The Landing Course at Reynolds Lake Oconee -- Bob Cupp's legacy, memorable golf and the buck that got away

By Jeffrey A. Rendall, Photos by Amanda Rendall

GREENSBORO, GA – “Gus didn’t make it to work the next day…. Or the day after. He was laid up for about a week with multiple scrapes and contusions and at least one puncture wound and three broken ribs,” remarked Bobby Cupp, son of the late golf architect Bob Cupp, designer of The Landing at Reynolds Lake Oconee. In reminiscing on the unfortunate fate of Gus, the younger Cupp was relaying an amusing tale related to the building of the golf course, which his father laid out in the mid-80’s.

More on the Gus story later (it’s worth retelling in its entirety), but the wild conclusion to the anecdote paints just a small portion of the colorful history behind the construction of the first golf layout on the shores of Lake Oconee. The course opened in 1986 in what was then a relatively golf starved part of Georgia, which is surprising considering Greensboro is a little over an hour’s drive from Augusta National, arguably the golf capital of the United States.

To put things in perspective Jack Nicklaus won the last of his eighteen majors at The Masters in 1986, the same year The Landing was unveiled. Remember those wild plaid pants Jack wore in the final round? Man, that really WAS a long time ago.

Near the first tee at The Landing you get your first look at Lake Oconee.

At any rate Cupp Jr. says the story behind The Landing was fascinating too. We agree.

As is our practice here at, we try to get input from course designers at places like Reynolds Lake Oconee in order to present a complete picture of the golf courses. Since Bob Cupp passed away in August of 2016, son Bobby was gracious enough to supply the background for us.

“My dad started the Port Armor project in 1985-1986 (note: The Landing was formerly known as Port Armor. The golf course was acquired by the Reynolds group in 2005). I was fortunate enough to be working for him at the time and was responsible for drawing construction plans and such.

“When we first started working on the project, our offices were located in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. We would later relocate our offices to Athens, Georgia, and also about that time, dad built a house behind 17 green and 18 tee at Port Armor. We later moved the operation to Atlanta.

The par three 7th hole is rated the easiest on the front nine. Take advantage.

“Over the years, we continued to provide design services for Port Armor, making improvements and alterations as the property grew and changed.

“In 2012 dad and Billy Fuller renovated Port Armor and it was at that time that it was renamed The Landing. Again, I was fortunate to be involved with the project, this time working for the contractor that performed the work. It was a fantastic project and great fun working with dad and Billy.”

In other words, the Cupp family’s connection with The Landing is personal and spans decades. Pete Dye once told me he couldn’t name a favorite among his designs because it was akin to choosing between his children. Bobby didn’t say so but I’m guessing the Cupp family feels the same way about The Landing.

One can only imagine what a thrill it must have been for Bobby to work with his dad on a project like Port Armor. The setting alone on the pristine and gorgeous Lake Oconee was nothing short of spectacular. With golf being such a huge draw in this growing part of the state you would speculate the locals would have thought it was a great idea to place a golf course there.

Not much room to run it up on the par five 14th hole, presenting a challenge for those trying to get close to the green in two.

As it turns out, that wasn’t exactly the case. “Port Armor was the first golf course built on the shores of Lake Oconee. To step back in time, Greensboro was still a small, sleepy Southern town, Reynolds Plantation (now Reynolds at Lake Oconee) did not yet exist and as dad would tell the story, ‘the locals thought we were nuts to build one of those golf courses on the lake,’” Bobby explained.

“The original property was raw land in excess of 900 acres. One would be hard pressed to find a piece of land better suited for golf. I should also note that dad planned the entire property, including the development parcels with some assistance from the developer/partner of the project.

“The original land plan actually includes another 18 holes – 36 holes total. There are literally hundreds of golf holes on the property and one of the biggest challenges was picking the best 36. Much of the property of the Landing is still untapped.”

This fact I found surprising considering how established the community appears to be at Reynolds Lake Oconee. The Landing is in its own section of the development and you need to take a short drive to reach the other golf offerings at the resort (including the Tom Fazio designed The National, the Rees Jones scribed The Oconee and Jack Nicklaus’s Great Waters) as well as the Ritz-Carlton hotel property.

Nearing the green of the par five 2nd hole you get another glimpse of Lake Oconee in the background.

Don’t worry -- there’s still plenty of natural splendor to be found. One wonders if they’ll ever build the second 18-hole layout Cupp mentioned – we can only hope so.

Bobby Cupp reiterated the raw property was ideal for golf and development. “Lake Oconee is a Georgia Power lake and is managed in such a way that creates a perfect situation for golf (and development) on the shores.

