Larry Nelson's Atlanta: Great golf, museums and a Moxie burgerApril 17, 2013
By Phil Stambaugh, Champions Tour staff
Larry and Gayle Nelson are essentially Atlanta natives and now that makes them the exception rather than the rule in a city that has transformed itself into one of the most cosmopolitan melting pots of culture in the United States. Nelson moved to Atlanta when he was four years of age and his wife was raised in the community. Nelson turned professional in 1971, raising two sons in the area while also playing on the PGA TOUR. He went on to win 10 times on the PGA TOUR, including three major championships, and collected 19 more titles on the Champions Tour. Through it all, the Nelsons have always kept their roots in Atlanta. “I never really thought about living anywhere else. Atlanta has lots to do and it has really changed from when we were younger,” Larry says. “If you meet someone who is a native of the city, it’s very rare now. So many people have moved here from all over the world.”
As Atlanta prepares to host its first Champions Tour event since 2000, Phil Stambaugh caught up with the World Golf Hall of Fame member to find out his favorite spots in the city.
I’d have to go with Atlanta Country Club in Marietta where I live as my first choice. It’s a private club located in Marietta, a suburb of Atlanta, north of the city itself. This Willard Byrd-designed course opened in 1964 and hosted a PGA TOUR event from 1967-96 with the exception of 1974 when it was the venue for the first PLAYERS Championship won by Jack Nicklaus and 1976 when the U.S. Open was in Atlanta. I was fortunate enough to twice claim victory at my home club, winning by seven strokes in 1980 and then edging Chip Beck by a stroke in 1988. Atlanta Country Club is just a wonderful layout, built adjacent to historic Sope Creek.
The Atlanta Athletic Club has 45 holes.
Next, I’d have to go with the Atlanta Athletic Club, which is located northwest of the city near Duluth. They have two 18-hole courses there and another 9-hole course. The Highlands course was the venue for my victory at the 1981 PGA Championship, the first of my three major titles on the PGA TOUR. The Highlands course at Atlanta Athletic Club has undergone a number of changes over the years, but it’s still a facility that’s worthy of hosting major championships in the future.
Another really good semi-private course that’s north of the city is White Columns Country Club, located just off of Georgia 400 near Alpharetta. White Columns is a Tom Fazio-designed course that became very popular since it was one of Golf Digest’s “Best Places To Play” in 2007.
WHERE TO EAT
Bones Restaurant, located in the Buckhead area, is an Atlanta institution. It’s an upscale dining experience and they are known for their steaks. Bones is always highly rated and I’d put it up against any of the other great restaurants in cities across America.
Another place I’ve found for seafood is Chequers near the Perimeter Center Mall. They offer creative seafood dishes in an upscale dining atmosphere.
For a more casual setting, there’s a really good place about five minutes from my house in Marietta called Moxie Burger. This place opened in 2011 and it’s got more of a family atmosphere. I like it because of the variety on the menu and everything they serve is really good. The signature menu item is the Moxie burger consisting of 6 ounces of Angus beef, bacon, fried green tomato, pimento cheese and Moxie sauce on either a white or wheat toasted bun.
WHAT TO SEE
Atlanta has all of the major professional sports teams, but I really enjoy the museums that we have in the city. Probably the best known museum in town is the High Museum of Art, located on Peachtree Street. It’s the leading art museum in the Southeastern United States, displayed classic and contemporary art and architecture. They recently had an In Celebration of Golf exhibit that included a number of items from St. Andrews.
If you have children, I highly recommend spending some time at the Children’s Museum of Atlanta. I have taken our grandchildren there several times and it’s located downtown near the Centennial Olympic Park. This museum is the perfect place for kids eight and under and families learn and explore together.
Not many people think of Atlanta without thinking of Coca Cola and no trip to our city would be complete without visiting the World of Coca-Cola Museum. The history of Coke and its influence on pop culture is told in exhibits, three theaters and a tasting room for sampling Coca-Cola products served around the world.
The Greater Gwinnett Championship (April 15-21). I know all of the Champions Tour players are glad we have an event back in the Atlanta area. Gwinnett County is really trying to make it a great event. I haven’t played the TPC Sugarloaf for a while and played there only twice when the course hosted a PGA TOUR event. I’m really curious on how the course will be set up for the tournament. It’s a very challenging course and has the chance to be a wonderful tournament venue for the Champions Tour.