, it is the course that I continually return to because 1) it is a fair course and 2) it is a fair price.

Layout: 9/10
Maintenance: 7/10
Greens: 8/10
Cost: 9/10
Value: 9/10
Practice Facility: 5/10
Proximity to Atlanta: 6/10

Overall: 8/10

NOTE: At the current time (July 2011), Mystery Valley is undergoing construction to repair drainage systems. Please be sure to call the proshop at (404) 469-6913 to ensure that construction is complete before your round.