“The water level is controlled and rarely fluctuates more than a few inches. Once a year, Georgia Power drops the water level of Lake Oconee for shore maintenance, allowing homeowners to repair seawalls and such. There is the added bonus that Lake Oconee is a 19,000 acre water source.”

As is true with most large inland bodies of water you’d hardly guess the lake wasn’t there from the beginning of time, though if you cruise Lake Oconee in a boat be wary of a number of sections (well-marked, of course) that still contain trees from the old days. It’s a mostly unseen hazard you’ll want to avoid!

From behind the flag on the par four 15th hole. Slopes define the hole.

The lake itself was created in 1979 with the completion of the Wallace Dam at the south end of the reservoir. The shoreline is extensive with many inlets for residents to access the lake and still maintain their privacy.

As might be expected Bobby indicated there were some environmental and engineering challenges involved with building The Landing, including one in particular that would take 25 years to rectify. “The biggest problem I recall would be the original 15th hole.

“There was a ditch identified very late in the project,” Cupp recalled. “The ditch created an engineering conundrum that would bust the budget. The solution created a small pond at the bottom of the hill, blind from the tee shot. Thankfully, when dad and Billy came back in 2012, they were able to correct it.”

Seeing as I first experienced The Landing in the summer of 2017, I can’t testify to the pond that was formerly located there. The fifteenth hole today is a tough (rated second hardest on the back nine, #4 handicap) 428-yard par four with a dramatically uphill second shot to a large sloped green. Pay attention to the pin sheet for hole location because it can make a big difference on club selection.

There is actually ample room to miss long on the beautiful par four 4th hole but the vast expanse of Lake Oconee suggests otherwise.

Like the other courses at Reynolds Lake Oconee The Landing is generous off the tee with quite wide fairway cuts and manageable rough areas to the sides. The footprint for golf was hardly squeezed, so the layout has a fairly open feeling in most spots. Creative bunkering and the undulating nature of the holes keeps you honest in shot selection and strategy.

It's safe to say The Landing plays harder than it looks, which Bobby says is a difficult balance to achieve when planning golf courses to please many different types of players. “We wanted a course friendly to resort players but also one that could potentially host competitive events,” Cupp remembered.

“The challenge is to create both. Not an impossible task, and there are responsibilities that fall beyond design, such as how the course is set up, how it is maintained and also, what tees the players choose – the latter being the most difficult to control. Tactically, the Landing is one of the finest tests of golf anywhere. If I recall, the year after The Landing opened it was ranked #2 in Georgia, behind Augusta National.”

Perhaps only a seasoned player could find that happy medium. The elder Cupp fit the bill.

From behind the green of the par three 11th hole you see the false front that has no doubt fooled many a player.

“Dad was a player and nearly qualified for the US Open in the late 1960’s,” Bobby expounded. “Add to that his 16 years working with Jack Nicklaus, as well as courses designed with Tom Kite, Fred Couples, Hubert Green, Fuzzy Zoeller, Jerry Pate and another half dozen PGA Tour players and his tactical knowledge was tremendous. For him, it was always about the golf shots.

“He was an artist too with formal training and a BA in graphic art from UM. His ability to combine the artistic with the strategic was unique and went to depths beyond comprehension.”

Spoken like a proud son remembering his dad. I would say many of the same things about my own father, a civil engineer by profession who is far more creative than just a builder of airport runways, highway overpasses and municipal sewage systems.

Bobby wouldn’t speak for his father on the one aspect of The Landing that stood out from working there but did indicate it’s a rare occurrence to get the opportunity to design a golf course in the setting that Lake Oconee provided. I imagine the senior Cupp was supremely proud of it – as well he should have been.

The beautiful and challenging par four 5th hole suggests a draw off the tee - but too much hook will get you wet.

Playing The Landing is a joy. As Bobby hinted it’s quite a strategic layout requiring proper placement of tee shots to provide the best angles of approach to the putting surfaces. Like with the other courses at Reynolds Lake Oconee there are shaved chipping areas surrounding the greens though it seems there’s a little more rough at The Landing than the other layouts.

It would take a few trips around the layout to absorb the best driving angles. On a few of the tees I was clearly aiming for the wrong spot which made the hardest holes even more exacting.

The 379-yard, par four fifth is probably considered The Landing’s signature hole. The wide panorama of Lake Oconee occupies the entire left side of the hole. The day we played there were several boats out on the water enjoying the pleasant afternoon, a nice complement to the golf course – I can see why so many folks want to live here!

Our cottage was located in back of the green of the 11th hole, one of the more difficult par threes I can recall. Playing over 200 yards and uphill from the back tees, take plenty of club to not only cover the distance but also to keep the ball on the green. I hit what looked like a nice pitch a few feet from the hole only to have the ball roll off the false front (it kind of reminded me of the closing scene in the movie “Tin Cup”).

