No, it’s not Augusta National Golf Club, home of the prestigious Masters Tournament, but it is close by, and, luckily, the normally private club opens its doors to the public for one week each year: Masters Week.
Champions Retreat is a 27-hole club located in Evans, Ga., approximately 15 miles from Augusta.
“The golf world comes to Augusta the first week of April and we wanted to open our arms and welcome them in,” Champions retreat general manager Cameron Wiebe said. “There are a number of people who will stay at a local hotel and wait in line at a chain restaurant and while that offers a fun experience, we decided it was going to be our niche to offer something to those looking for an elevated experience.”
Coincidentally, it was at the 1999 Masters Champions Dinner where Player recruited Nicklaus and Palmer to share his dream of developing a private 27-hole club located just outside of Augusta. With three distinct properties to select from, “Island”, “Creek”, and “Bluff” were written on the back of index cards and chosen at random. Being the most senior of the group (and having played in more Masters), Palmer selected first, drawing “Island”. Nicklaus picked second since he had more green jackets—awarded to the Masters winner—than Player, drawing “Bluff”, leaving Player with the “Creek” property.
Nestled along the Savannah River that separates South Carolina and Georgia, the three unique courses were sculpted from the foundation of more than 365 acres of Georgia pines, long-standing hardwood, and wetlands.
The club, which boasts more than 360 members, is more than just a golf course. Champions Retreat offers 16 luxury cottages complemented with fireplaces, fire pits and porches, that can house 4–8 couples each. Various amenities including personal culinary experiences, live music, yoga sessions, and workout facilities are also available.
“Champions Retreat is best summed as lowering the barrier to comfort,” Wiebe said. “I use that phrase because it’s in everything we do. Our courses are designed to be both unique and challenging; they’re enjoyable at their very core. As we’ve continued to bolster our amenities through luxury cottages, culinary offers, views, and experiences we try to create up to and including the river, it’s about being comfortable and easy and relaxed.”
As the game of golf evolves, so does Champions Retreat. The course has undergone recent renovations that include better bunker systems (the same used at Augusta National), more efficient drainage systems, and improved sight lines throughout its 27 holes. Caddy services are available and golf carts are equipped with GPS for accurate distance to the pin measurements.
Wiebe recommends those interested in experiencing Champions Retreat during Masters Week to book as far in advance as possible, because, not surprisingly, packages and availability fill up quickly.
“What makes it unique? Everything,” Wiebe said. “What makes it comforting? Everything.”
Travel and accommodation provided by Champions Retreat.