Georgia's Gem For Golfing & Rcreation

Located in Greensboro, Georgia

(half way between Atlanta & Augusta)

Story & Photos by: Ed & Fran Stone

Going back home to enjoy some grits and grandeur.
All signs point to The Ritz-Carlton Lodge at Reynolds Lake Oconee

Traveling Interstate 20 between Atlanta and Augusta, you’ll observe farmland and fields seemingly to go forever in the distance with small and large homes dotting the landscape. Take the Greensboro and Highway 44 exit, turn west and about six miles you’ll encounter a traffic intersection and turn left on to Linger Longer Road. The next few miles are pretty much pines, sweet gums, oaks and manicured roadways leading to the impressive Ritz-Carlton Lodge at Reynolds Lake Oconee. You’ve now arrived at the 19,000 acre and 374 total miles of shoreline, Lake Oconee.  This is Georgia’s second largest lake and one of the most beautiful settings in this part of the World.


Named among the “World's 500 Best Hotels” in Travel+Leisure Magazine in 2008, this 251 room lodge opened in 2002.
You'll be met by some of the friendliest bellmen at The Ritz-Carlton Lodge at Reynolds Lake Oconee.

Yes…this is a great surprise you’ll find in this part of northeast Georgia. With a name like The Ritz-Carlton, you know what to expect. Driving past the Oconee Golf Course, you arrive under a porte cochere greeted by gracious and friendly bellmen. Named among the “World's 500 Best Hotels” in Travel+Leisure Magazine in 2008, this 251 room lodge opened in 2002 and fits perfectly into the native landscape. 

The Ritz-Carlton Lodge, Reynolds Lake Oconee offers much more than your typical Ritz-Carlton. For instance, where can you find one that boasts a 5,400 square-feet Presidential House where President George W. Bush frequented during his terms in office? Or, where else offers 35 acres of picturesque shoreline property on Lake Oconee and 99 holes of championship golf? Add to all of this, more than 15,000 square-feet of meeting space, including 10 meeting rooms and a 26,000 square-feet, full-service spa and fitness center.

This is one of the Top Ten Golf Resorts in the World as recognized by Travel+Leisure

The Ritz-Carlton Lodge at Reynolds Lake Oconee has accumulated more prestigious awards that one can imagine.   Just a few of the most recent ones include:

  • Mobil Travel Guide Four-Star Award for 2009, The Ritz-Carlton Lodge and The Spa at The Ritz-Carlton Lodge

  • Travel+Leisure's 500 Greatest Hotels and Resorts in the World, Travel & Leisure, January 2009

  • AAA Four Diamond Dining Award for 2009, Georgia’s Bistro (6 years)

  • AAA Five Diamond Lodging Award for 2009 (3 years)

  • Top Resorts in US, Zagat Survey, 2009 - The Ritz-Carlton Lodge, Reynolds Plantation is one of 50 resorts recognized as a Top US Resort, and ranked in Top 25 in the US for Facilities

  • U.S. Top Ten Golf Resorts, Travel + Leisure Golf’s 2008 World’s Best Golf Resorts, Sept 2008

  • Top 100 Hotels in Continental U.S. + Canada, Travel + Leisure’s 2008 World’s Best Awards, July 2008

  • Condé Nast Traveler’s Top 100 Golf Resorts, May 2008

  • The Ritz-Carlton Lodge is one of 12 properties named “Top Resorts Worldwide” by Travel Weekly, 2007


Georgia Bistro's Executive Chef, Jaco Smith

Jaco Smith left South Africa in 2000 and came to the United States to enhance his skills as a chef. His first culinary assignment was at the famous Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee. (I spent some 15 years with this company and knew most of the individuals he had to pleasure of working with at the Opryland Hotel.) After his stint in Music City, he went on to the more famous, Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. His dedication and passion has made him an excellent chef and he is now the executive chef at The Ritz-Carlton in Reynolds Plantation. 