The tough par four 10th hole is the first of three extremely demanding holes on the back nine.

It was frustrating…but the feeling was only temporarily. Overall I think The Landing is a nice and fair test of golf, very enjoyable, a place to create many memories of days spent on the picturesque links along Lake Oconee.

Bobby Cupp must think so too. As promised, here’s the complete story of Gus and his injuries – a memory to last a lifetime:

“There are so many stories from those days. There is one I recall that was one of dad’s all-time favorites. It occurred during the construction of The Landing and doesn’t exactly revolve around golf.

“Jim Holmes was the contractor of record for the golf course. Jim had an employee, Gus, that was the lead shaper on the golf course. He was a genuine talent, quite the character and he was also passionate about hunting and fishing.

Deep bunkers guard the green short of the par five 6th hole.

“One evening after work, Gus and one of his colleagues headed out for some dinner and a few drinks. Knowing they had to be at work first thing in the morning, they started home at a reasonable hour. This particular night was one of those really dark, moonless country nights. You know the kind, where it’s so dark the night just seems to swallow up the headlights and there is zero ambient light. As the legend goes, the boys were about half way home when a large white-tail buck jumped out of the woodline and right into the front of Gus’s Ford LTD.

“Everything happened so fast that the collision was unavoidable. The old LTD suffered a smashed hood and grill and broken headlights, but it fared better than the buck. Now, Gus being a man of the woods pulled the car over on the side of the old rural highway and they began to search for the buck.

"Compassionate men not wanting to leave an animal to suffer. But Gus was also an avid hunter and enjoyed his venison and not wanting to be a man of waste, he decided that if they could locate the deer, he would bring it home.

“Luck was on his side and they found the deer prone and limp in the ditch on the far side of the road. It was a large creature. Gus’ companion brought the car around and they loaded it into the back seat – why is anyone’s guess, but at the time, it seemed the right thing to do. For yet another reason unbeknownst to anyone, Gus decided to ride in the back seat with the enormous buck. Once they had everything loaded up and decided the car would make the journey home, they started down the road.

Near the green of the par four 13th hole. Make sure to take enough club for the uphill second shot.

“About 15 minutes later, the driver glances in the rearview mirror and sees the silhouette of Gus and beside him, the silhouette of the big buck.

Driver: “Ha ha, very funny Gus!”

Gus: “uh, this is no joke! This big boy is still alive…. And now he is awake!”

“About that time a struggle of epic proportions commenced in the back seat of that LTD. Gus had the buck by the antlers and they were both struggling for a position of power and control. It became evident that the buck did not want to be a passenger and it was expressing his dislike on Gus.

At 135 yards the par three 3rd hole is not long but the swirling wind can make it very challenging to choose the right club.

“The driver wanted no part of the struggle, slowed the car in a panic, but before the old Ford had come to a complete stop, he opened the door and jumped out of the car to escape the chaos. As the car came to rest in the roadside ditch several yards from where the driver exited, there came the muted sound of struggle.

“Moments later the back door burst open and Gus, hands still firmly gripping the antlers of the angry buck, began backing out of the car. It was apparent Gus was losing control, but he could not completely remove himself from the car to escape the battle.

"Seconds later, Gus was ejected from the confines of the backseat and as he was trying to roll away, the white tail emerged and, according to the legend, began to tap-dance all over Gus.

“The driver was standing yards away watching in horror as the scene unfolded. Once the buck had decided that he had inflicted enough suffering on Gus’ person, he looked both ways and leapt into the night woods, never to be seen again.

You will have to contend with Lake Oconee one last time finishing up on the par four 18th hole.

“Gus didn’t make it to work the next day…. Or the day after. He was laid up for about a week with multiple scrapes and contusions and at least one puncture wound and three broken ribs.”

There is no monument to Gus’s epic struggle with the buck at The Landing but after hearing the story you can’t help but appreciate all the memories that must be associated with the course – at the time and ever since. It’s quite a place, a legacy to the talent of Bob Cupp and remains a darn fine setting to play a little golf.

The Landing at Reynolds Lake Oconee
1101 Landing Drive
Greensboro, GA  30642

Phone: (706) 467-1565


Course Designer: Bob Cupp
Director of Golf: Wes Forester
Golf Course Superintendent: Ron McWhorter

Course Statistics:
            Tees     Rating Slope               Yards

            Gold    74.4     138                  7,029
            Blue     71.4     131                  6,395
            White  69.5     126                  5,951
            Red     71.1     129                  5,256


$185 for guests peak season and $129 for non-peak season.

Consult the website for latest rates and packages.

Note: Walking is an option and it is encouraged.

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