GEORGE T. BAGBY STATE PARK:
YOUR NEW ‘HOME’ AWAY FROM HOME

Story by: Mike May

If you are looking for a fun, family friendly ‘escape,’ then pack your overnight bags (including your golf clubs) and insert the following address into your GPS:  30 Bagby Parkway, Fort Gaines, Georgia.  That will take you to the George T. Bagby State Park & Lodge (www.georgetbagbylodge.com), located about 75 minutes south of Columbus, Georgia, right along the Georgia/Alabama line.  For many families who live in the Southeast, their automatic ‘go-to’ for a fun trip is to visit the theme parks of central Florida or to travel to the beaches along the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic Ocean.  Now, there’s another choice:  “The Best Kept Secret in Southwest Georgia.”

If you like to play golf, this destination has a well-designed 18-hole golf course – Meadow Links, which is located half a mile from the entrance to the Bagby State Park.  When the course opened in 1998, Golf Digest ranked it as “the nation’s sixth best new affordable public course.”  It remains one of the nation’s top most affordable public golf courses. 

The course has now matured into a layout which any golfer would enjoy playing day after day.  Meadow Links, one of the courses on the 22 locations along the Georgia Golf Trail, has what every golfer is looking for in an 18 hole-experience.  And, the views from the 7th and 10th greens are worth ‘the price of admission’ to Meadow Links.  From the 10th green, you can see neighboring Alabama to the west.  Late in the day, as the sun begins to set, the view is picture postcard-like. 

The course features a first-class practice facility which will enable you to work on all aspects of your game before you hit the first tee.  This par-72 layout, designed by Willard Byrd, features five sets of tees, which vary in length from 5,089 yards (red tees) to 7,007 yards (black tees). 

“Meadow Links Golf Club is just as it sounds -- a true links-style course with some fantastic elevation changes throughout the course,” says Brian Boeling, regional director of golf operations, Meadow Links Golf Club.  “We have 18 incredible holes which you don't find too often with many golf courses.  The course is set up to accommodate many types of golfers with multiple tee box placements for their enjoyment. Our slick fast greens will bring most golfers to their knees.  You don't find such hidden gems as Meadow Links too often.  It is a must-play venue if you are in south Georgia.”

The course is set up to accommodate many types of golfers with multiple tee box placements for their enjoyment.

The course has a links ‘feel’ to it because the trees rarely come into play.  The only hole where trees actually influence your shot is on the par five 5th hole.  As you look at the course from the high vantage point of the 10th green, its rolling terrain has a British Open-like look to it.  One of the fun aspects of playing golf at Meadow Links is the wide variety of tee shots that you get to hit, very few of which are straight-away to a flat fairway.

The true appeal of George T. Bagby State Park & Lodge is the wide variety of things to do and see – for all members of any family.  That is why this destination is really an All-American ‘stay and play’ vacation opportunity.

If you like the great outdoors, Bagby is the place for you and your family or any couple without children.  Did I mention the beach?  Yes, on the shores of Lake Walter F. George (aka Lake Eufala), which is located within this state park, there’s a long, sandy beach.  This beach front also features a volleyball court, many free-standing playground pieces of equipment, lots of shade trees (complete with Spanish moss), and a number of grills.  It’s an ideal destination for a family to spend the day, swim in the lake, throw a Frisbee, play volleyball, make sand castles, and then use the grills for a cookout. 

The lake represents 48,000 acres of recreational and water sports opportunities, available year round.

The lake represents 48,000 acres of recreational and water sports opportunities, available year round.

For fishermen, there are five main types of fish living in the lake – largemouth bass, hybrid bass, black crappie, blue gill, and channel catfish.  Go catch ‘the big one!’  For boaters, there are a number of ramps on-site where you can launch your boat and there’s a modern marina where you can leave your boat overnight, if you plan to use the boat more than once while on your visit.  It’s also worth noting that canoe rentals are another boating option at Bagby.

Walkers and hikers will also enjoy meandering along the Chattahoochee Trail which winds through the forest on property.  The trail is well marked and you can’t get lost.  Just keep walking and you’ll always emerge near the lodge, the lake or one of the main roads in the park.  There are two short trails – the East Lake Lodge Trail and the South Lake Lodge Trail, both less than a mile in length – that start and finish behind the main lodge.  They are perfect for a short stroll, at any time of the day -- but I suggest after sunrise and before sunset.

Bicyclists can take advantage of the paved surfaces at Bagby.  You can either bring your own bike or rent one through the lodge.  Don’t forget to wear your helmet!

For more conventional recreation enthusiasts, there’s an outdoor pool and two tennis courts, located next to the lodge.

When it’s time to get some rest, there are a number of housing options at Bagby.  The most popular one is the lodge which has 60 rooms and suites. 

While this state park was built for human beings to get some R & R, there are some full-time residents of the park who don’t pay a dime for food or housing.  Those ‘freeloaders’ include deer, gopher tortoises, eastern bluebirds, red foxes, armadillos, beavers, alligators, rattle snakes, copperheads, and five species of bats.  As the old saying goes, if you respect their presence, they will respect yours.  Also, George T. Bagby State Park & Lodge is filled with lots of wildflowers, but please don’t pick them.  Leave them for others to enjoy.

When it comes to breakfast, lunch, and dinner, The Pilot House Grille restaurant, located on-site, is a convenient, affordable and tasty option.  The fried chicken and catfish (either blackened or fried) are as good as any restaurant in the Southeast – seriously.  The two pieces of catfish are big enough to feed two people.  As for the fried chicken, they truly ‘do chicken right!’  Besides the overall quality of the food, which is served a-la-carte or buffet-style, what’s memorable about a trip to The Pilot House Grille are the views of Lake Walter F. George – from either inside the restaurant or outside on the covered patio.  You might spot a deer while having breakfast or dinner.

When it’s time to get some rest, there are a number of housing options at Bagby.  The most popular one is the lodge which has 60 rooms and suites.  There are specific rooms designated as pet friendly.  If you want more private accommodations, there are five secluded cabins.  The cabins offer lakeside views, living rooms, and full kitchens.  One of the cottages is pet friendly.

If you wake up on a Sunday and want to attend church, there are 14 churches in the area which represent a wide variety of denominations and faiths.

If you are convinced that the George T. Bagby State Park & Lodge is the place for you, the clerk at the front desk is standing by to accept your reservation:  229-768-2571 or visit the property’s website to make your plans:  www.georgetbagbylodge.com.  The pro shop at Meadow Links, which opens daily just before 8:00 am, can be reached at 229-768-3714.

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The author of this story is Mike May, a golf correspondent, who is based in Wellington, Florida.  Mike is an avid golfer and he encourages you to visit the George T. Bagby State Park & Lodge and play golf at Meadow Links -- at your earliest convenience.  Mike can be reached via email: mmaymarketing@gmail.com