Course Notes on McLemore Highlands Golf Course

McLemore is located in the Northwest corner of Georgia above the clouds on top of Lookout Mountain. It is about two hours from Atlanta and just 30 minutes from downtown Chattanooga TN.

Course Notes on McLemore Highlands Golf Course
McLemore Golf Course

The golf course was designed with great care by internationally acclaimed architects Rees Jones and Bill Bergin to highlight the fantastic mountain vistas. And when the fog lifts, it doesn’t disappoint.

My resident golfer had the opportunity to play the course, which Golf Digest recognized recently as having the “Best Finishing Hole in America Since 2000.” Here are his ‘mostly’ unfiltered notes.

Course Notes on McLemore Highlands Golf Course
McLemore ‘best finishing in America since 2000’ by Golf Digest.

McLemore Golf Course Notes

  • The course is located in a planned community. A Hilton Curio Hotel is planned, but for now, guests stay in cottages and homes within the community, or in Chattanooga. The houses sit back from the course so swing away without fear of hitting one.
  • The course was totally redone in 2018, it was previously called Canyon Ridge. The renovation was extensive enough that it is considered a new course.
  • You will have more fun if you drive well. There are several shots over ravines where you will need to really drive the ball. If you miss, don’t worry. They provide ball drop areas so take your best shot and drop on the other side if necessary.
  • Make sure you play the appropriate tees. There are six tees to accommodate everyone. This is a course where you want to relax and have fun, not frustrate yourself off the tee.
  • Bring a few extra balls for the tee shots alone. Even if you are not a low handicapper take a minute and hit one off the #1 back tee. It has to be a 300 foot drop. Other tees are lower on your way down the hill. There are a few others like 9 and 18 you may want to do the same. Again, bring a few balls, you are not going to find many of your errant shots.
  • Speaking of errant shots, #2 is a challenging downhill drive with a creek running diagonally away from you leaving the right side as your landing area. There is more room right than it appears. This leaves you a mid iron into a green that is tucked over the creek.  
  • The course is bentgrass and the fairways are Bermuda grass. The rough is cut above ball level which makes it not only challenging to hit out of, but also to find your ball.
  • The greens are in fantastic shape and very receptive. They are also large and very fast. Reading breaks is very challenging.
  • Take the general topography of the land into account as well as the slope of the greens. Uphill is slower than you think. On 18, I swear the green broke uphill.
  • Generally the greens are tricky so scoring is challenging without local knowledge. (Editors Note: You can take a course tour with head PGA professional Doug Amor.)
  • A round could take a while. I would image on days when the course is more crowded with foursomes, rounds could easily be five hours. Relax and enjoy the beautiful views. (Editors Note: According to McLemore a typical round takes about 4.5 hours.)
  • Dramatic tee shots. Most of the elevation drops are from the tee. Only one is on a par 3. Large elevation drops when you are hitting a driver is cool, large elevation drops on par 3’s are not my favorite because it makes club selection challenging without previous course knowledge.
  • There are a handful of blind shots. You will need to drive ahead and find a landmark to choose your line. Club selection can be a bit tricky as well.
  • #9 does not come back to the clubhouse. They have a snack shack between #9 and #10. A menu is on the cart so you can order ahead. They have a nice selection of sandwiches and assorted snacks. You pass by again on your way to #13 if you forget to call ahead.
  • #10 is a 350 yard downhill hole, with an elevated green that includes a false front. A good drive can almost reach the green.
  • Sand traps are strategically placed, but fair. 
  • There are a few hidden (obstacles) like on 16 a creek before the green.
  • The elevation helps to carry shots a bit farther.
  • There is no way to walk this course. The carts handle the job but they are very basic compared to todays standards. There is no GPS. Finding distances can be challenging. I found it frustrating at times since my range finder was having issues finding the flags in the fog.
  • Distance is hard to judge at times with the slopes and contours.
  • Playing 18 is the Most Scenic Finishing Hole America in 2020 as voted by Golf Digest. They literally carved this hole out of the side of the mountain. The drive down to the tee is harrowing. Stay right on the entire hole. You’ll need a great tee shot to set up the hole. Mine wasn’t great so I played it more like a par 5 knowing a 3 wood into an uphill green on the edge of a cliff was not in my bag.
  • If you enjoy mountain views, hiking and golf, this is the place for you. See our post for more about McLemore and what to do in addition to a day on the links.