Archive » September 23, 2010
GOLF & TRAVEL
By Ray Navis, Contributing Writer
There is a place in the Northern foothills of Georgia that combines an authentic French winery experience with 36 holes of championship golf. Chateau Elan is well known to Atlanta area residents for its luxury resort, great wine and famous golf courses. Golf enthusiasts worldwide will remember it as the home to the Sarazen’s World Open. Great golf, wine and incredible accommodations – all on one site.
The golfChateau Elan was launched in grand fashion by its owner Don Panoz, a pharmaceutical industry magnate and his good friend and golf legend, Gene Sarazen. Not only did he win all of golf’s majors, but Sarazen hit possibly the greatest golf shot ever when he holed a 4-wood for double eagle on the 15th hole in the final round of the 1935 Masters. The shot was witnessed by playing partner Walter Hagen and the great Bobby Jones himself and led Sarazen to a playoff victory and worldwide attention for the fledgling event. Chateau Elan owner Panoz and Sarazen shared an Italian American upbringing and became close friends during the formation of the resort. Panoz was a real student of the game and wanted to honor past greats in a grand fashion. Sarazen, fellow legend Sam Snead and LPGA Hall of Famer Kathy Whitworth all collaborated on the first design at The Legends Course. Chateau Elan was opened with the Sarazen World Open an invitational similar to the Masters with an international field. Ernie Els won the first event and other winners included New Zealand’s Frank Nobilo, who is now a regular on The Golf Channel. Nobilo’s family is well-known for its excellent wines from the Marlborough region of New Zealand and no doubt he was comfortable in this vineyard atmosphere. The entire property at Chateau Elan covers 3,500 acres, so there was ample room for the golf. In addition to the original Legends Course, there are two more 18-hole championship layouts and a 9-hole par 3 course to boot. The Chateau and Woodlands courses were designed by Denis Griffiths and feature rolling, tree-lined terrain with many water holes. Even the par 3 course is an excellent layout with many challenging holes. The facility also has a large practice range with multiple chipping and putting greens. Chateau Elan is headquarters to the American Junior Golf Association [AJGA] which has its own building on property.
The resortAs you enter the formal setting at Chateau Elan, the gardens and winery are straight ahead with the resort and spa just a bit to the right. The entire feel is very European with an understated elegance. Staff are formally dressed but helpful as you make your way into this French Provincial enclave. The large common areas are brightly colored in a way that would have made Monet happy. Marble staircases and floors lead to an atrium full of fountains and flowers with glass ceilings to give one a feeling of being outdoors. The rooms at Chateau Elan are also luxurious, and it is no wonder why the resort is so popular with corporate clients out of Atlanta. The finest in bedding and electronics, as well as oversized bathrooms, make the stay one you are sorry to leave.
The wineryThe restaurants, wine market and winery itself are all housed in a grand French Chateau that sits at the top of the Chateau Elan property. The atmosphere is authentic, and one could easily imagine being in the wine regions of France on this sprawling and immaculately landscaped property. The food and atmosphere are so special, that many dinner guests make the hour-drive from Atlanta to take it all in. We dined at the Chateau Elan Café, and I must say the whole experience was delightful. Executive Chef Marc Suennemann graduated from the prestigious College of Gastronomy and Food in Hamburg, Germany in 1992. From there he trained at the finest 5-star restaurants in Germany and Switzerland before accepting the position at Chateau Elan. The food and service were excellent, as was the atmosphere. The whole experience reminded me of an elegant wedding I attended years ago at the Chateau Souverain Winery in Geyserville, north of Napa. If you ever get to this part of the Southeast or consider a reunion with folks in this area, give Chateau Elan strong consideration. For more information, visit ChateauElan.com.