August 5, 2013
By Katharine D.
The steeply-pitched hip roof, balconies, gables, round arches and balustrades of Château Élan in Braselton, Ga., resemble the grand estates of the French countryside, yet this expansive 3,500-acre property is but 40 minutes outside Atlanta.
An elegant playground for those who want to get away, play golf or tennis and soak up the landscape, Château Élan is home to four golf courses, a vineyard and winery. There is also a 196-stall equestrian center, a Stan Smith tennis facility, three pools and a spa and fitness center.
With a 275-room hotel, spa rooms and 10 villas set near the 15th green along with a conference center, Château Élan is a popular destination for meetings and incentive groups, as well as leisure guests. Offering a number of creative team-building activities, Elizabeth Clarkson, head golf professional, says, “Our guests particularly love our night golf. ” Using glow balls, participants play on the par 3-course hitting towards illuminated pins.
The History of Chateau Elan
Château Élan is the realized dream of Americans Donald and Nancy Panoz, who were both working in the military field when they were inspired by the grand chateaus they visited in their travels around the world. After experiencing great success with a pharmaceutical delivery business they founded, the Panoz family made frequent trips between their home in Ireland and their business headquarters in Atlanta.
Along the way, they noticed many local wineries and became interested in growing grapes. Their entrepreneurial penchant led to the founding of Château Élan winery and resort.
Early in his career Panoz recalls driving by the Oakmont Country Club on the Pennsylvania Turnpike and thinking, “How do you get to play a course like that?” Now his holdings include 63 holes of golf that have attracted top golfers including pros like Ernie Els, Ian Woosnam and Lee Westwood who came to Château Élan to play in the Sarazan Open Championship in the 1990s.
Château Élan has played host to several Golf Channel Amateur Tour tournaments, a program for amateur golfers who want to experience an authentic PGA TOUR experience. “We’ve been hosting single day events for three or four years, but this year more than 180 players came to play in a weekend-long Major Championship,” says Clarkson.
Château Élan Courses
Château, the original course designed by Denis Griffiths, opened in 1989. Winding around around lakes, creeks and ponds with water coming into play on more than half the holes, it could arguably be considered the prettiest track. Flatter and more open than the others, Clarkson who admits it’s a personal favorite, says, “You can look across four or five holes at one time.” Still there is plenty of sand to challenge with more than 80 bunkers.
Legends, host to the Sarazan Open, echoes traditional golf course architecture of the early 1900s. It’s unique design can be attributed to Gene Sarazen, Sam Snead and Kathy Whitworth who were asked to select six of their all-time favorite holes. Griffiths then incorporated replicas of these holes into the layout. For example hole No. 5 recalls Augusta National’s 13th while hole No. 15 is similar to Augusta’s 12th. Although private, resort guests and corporate groups have limited access to The Legends.
Woodlands, also a Griffiths design, opened in 1996. Longer and hillier with more elevation changes than Château, Woodlands challenges with tighter, tree-lined fairways and several lakes. Woodlands is also the only course with a five-hole stretch of real estate-free fairways. Unlike Château, Woodlands does not return to the clubhouse after nine but goes three miles out, three miles back.
The resort’s Executive par 3 walking course set behind the inn, appeals to those looking for a quick warm-up round. “When we first hosted the Sarazan Open, we built the par 3 to enhance our golf facilities,” says Clarkson. “Now we use it a lot including for out night golf events.”
On site, the Dave Pelz Scoring Golf School offers one, two and three day schools. A large practice facility with three putting greens, a multi-tiered pitching stations and practice bunkers complete the facilities.
In an effort to build a strong base of golfers, Clarkson says they have launched a program to encourage golfers to play fewer holes. For those who don’t have time for 18, they offer nine-, six- and four-hole options on Château. “This course wraps around the clubhouse nicely so it’s pretty easy to create these loops,” says Clarkson.
Off-course unwind with a Château Euphoria Massage or Château Winery Ritual; sip a robust Merlot Reserve 2010 or a light peach-infused Muscadine on the Sunset Deck or in the vineyards; and dine on fresh local cuisine in the Fleur-de-Lis dining room or one of the other restaurants that range from casual to elegant. Those interested in wine can learn to blend their own and personalize your bottle with a custom label.
To easily find and book tee times at Château Élan, visit GolfNow.com.