240 miles south of Atlanta, near the Florida state line and along the I-75 corridor lies the city of Valdosta, Georgia. About 45000 people live in Valdosta, and the town was named ESPN’s Titletown, USA in 2008. It may not be known as a golfer’s mecca, but this town has certainly augmented it’s reputation with the addition of Kinderlou Forest Golf Club to it’s golf course resume.
Founded in 2004, Kinderlou Forest Golf Club sits on 160 acre site who’s history dates back to 1863. It is named after Louisa McRee, The original land owner George McRee’s sister “Kinder” is German for children and “Lou” is a reference to Louisa McRee. Kinderlou is not known as a golf destination, but it probably should be. It is within 3.5 hours of Atlanta, Tallahassee, Jacksonville and Orlando. My recent trip package, booked through the Comfort Inn Conference Center in Valdosta, included two nights accommodations and unlimited golf at Kinderlou Forest for only $180. For more info on their golf packages, check out the Kinderlou Website for more info.
Davis Love III was tapped to design Kinderlou, and he did a fantastic job. The course is a classic type of layout with no tricky holes or strange design elements. He used the natural lay of the land and didn’t force the design upon it, which gives you the impression that the course has been here all along, he just had to cut some holes. The front nine makes its way through some uncharacteristically hilly terrain for Southern Georgia, and runs through a hardwood forest of Oak, Hickory and Dogwoods. Several holes find their way through an open meadow, giving it a bit of a linksy feel before returning to the clubhouse. The back nine winds through a planted pine forest, giving it a totally different feel compared to the front nine.
Kinderlou has been host to several Hooters Tour and Nationwide Tour events over the years, and also hosts the First Stage of the PGA Tour School this October. The course is always in excellent shape, with tees and fairways planted with TifSport Bermuda and TifEagle on the greens. Both times I have played the course the greens were running between 10 and 12 on the stimpmeter. The first time I visited the course was a few days before last year’s Nationwide Tournament, and it was an interesting experience coming up 18 with the bleachers and tents everywhere. Unfortunately for me, nobody was watching and cheering me on.
This course has something for everyone. The back tees, if you are man enough (or dumb enough) stretch all the way back to 7781 yards. It’s a good test of golf for sure, but in my opinion it doesn’t quite play to it’s marked distance. The fairways are generous and the greens large, averaging almost 7000 square feet in size. In dry conditions the course will most likely play 300 or 400 yards shorter in my estimation. Check out the official scorecard for last years, South Georgia Classic on the Nationwide Tour. Just for reference, the winning score at this years tournament was 13 under. My friends and I played the next set of tees, measuring 7200 yards or so. The next set is at about 6700 yards, and there are a few more sets of tees making the course friendly for all ages and abilities.
The practice area is large, with a double-ended range and large putting green. The balls are provided free or charge when you play, and the range is well kept and targets are plentiful. There is also a staging area near the putting green, which sits at the halfway point between the first and tenth tees. It also serves to reduce cart clutter around the clubhouse. The staff was always friendly and helpful, and the pro shop was well stocked with everything you might need. The restaurant is polished and comfortable, and the food was very good. I especially recommend the sweet potato fries!
The two things that impressed me the most about this facility is the care taken to keep the course in prime condition, and the decision to set the home sites far back from the golf course. Although the course was in fantastic shape when we last played it, they had received several inches of rain that week. There was no standing water or casual water on the course, and mud balls were minimal, but the superintendent restricted the players to the cart paths only. Many people would complain at the inconvenience, but this kind of attention ensures that the course stays in tip top shape. The development company also made a decision at some point to set the home sites far back from the golf course, giving the homeowners more privacy (and land) and giving the golfers a more intimate golf experience without the distractions of cars, kids and radios.
Kinderlou Forest Golf Club is a first-class golf facility and should not be missed if you live in Central or Northern Florida and Southern Georgia. The Course is fair, fun, has great variety and is in great shape. The facilities are clean and welcoming and the staff is friendly and helpful. Valdosta has plenty to offer in terms of dining and accommodation, and is located right off the interstate, making access quick and easy. Overall this is a must-play golf course, and with packages this cheap it’s also a great value.
If you’ve never been to Kinderlou, I suggest you plan a weekend away and try it. If you have played it before, let me know how you liked it!