Callaway Resort & Gardens…Georgia’s Garden of Eden

Story & Photos by: Ed Stone

“I don’t like to halfway lose a golf ball,” said Cason J. Callaway, founder of Callaway Gardens. “I want to find it instantly or know it’s gone forever. If a golfer looks up from his/her shot, I want them to be looking at something beautiful.”
The original 9-holes of the Lake View course were constructed in the late 40’s and early 50’s.
Golf has been an important part of the Gardens from almost the beginning in 1952 when Cason and his wife Virginia first opened then 2,500 acres (now 13,000) of beautiful native gardens, walking trails, fishing and a 65-acre recreational lake for families to enjoy. Today there are two 18-hole courses that rival most any resort course you will find.
The original 9-holes of the Lake View course were constructed in the late 40’s and early 50’s.    Designed by J.B. McGovern (one of Donald Ross’ crew chiefs) and Dick Wilson, “Mr. Cason,” as he was fondly called, provided much of the inspiration for the initial layout. Today as back then, there are plantings of azaleas, dogwoods, rhododendrons and native flowering plants creating a backdrop of year round beauty.

Then, in 1962, Dick Wilson and Joe Lee designed the second nine holes of Lake View and the new layout became the front nine. The Georgia LPGA Championship was the first major tournament played on the 18 holes in April 1963. In 2002, the course received a major renovation and it now plays to a par 70 with the tips stretching to some 6,158 yards.  
The original nine holes were configured around the 175-acre Mountain Creek Lake with the 17th century English provincial Clubhouse being the gathering focal point for dining and events.
All 18-holes of this original course are beautifully landscaped and well designed. The original nine holes were configured around the 175-acre Mountain Creek Lake with the 17th century English provincial Clubhouse being the gathering focal point for dining and events. There are four holes on Lake View where water comes into play. The current number 10, par-3 with its island tee and serpentine bridge is the signature hole.  
Mountain View course is truly a championship design and gives all golfers a challenge to its 7,057-yard, par 72 layout. It has ranked among the nation's top-rated courses by Golf Digest and Golf Magazine, and for some 12 years (1991 to 2002) served as the site of the PGA Tour's Buick Challenge. 
(ABOVE) The par 5, number 15. Both your tee and approach shots have water in play.
(BELOW) The 26-acre Twin Oaks Practice Facility.
Dick Wilson was also the designer of Mountain View. This course features tight, tree-lined fairways with water coming into play on three holes. Of note is the par 5, number 15. Both your tee and approach shots have water in play. If you’re not a long hitter off the tee, then your second shot is over water also.   When the course was part of the PGA Tour, USA Today ranked hole number 15 as the fourth most difficult par 5 on the Tour.
A short cart ride from the Mountain View Clubhouse is the 26-acre Twin Oaks Practice Facility named in honor of the two majestic water oaks towering the area. Here golfers discover one of the finest practice layouts that include multiple target greens and a large practice putting green. The important short game area features two large sand bunkers and multiple chipping and pitching areas.
Now we know about the golf courses at Callaway Gardens, but what about the beautiful native and ornamental plantings creating these breathtaking tees, fairways and greens? Our focus and attention might be on playing our best game. However, someone is paying attention and making sure these surroundings are groomed and blooming beautifully. This is a fine example of horticulture and the golf grounds and maintenance crew working together. They do a wonderful job and deserve grand praises for a job well done.
Having spent some 12 years working in the public relations department of this resort back in the 60’s and 70’s, I was privileged to have a strong working knowledge of how important the horticulture department was to the beauty of all the golf courses and resort. One of the ladies joining the horticulture staff during my employment was Patricia Collins in 1966. She served on the horticulture staff for over 50 years. Recently, she retired and is spending time with her family in the area.
Patricia Collins
Former Director of Gardens
Her service and background is worth stating. Patricia was born in the small town of Mebane, North Carolina and grew up in a smaller town of Moncks Corner, near Charleston, South Carolina. She is a graduate of Agnes Scott College, completing her graduate work in horticulture at the University of Georgia and interning at Callaway Gardens as part of her college curriculum.
