The Creek Golf Course at Hard Labor
Located in close proximity to Lake Country, not far from Rutledge and Social Circle, lies a popular public course once named the “4th sweetest deal in the USA” by Golf Digest magazine. The accurate description hasn’t changed for those familiar with playing the course. What may not be known is that updates and improvements have been made to the course and to amenities in the state park as well.
The Creek Golf Course’s challenging links have not changed and the natural beauty is still there. With all the available recreational activities, Hard Labor State Park remains one of the best places to visit - and to play golf - in the state of Georgia. And the convenient course is easy to find on the edge of Morgan County in Lake Country.
As you drive into the large parking lot near the clubhouse, vehicles can be seen with local tags from Morgan, Walton and Newton counties, along with metro tags that include Gwinnett, Dekalb and Fulton. This helps to verify the popularity of the well-maintained course and Hard Labor Creek State Park itself. This is not only a popular place for golfers of all ages, but for others who love spending time in the great outdoors.
The Creek’s 18-hole course remains challenging and the layout of each of the 18 holes is beautifully situated in natural settings with tree-lined fairways. The very first hole, with a sloping landscape, has been reported to be “the hardest starting hole in Georgia” and remains a favorite with golfers from all over. The Champion Bermuda greens are consistently maintained and the narrow, challenging fairways are kept in good condition. The hills and valleys are reminiscent of golf courses found in the mountainous areas of North Georgia.
To learn more about all that is going on at The Creek at Hard Labor, I spoke with Karl E. Gross, the General Manager. Gross grew up in San Jose, California, and was introduced to the game of golf by his father, Jerry. Their love for the game was strengthened by the many rounds they played on golf vacations.
Karl graduated from the San Diego Golf Academy and began working in golf operations at a country club in Solano Beach. He has studied the game from top international instructors and taught hundreds of adults and students. Currently, he is a certified member of the national Professional Golf Association with 26 years of experience and serves as Tour Director for the Georgia Junior Golf Tour and is involved with conducting junior events statewide.
Here is our conversation:
Q: The state of Georgia has received high marks for their operation of several public golf courses in different locations around the state. Please tell us about the state courses and some of the history of The Creek at Hard Labor.
A: The Georgia State Parks now have eight courses throughout the state. Three courses are in North Georgia to include Hard Labor Creek near Rutledge, Highland Walk in Royston, and Arrowhead Pointe in Elberton. The other five are in South Georgia -- Brazell’s Creek in Reidsville, Little Ocmulgee near McRae, Veterans in Cordele, Meadow Links in Fort Gaines and The Lakes of Laura Walker in Waycross. Golf courses were built for public recreation and enjoyment of natural surroundings. At state park courses, nature surrounds you, not residential developments.
The Creek at Hard Labor was designed by James McCloud in 1967 and opened in 1968. Renovations and improvements were done by Denis Griffiths. Most recently in 2018, the course upgraded the entire irrigation system to maximize efficiency and control irrigation. The putting surface is Champion ultra- dwarf Bermuda grass. Carts are new and the clubhouse is remodeled with new fixtures and displays.
Q: What are some of the favorite holes for golfers who come to your course?
A: The signature hole at The Creek is the Waterwheel hole, which is a scenic par 3 with a large waterwheel located across the creek, which meanders parallel to the hole. The toughest hole is No. 10, a demanding par 4 that requires two solid shots to reach the green. The beautiful course has a fun and challenging layout with narrow fairways, rolling terrain and smooth ultra-dwarf greens.
Q: What makes state courses so attractive are the other amenities that are available at state parks. Tell us about those at Hard Labor.
A: The park has 20 cottages that have been recently renovated with all the modern conveniences. The park has a mini-golf course, as well, for all to enjoy along with hiking trails, mountain bike trails and horse trails for those who can bring their own horse. We have “Stay and Play packages” that are available for groups from four to 60 golfers, and a mini-golf course for those who enjoy putt-putt.
Q: Karl, you are heavily involved in the state’s junior golf program. How does this work at Hard Labor’s course?
A: We host local golf school teams for practices and matches to include both boys and girls teams from Morgan County Middle School, Morgan County High School, Social Circle Middle School, Social Circle High School, which calls The Creek their home course. In summer, we host Junior Golf Camps for ages 6 to 14 years old. The Creek plays in PGA Junior League, a summer program for kids ages 10-13. Twelve players from each team play in matches against area clubs in a team scramble format. A fall league for juniors will begin in late August.
Q: Anything going on that is special for adult golfers?
A. Yes, our adult-league play. On Thursday nights, from March to November, we partner with Rutledge Wings and host a weekly 9-hole league. Teams compete in a two-person scramble and then head to Rutledge Wings for after-golf fun. The cost is $20 per person for golf and prizes. All skill levels are welcome to join in the fun.
-- Article by Hank Segars
The Creek at Hard Labor State Park is located at 1400 Knox Chapel Road, Social Circle, Georgia, and is close to Rutledge and Interstate 20. The course is open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily except on Christmas Day. The hours, however, may vary according to the season.
Golf Rates at The Creek:
Weekday $38, Weekday after 2 p.m. $32
Weekday Senior (62+) $32
9 Holes Weekday $23
Weekend/Holiday $47, after 2 p.m. $40
Weekend/Holiday Senior (62+) $42
9 Holes Weekend $25