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The Sporting Life

Reynolds Lake Oconee's new off road driving course and sporting clays offer a vacation far from ordinary.

Driving through the rolling 100-acres of ancient pecan orchards, ponds and thickets at Sandy Creek Sporting Grounds toward The Sandy Creek Barn, I felt the pull of outdoor adventure.

We awoke in the lap of luxury at the National Club Cottages, Reynolds Lake Oconee, 75 miles east of Atlanta, and had an early breakfast at Eighty8 Kitchen before meeting up with Justin Jones, the architect and general manager Sandy Creek. Jones welcomed us with a wide southern smile and a British lilt that immediately put us at ease. We were in good hands.

“We have designed a traditional, yet innovative, sporting ground, similar to one you would find in Britain, that offers a superior day of sport for any outdoor enthusiast. The course is for everyone from novice to expert levels, for men, women, and children,” Jones says who brings decades of experience in shooting competition, instruction, management and course design to the Georgia sporting clay club. 

Each of 20 thoughtfully positioned stations accommodates up to five shooters who watch a short instructional video and receive safety equipment, including hearing and eye protection and vests. My husband is a gun snob and was impressed with the beautiful Beretta shotguns we were fitted with and was thankful for the  certified instructor (in our case, Justin himself) who escorted us through course via an off-road, all-terrain buggy.

“If a guest isn’t a shooter, no problem. There is an endless list of exciting and peaceful activities, including fishing, kayaking and canoeing, and hiking,” says Jones. 

The newest addition to the menu is the Land Rover Discovery driving course that carves a path through the rolling terrain and forested thickets that define the Georgia countryside.

Upon arrival at the Sporting Grounds, an experienced guide seats you in a seven-seater Land Rover Discovery and explains the instruments. Although the same vehicle is sold commercially, even Jones was blown away at its dexterity. “The four-wheel-drive system—along with the overall design of the course—creates an experience where you’ll feel challenged, but always safe and in control of the vehicle.” The guide is always in the passenger seat, but you’re behind the wheel.

If your idea of an adrenaline rush is teeing off the back tees, staring down a narrow par four fairway rimmed by glistening Lake Oconee, towering Georgia oaks and a bevy of bunkers, you can chose from five championship courses at The Ritz-Carlton Lake Oconee. 

Stay in a room, suite or cottage and dine at one of the five restaurants or have chef prepare a meal and wine tasting just for you on your balcony or around a chiminea as the sun goes down at the end of your adventurous day.