Her first job in the Garden’s horticulture department was caring for the plants in the greenhouses and the popular wildflower trail. At that time, Fred Galle was Director of Horticulture and one of the most respected in his industry. Galle performed those duties for 30 years and much of his work is still evidenced at the Gardens today. Patricia spent some 17 years under his tutelage.
In 2010, Patricia was named Director of Gardens and served in that position until her retirement. In that position, she oversaw the duties of education, volunteers, Discovery Center and advisory input into the garden areas. Most all of these areas had some connection to the beauty of the golf courses.
Collins’ stated her favorite horticultural area or attraction at the Gardens were the native plants along the Wildflower Trail..."the Gardens is a wonderful teaching space!”
The Prunifolia or Plumleaf Azalea is used for the Gardens' logo (emblem). In the Spring, beautiful native azaleas are profuse along the wildflower trail. Native and ornamental flowers showcase there blooms year-round.
Collins has much to be proud of for her time at Callaway Gardens. She started the Volunteer Program, championing and continuing the Intern Program in Horticulture and Education and she continues some of the educational offerings, especially the Southern Gardening Symposium.
Patricia was quick to add that her legacy at the Gardens would be “continuation of some educational programming.” She wanted to see Callaway remain a place for families to enjoy being together in the out-of-doors in a setting of natural beauty.   Even after over a half-century of working for the same employer. What a legacy this lady has created in a place that is beautiful all year.
Guests can see wildlife up-close as well as learn how to attract wildlife to their own backyard.
The Callaway Brothers Azalea Bowl is the world’s largest azalea garden, measuring 40 acres.
The Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center is one of the premiere glass-enclosed, tropical conservatories for the display of living butterflies in North America.
Ida Cason Callaway Memorial Chapel in the heart of the Gardens and used as a place for quiet meditation, worship and weddings.
  • The Virginia Hand Callaway Discovery Center, a 35,000-square-foot facility, offers guests an opportunity to learn what is happening in the Gardens. The Center has historical and geographical information about the Gardens and resort property, an orientation theatre, an auditorium, exhibit hall showcasing rotating displays, an education wing and restaurant -- all situated on the western edge of Mountain Creek Lake with a beautiful view of Pine Mountain ridge.
  • Between the Callaway Discovery Center and the Discovery Amphitheatre is the beautiful and educational Backyard Wildlife Habitat. This is a designated National Wildlife Federation site. Here guests can see wildlife up-close as well as learn how to attract wildlife to their own backyards by providing the proper plant, food and water sources.
  • The incredible Birds of Prey program features native raptors displaying their natural abilities in a beautiful outdoor amphitheater. Falcons, owls, hawks and even the regal bald eagle fly above the audience, sharing the elusive secrets of their counterparts in the wild. 
  • The Callaway Brothers Azalea Bowl is the world’s largest azalea garden, measuring 40 acres and featuring thousands of hybrid and native azaleas. The garden includes a multitude of other flora creating a beautiful, colorful garden year round.
  • The Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center is one of the premiere glass-enclosed, tropical conservatories for the display of living butterflies in North America. The center, houses approximately 1000 butterflies of up to 100 species and offers educational opportunities to its many guests. The center has earned certification as a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) facility by the U. S. Green Building Council.
  • Robin Lake Beach (open Memorial Day to mid-August) offers a plentitude of great family activities including swimming, miniature golf, paddle boats, rides on a miniature train, shuffleboard and table tennis. A special highlight is the Florida State University “Flying High” Circus, which performs seven times weekly during the summer and oversees one of the finest family recreation programs in the country. They look after ages three through teens from 9 to 3 each weekday while the parents enjoy the many amenities of this laid-back resort.
  • Walking trails and roadways showcase the world’s largest display of hollies, more than 700 varieties of hybrid azaleas and many varieties of wildflowers.
  • The Ida Cason Callaway Memorial Chapel is set in the heart of the Gardens and is used as a place for quiet meditation, worship and weddings. Organ concerts are scheduled throughout the year. Norman Vincent Peale dedicated the Chapel in April of 1962.