Grits is a basic food staple in the South. For a chef to make it big in this part of the world, he/she must learn to prepare grits. There are only a few ways to make grits taste like they should. To give grits a palatable taste, you should prepare some red-eye gravy, butter, cheese or lots of salt and pepper to put on this concoction of ground corn.   After ordering and putting Jaco’s grits to the taste test, he passed with flying colors. He later told me that they have a similar dish in his home country but he likes the Georgia-style better.

Chef Jaco’s signature dish is the “House Smoked Wild Atlantic Salmon” featuring lobster potato salad and chive crème fraiche.

Chef Jaco is the Chef de Cuisine at the Georgia’s Bistro which serves an exceptional menu of “A Taste of Georgia Artisans.” The selections range from a cream of Vidalia onion or Silver Queen corn soup, to Georgia’s Shrimp and Red Mule Grits to BBQ Greensboro Quail and Duck Breast. Chef Jaco has created a partnership with farmers and suppliers throughout the Southeast to provide the freshest and most healthy products for his kitchen. For instance, he uses Sid Cox at organic Deerwood Farms in nearby Sparta to supply many of his vegetables. He purchases handcrafted cheeses from Sweet Grass Dairy in Thomasville. Nearly one-half of the restaurant’s menu features local grown products. Chef Jaco’s signature dish is the “House Smoked Wild Atlantic Salmon” featuring lobster potato salad and chive crème fraiche. This is served as an appetizer but is one of those dishes you must try when visiting the Ritz at Reynolds.

ust outside the Georgia Bistro is Chef Jaco’s herb garden where you’ll most likely find him mornings and afternoons selecting the perfect seasoning for the next tempting and tantalizing dish he’ll be serving to the guests of the Ritz-Carlton Lodge at Reynolds Plantation. And, by the way, you’ll find him on his favorite links…the Oconee Golf Course, when he’s relaxing. He shoots in the 90’s.

Chef Jaco selects fresh herbs from his garden just outside his kitchen.
The Harmony Crossings "Farmer's Market" where Chef Jaco purchases many of his fresh ingredients.

Come Saturday mornings, you’ll find Chef Jaco at the Harmony Crossings “Farmers Market” just a few miles down the road from the Ritz. Here he is able to select from the freshest grown vegetables, fruits, herbs and other staples offered from the local farmers. He really puts forth a sincere effort to provide the best in culinary delights by utilizing these local and fresh ingredients. The Ritz, along with Jaco has truly given a “fresh approach” to an audience expecting elegance and grandeur.

In addition to the Georgia’s Bistro, there are six other dining options at The Ritz-Carlton Lodge. They are:

  * Gaby’s by the Lake
  * Chiminea Lakeside Dining
  * Lobby Lounge
  * Georgia’s Bistro
  * Linger Longer Steakhouse
  * BBQ Butler


There are currently five courses available to guests of the resort, as beautiful and challenging as they build in the world of golfing, while two additional magnificent courses are available exclusively for the pleasure of Reynolds Lake Oconee Members. The Reynolds management spared no expense in selecting the best of the best in golf course architects. They have lots of land and deep pockets, so to do anything less than first-class is not in their plan. Here is a brief description of all their courses.

Five and one-half outstanding golf courses are available for guests to play at Reynolds Lake Oconee.

Preserve Course – Designed by Bob Cupp with assistance from Hubert Green & Fuzzy Zeller and opened in 1988. Being the first at Reynolds Lake Oconee, it was called the Plantation Course until 2016 when it underwent a major renovation of tees and greens.  It established the level of golf course excellence that has not only been maintained but has steadily improved over the ensuring years. The course also set the stage for Reynolds Lake Oconee to become the golfer's Mecca it is today. GOLF Magazine and Zagat’s named it to the top of America’s golf courses in 2007.

Great Waters Course – Created by Jack Nicklaus as one of his signature courses and opened to the public in 1992. This layout recently played host to the 2008 PGA Professional National Championship and site of the Andersen Consulting World Championship of Golf from 1995 to 1997. Great Waters has been ranked among the "Ten Best New Courses" by GOLF Magazine.

