A Georgia Gem

Aug, 05 2023

A Georgia Gem

When most of us hear that a golf course was designed by Donald Ross, it usually grabs our attention. Now imagine a Donald Ross course that is open for play, but has no employees. Imagine a Donald Ross course where to play, you write your name in a notebook in a mailbox stating how many holes you want to play and then drop your greens fee payment into the adjoining locked metal box. You’re on the honor system to go out and play a game that is based on the honor system. What an interesting concept!

According to the rosssociety.org website, Washington-Wilkes Country Club in Washington, Georgia opened in 1925. Originally called Oak Hill Country Club, the nine-hole course was designed and built about halfway geographically between two other Ross designs that opened in 1926 - Forest Hills Golf Club in Augusta and Athens Country Club. I’m not knowledgeable enough of the Ross design characteristics to notice how much, if any, tweaking has been done over the years. But with the course having generous fairways that follow the natural terrain, the small pushed up greens that challenge the short game and the difficulty of a seemingly non-difficult course, I doubt much has changed.

Dating back to at least 1952, and possibly earlier, the Amos Martin Invitational is held annually around July 4th. Called the July 4th Invitational in the early days, the event was renamed the Amos Martin somewhere along the line. Mr. Martin was a prominent club member for many years and his family is still actively involved each year.

I ride by WWCC a dozen or so times each year. With a par 4 and a par 5 running continuously along Highway 78 just outside Washington, I can’t help giving it a couple of glances each time. Rarely do I see more than a group or two playing and I hardly ever see any maintenance being done. Yet the course always appears to be very playable. I had played the course a handful of times in the early 1970s, even played in the tournament a couple of times. Chip Hardin, a friend of mine since the high school days, had been sending the tournament results for our website the past few years. So I thought maybe it was time to check things out and see what was keeping the Amos Martin ticking. I contacted Chip about possibly playing and he put things into motion.

Chip put me in touch with Hugh Hopkins, who promptly sent me an invitation and welcomed me into the tournament. Hugh paired me with his cousin and his cousin’s two sons. He told me the tournament was as much a social event as it was a competitive event. If you choose to be, you can pretty much be paired with who you want to play with, giving family members a chance to play together and giving friends the same opportunity. The pairing stays the same for both days regardless of score, with Saturday afternoon groups playing Sunday morning and vice versa for Saturday morning groups.

I experienced the old home week touch in my playing partners, all originally from Washington, with the father now living in Hilton Head and the sons living in Greenville, SC and Boston. Coming home to play in the tournament their dad and granddad won in 1954, they needled each other’s golf throughout each 18 and ended both rounds with loving and heartfelt hugs. While eating the wonderful tournament provided Sunday home-cooked lunch after finishing round two, they were already making plans to do it all over again next year. Maybe you have to come from a small town to really appreciate it, but I thought that was really neat.

So what keeps this tournament going? In talking with Chip, Hugh and others, as well as observing as a participant, what I kept hearing and seeing, is that it is a true labor of love. I learned volunteers keep the course playable throughout the year. And when July comes around, enough members of this member-owned club step it up a notch or two and just refuse to let the tournament end. During my practice round I saw the eventual 2023 winner and now 8-time champion, Graham Echols, mowing the greens. I saw Graham’s dad filling the ball washers with soap. They, along with Chip, Hugh, the Martin family and others I don’t know, love the Amos Martin enough to do the labor to make this year’s tournament a success for the 72nd time.

Next June the U.S. Open will be played on the Pinehurst #2 course, a Donald Ross design. Next July the Amos Martin Invitational will be played on the Washington-Wilkes Country Club course, also a Donald Ross design. Watch one on TV, play in the other one. Take your Donald Ross knowledge to the next level. Just a thought!

Click link to view Amos Martin Invitational Champions


Honored to be endorsed by the Georgia State Golf Association.

“The GSGA applauds the efforts of Joey Kaney to highlight the wonderful accomplishments of so many golfers from around the state through his Mr. Stat website. More importantly, we appreciate Mr. Kaney’s interest and desire to preserve tournament results and records which showcase Georgia’s rich history in the game of golf.” ———-——- Matt Vanderpool - Chief Executive Officer - Georgia State Golf Association

Contact us