For full 2014 Masters coverage, visit the Covington News's dedicated Masters page.
Nestled in the western part of Newton County just off Brown Bridge Road, a historic golf course draws players from around the region, tempting golfers to tackles its open fairways and lush greens.
The Oaks Course, first developed in the 1930s by famed golfer Bobby Jones, offers golfers an opportunity to walk the same path the Georgia native did when the 13-time major winner designed the property.
With the Masters approaching this week, Oaks Course golf professional Lisa Vaught, who has been with the course for almost a year, said that she hopes the major event will bring the sport awareness, while also drawing some of the nation’s top players to Covington’s links.
“The thing about golf is that it’s a sport you can play all of your life,” Vaught said. “I’ve worked with people from age five to 85. It’s a life-long game that people can play well into their retirement days. Having the Masters here, I think it brings a lot of awareness to the sport and I hope people can take advantage of that.”
The Oaks Course began as a nine-hole course, but in the late 80s, Director of Golf Dick Schulz modified the course to include a full 18-hole track. Schulz kept as much of the original design as possible, ensuring that the course was family friendly, but challenging.
Jones’ presence on the course also links The Oaks Course to the yearly major event. Jones helped found the Augusta National Golf Club after he retired professionally from the sport. The course opened in 1933 and the Augusta National Invitational, which later evolved into the Masters Tournament, was hosted a year later.
Vaught said the connection to the Masters is still felt by golf courses in the area 80 years later.
“The Masters brings a lot of awareness, not only to The Oaks Course, but for all of golf in the region,” she said. “People are more aware of the courses that are out here and it kind of shocks people when they find out the level of golf we offer here in the area.
“Along with that, it gives Covington a chance to show what it offers. People coming in don’t realize all of the movies and television shows that have been filmed here. They have a chance to see our history here and it’s a great boom for tourism in the area.”
Vaught said The Oaks Course offers players a friendly round of golf where they can relax and unwind.
“It’s a very player-friendly course, as far as the layout goes,” Vaught said. “The green are very nice, smooth and true.
“When a player walks away from the course, I want them to be able to say that they had a good day,” she said. “This course is a place where players can come out and relax and unwind. That’s what golf is about — getting away from stress. It doesn’t always have to be about the competition. It’s a chance to get away from the ordinary, everyday aspects of life and work.”
With a course that features 22 bunkers, 10 water holes and yardage ranging from a short 4,799 yards from the front tees to a more challenging 6,577 from the back tee box, there are a lot of opportunities for even the most tested golfers to challenge their skills when aiming down the Bermuda fairways.
“Holes No. 12 and No. 17 are me nemeses,” Vaught said. “Those are two challenging holes. Hole No. 12 features a dogleg that requires you to hit a good tee shot and No. 17 is a long par-4 that has a water hazard just before the green. They can be tricky, but when you hit a good shot, it’s worth it.”
Vaught said one of the effects of having the Masters close by is the variety of people that play the course during Masters week.
“We have people from all over,” she said. “England, Mexico – you name it, they come. Golf is a great business tool. A lot of deals get done on the course. It’s also a great way to meet a diverse group of people.”
With spring approaching, The Oaks Course has plenty of events on its schedule.
“Upcoming we have the Newton County Chamber Tournament in late April and we have the Communication Workers Association coming up in two weeks,” Vaught said. “Next week, we will also host the final round of the Newton Cup between the three high schools in the area.”
The Oaks Course will also feature the U.S. Kids Tournament and the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Qualifier in May.
For more information on The Oaks Course, or to schedule a tee time, visit golfoaks.com, or call 770-786-3801.