The National Course – A Tom Fazio creation opened in 1997. He certainly took maximum advantage of the site by designing and creating holes with drama as unique as the setting. So popular, in 2000 an additional nine holes were added, bringing the total of 27 holes at National…allowing three different course options.

The Oconee Course – One of the stalwarts in golf course design, Rees Jones was hired for this course which opened in 2002. Located next to the Ritz-Carlton Lodge, it has hosted such highly-visible tournaments as the 2007 PGA Cup and the Chick-Fil-A Bowl Alma Mater. Truly the one course you “must play” at Reynolds Plantation.

Reynolds Landing – This was the first golf course to be built and opened on Lake Oconee in 1987. It was originally a feature of Port Armor and recently became part of the Reynolds Plantation ownership. Bob Cupp designed the course using every favorable aspect of the natural environment and terrain of the rolling landscape. When it originally opened, it was referred to as “one of Georgia's best golf courses, second only to Augusta National.” There are three holes wrapping along the shoreline of Lake Oconee and it will certainly test every shot in your game.

The Creek Club – Reynolds Plantation's first-ever private golf course opened for member play on June 1, 2007 and was designed by Jim Engh. Engh truly created a contemporary golf masterpiece complete with rolling bunkers, Zoysia grass fairways and striking water features. In 2003, Golf Digest named Jim Engh "Architect of the Year."

Outside of the gates, a range of conveniences are located less than a mile away.  At Lake Oconee Village, an upscale Publix grocery store and an eight theater cinema complement a variety of restaurants, shops, clinics, banks, pharmacies, salons, boutiques, gift and antique shops, and services like attorneys, dentists, financial planners. 

Recently, the St. Mary’s Good Samaritan Hospital opened near Reynolds Lake Oconee development.

Charming, historic small towns like Greensboro, Madison and Washington provide unique shopping, dining and entertainment opportunities.  Local services are always an important consideration for families, including first-class private and public schools, medical facilities and churches.  Meanwhile, Reynolds is easily accessible via major highways and interstates.  The Greensboro Regional Airport provides private plane and jet landing capabilities along with on-site helicopter landing facilities.  Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, one of the busiest facilities in the world, is roughly 75 miles from Reynolds.

Property ownership is a requirement for membership at Reynolds Lake Oconee. Membership is by a one-time initiation deposit.  The amount of the initiation fee varies with the type of membership you select and ranges from $10,000 to $60,000, far less than comparable memberships across the nation.  Members enjoy significant discounts of 10 percent to 35 percent on amenities such as clubhouse dining, pro shop purchases and guest cottage rentals.

A new Methodist Church has been built near Reynolds Lake Oconee.

The total Reynolds Lake Oconee development has been an outstanding economic stimulus to this area. I grew up in Greensboro and remember when the primary businesses were pines (pulp wood and lumber), pasture (dairy and beef cattle) and poultry (the production of chickens in this part of the world is huge). Today, Reynolds Lake Oconee is the primary employer with over 800 employees and The Ritz-Carlton resort is the second largest at just under 500 ladies and gentlemen. There have been dozens of ancillary businesses to move or develop in the area due to the creation of Lake Oconee by the Georgia Power Company. Keeping up with the growth of the development is a new charter school, hospital and Methodist church that are as modern and architecturally fitting as other businesses enhancing the area. All of the continuing growth is evidence this new and exciting community is here for generations to enjoy.

I’m very proud to call this area home. It’s always a pleasure to return and enjoy the grandeur, grits and golf...along with lots of old friends and family.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Click on the YouTube below to view a short video
of The Ritz-Carlton Lodge, Reynolds Lake Oconee

The Ritz-Carlton Lodge at Reynolds Lake Oconee
One Lake Oconee Trail
Greensboro, GA 30642 USA
Phone: 706-467-0600
Fax: 706-467-7124