Big hits Five must-play golf courses in Atlanta

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Chateau Elan
The Woodlands Course is one of three excellent 18-hole golf courses at Chateau Elan Winery and Resort.

With THE TOUR Championship making its seventh consecutive stop at East Lake Golf Club, the golf spotlight shines on Atlanta's long list of noteworthy courses. With a rich tradition of golf in the area, it's not easy to come up with a short list of recommendations.

Some of the finer golf courses in Atlanta (East Lake Golf Club, Peachtree Golf Club) are exclusive and require the largesse of a friend who happens to be a member. And many courses that formerly operated on a daily fee or semi-private basis have been gobbled up by Canongate Golf, which now controls access to 25 courses.

But because of the city's depth when it comes to golf, there's always a place to play, regardless of the area of town in which you live or happen to be visiting. The weather in Atlanta offers playable conditions at least 10 months out of the year, 11 months for the hardier souls and year-round for the transplants from the frozen tundra.

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Cobblestone Golf Course, Acworth
Some people consider Cobblestone Golf Course, a Ken Dye design, to be the best public-access golf course in Georgia. It's certainly in the top 10.

Cobblestone Golf Course is set along Lake Allatoona in the Northwest quadrant of the city. Dye's challenging layout is punctuated by interesting mounding and use of long grass. The ability to hit it straight off the tee is important; length isn't a bad thing, either.

Crystal Lakes Golf & Country Club, Hampton
This Denis Griffiths design would be near the top of most lists if it were on the north side of Atlanta. Griffiths used many of Scottish design techniques to make Crystal Lakes Golf & Country Club one of the playable, yet challenging, courses in the city.

Mystery Valley Golf Club, Lithonia
The course at Mystery Valley Golf Club was built in 1966 by Dick Wilson and remains one of the staples in the market. It's like an old pair of shoes that bring comfort when you slip them on.

More than 41,000 rounds are played here each year, so while Mystery Valley doesn't always come to the top of mind because of all the new, fancy places to play in Atlanta, it remains a solid selection. The course has plenty of hills, and the greens, which are in good condition despite the heavy play, are loaded with tricky little breaks.

Chateau Elan, Braselton
In the old days, you might have seen Kim Basinger picking up some produce at the grocery story in nearby Brasleton or 'The Squire,' Gene Sarazen, taking a break in an easy chair. They're gone, but the two resort courses remain and continue to set high standards.

The original Chateau Elan Course and the Woodlands Course at Chateau Elan were both designed by Denis Griffiths, whose office is on the property. The Legends at Chateau Elan is private but worth pulling a few strings to gain access.

There's also a fun nine-hole course at Chateau Elan and an outstanding practice facility. Non-golfing spouses will enjoy touring the wineries.

Cherokee Run Golf Club, Conyers
The Cherokee Run Golf Club course was built by Arnold Palmer and Ed Seay in 1995 and is set within the Georgia International Horse Park, which hosted the equestrian events for the 1996 Olympics.

Like most courses, you'll enjoy it more if you pick the right set of tees from which to play. The ninth hole, which includes a little bit of everything, is one of the best risk-reward par 5s in the city.