  • The Pioneer Log Cabin is an authentic 18th century structure representing the life of Georgia’s early settlers.
  • The Discovery Bicycle Trail is a 10-mile paved trail that weaves through the Gardens’ woodland and interpretive areas. It has stops at all of the major attractions at Callaway Gardens.
  • Fishing in Callaway Gardens’ many lakes is a popular pastime among guests. With 13 lakes, Callaway offers traditional tackle and fly-fishing opportunities, guided fishing excursions and a full-service fly shop. The staff, many certified by the Federation of Fly Fishers as instructors, provide a two-day Fly Fishing School most months.
  • One of the latest crazes in today’s outdoor adventure is the zip-line. It’s called the TreeTop Adventure at Callaway and traverses some 1,500 feet horizontally and taking you to some 30 feet above the ground. There are five zip-lines stretching from 44 to 210 feet in length. You’ll take on the challenges of ladders, wires, logs, discs, netting and other suspended surfaces. You must be 54 inches tall to participate in this adventure.
  • Walking trails are found throughout the Gardens featuring different flowering and nature themes. From hollies to azaleas, you'll find something of interest and exercise for all ages and abilities.

(ABOVE) The Mountain Creek Inn and Villas offer great accommodations.
(BELOW) Callaway's Southern Pine Cottages offers a quite efficiency location.
Callaway Gardens offers some 931 rooms that include:
  • The Lodge & Spa at Callaway - Tucked away in the quiteness of a wooded landscape are 150 modern guest rooms and suites featuring balconies with views of a lovely lake, woodland, and gardens. All accommodations are spacious with upscale furnishings, as well as first-class service and amenities. At the end of a fun-filled day in the beautiful Gardens you can relax in this AAA Four Diamond award winning hotel.  There's also a luxurious treatment onsite at The Spa at Callaway.
  • Mountain Creek® Inn and luxurious Mountain Creek Villas – These accommodationsare both charming and appealing to individuals, business, golf, tennis and garden club groups.
  • Callaway’s Southern Pine Cottages - Tucked away in the beautiful pines and tastefully decorated accommodations that offer both one and two-bedroom cottages. The Cottages are within walking distance to Robin Lake Beach recreational area.
  • Conference Facilities – Callaway Gardens offers more than 96,000 square feet of meeting space. Just the right size for most any group or occasion.
Dining at Callaway Gardens is certainly an enjoyable portion of your experience. There are numerous restaurants to enjoy and satisfy the taste of most any appetite.
  • The Gardens Restaurant’s porch overlooks the beautiful Mountain Creek Lake and the Lake View number 10 island green and serpentine bridge. The menu offers organic and upscale items for all palates.
  • The Gardens Country Store’s Country Kitchen is famous for its breakfast and luncheon entrée’s Don’t miss this one!
  • The Plantation Room at the Mountain Creek Inn has always been popular for its bountiful buffets and especially the themed Thursday Fiesta Night, Friday Night Seafood Buffet and Saturday night Italian Buffet.
  • Dining on the Garden's Restaurant Porch overlooks the beautiful Mountain Creek Lake and the #10 green and island tee of Lake View.
    Other places to dine include: Discovery Café and Rockin’ Robin’s Malt Shop and Pizzeria (open seasonally).
Other recreational facilities include a tennis center, shooting club, fitness center and swimming pools.
For the golfer and traveler seeking a place to enjoy great golf and beautiful surroundings, Callaway Gardens is at the top of my list. But then, how can I ever forget the place where I enjoyed my first round of golf?
Located off Interstate-85 and Interstate-185, on Georgia Highway 18 and U.S. 27 in Pine Mountain, Ga. Sixty minutes southwest of Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and 30 minutes north of Columbus, Georgia.
Callaway Gardens
17800 US Hwy 27
Pine Mountain, GA 31822
Phone: 706-663-2281
For Reservations inquiries:
Toll Free: 1-800-225-5292
Fax: 706-663-6812