Atlanta: 72 holes in 72 hours
By Mike McAllister
Stone Mountain Golf Club's Lakemont course offers beautiful views.
Barnsley Gardens: Yardage/Par: 7,200/72. Greens fees: $75-$105, cart included. (770) 773-2555. http://www.barnsleyinn.com/
Renaissance PineIsle Resort: Yardage/Par: 6,527/72. Greens fees: $39-$74, cart included. (770) 945-8921. http://www.pineislegolf.com/
Chestatee Golf Club: Yardage/Par: 6,877/71. Greens fees: $45-$85, cart included. (706) 216-7336. http://www.chestateegolf.net/
Stone Mountain Golf Club: Yardage/Par: 6,444/71 (Lakemont), 6.769/70 (Stonemont). Greens fees: $35-$60, cart included. http://www.stonemountaingolf.com/
Alternative Courses: The Frog at the Georgian Resort, Woodlands-Chateau Elan Resort, Crooked Creek, Georgia National, Cuscowilla.
Next week we'll travel to the Houston, Texas, area.
(CNN) -- You're on a golfing vacation. You land in Atlanta, Georgia. Your immediate reaction, of course, will be to head directly to Augusta National, Bobby Jones' golfing cathedral that hosts the Masters, recently won by Tiger Woods for the fourth time.
But remember, you're here to play golf. And unless there's a green jacket with that familiar Masters logo on it hanging in your closet, you're probably not going to get within sniffing distance of Amen Corner after your 160-mile drive east.
Alas, the azaleas will have to wait until you've secured your PGA Tour card, moved up in the world rankings and forced Tiger to take some nervous glances at you over his shoulder.
Don't worry, though -- Atlanta boasts many fine public-access courses. Unfortunately, several require a fairly lengthy drive (behind the wheel, not with a club), so that eliminates some of our choices. Because you're intent on playing plenty of golf this weekend, we'll offer up a trip that focuses on golf courses in the northern area of downtown Atlanta.
After flying into Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on Friday morning, here's how we'd play it the rest of the weekend:
Barnsley Gardens: This Jim Fazio-designed course, called The General, is located 60 miles north in Adairsville and has elicited many oohs and aahs since it opened in 1999. Golf Digest rates it 4 1/2 stars (out of 5), praising it for both the course conditions and the pace of play. The par-threes are especially enticing. When you're at Barnsley, be sure to note the history of the area, with the Italian-villa estate built in the 1800s by an affluent Englishman named Godfrey Barnsley. Perhaps you'll see the ghost of his beloved Julia near the fountain in the formal garden.
Renaissance PineIsle Resort: You may have heard of Champions Retreat, a 27-hole layout in which Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player designed nine holes each. Sorry, that's too far away (it's near Augusta). But you can play this Player-designed 18-holer that's just 45 miles north of Atlanta and not too far from Barnsley. The Blue Ridge Mountains offer a nice backdrop, and no less than eight holes bring picturesque Lake Lanier into play.
Chestatee Golf Club: You'll continue getting acquainted with Lake Lanier at this 4-1/2 star links-style course built by Georgia-based designer Denis Griffiths. The rolling foothills and natural ambiance should make for a pleasant round, although the fast greens will test your nerves. Griffiths promises on the course's Web site that "dramatic views of north Georgia will be experienced throughout the round from almost every tee and many of the fairways and greens."
Stone Mountain Golf Club: Two courses are available, and the choice is a tough one. The higher-rated -- and tougher -- course is Stonemont, designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. in 1969. It's Jones Sr.'s lone public course in Georgia, and even he called it a "magical" setting. But the views arguably are better and more magical at Lakemont, where several holes on the front nine will provide a glimpse of the granite mountain with the memorial featuring Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and Stonewall Jackson. Either way, seeing the Georgia pines for the last time will provide a nice sendoff as you head back to the airport.