A resort experience is one that should make you feel as if you’re away from it all.
At Lake Blackshear Resort & Golf Club, “You’re definitely away,’’ General Manager Jason Smith said with a smile.
But not too far away. Located near Cordele, Ga., Lake Blackshear is only two hours from Atlanta and close to the I-75 corridor, making it an easy drive for adventure-seeking travelers who want to combine a quiet location with golf, water sports and a bit of American patriotism, as the resort is part of the Georgia State Parks System and sits in the middle of Georgia Veterans Memorial State Park. The vintage aircraft and armored vehicles near the Park’s entrance as you drive to the resort lets you know you’re in a special place that features a lot of special activities.
The SAM Shortline Excursion Train, for example, take riders through the state park and over Lake Blackshear. It’s a fun way to see the terrain and learn some local history. Besides, how often do you get to ride on a 1949 vintage train? The Military Museum within the State Park also is a great educational experience.
“The State is very proud of this location,’’ Smith said. “It’s anxious for us to take this to new heights.’’
By “us,’’ Smith means Coral Hospitality which manages each of the hotel/resort properties within the Georgia State Parks System.
Lake Blackshear Resort’s room amenities are comprised of three components: the freshly renovated 14 guestrooms at the tower hotel; 10 cabins just a short boat ride away; and 64 villa rooms in eight buildings. Each component has its own appeal. The tower rooms, located next to the conference center, are great for couples; the more rustic two-bedroom cabins, each with a kitchen, are good for families and guests who want longer stays; the villas are popular with conference attendees and golf buddy groups.
“The original facility was the convention center and the cabins,’’ Smith said. “The tower building gives us some substance to support the convention center and the (Cordelia’s) restaurant. We’re just starting to get the benefits of the renovations with increased sales
Named in honor of the daughter of Samuel Hawkins, founder of Cordele, Cordelia’s serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Each menu is created by new Executive Chef Matt Lamb, a South Georgia native with a degree from Le Cordon Bleu School of Culinary Art.
Lamb has an unofficial degree, of sorts, from the academy of tough crowds, having once served as a chef on an oil rig off the Louisiana Gulf Coast.
“My family has a house on the lake, so I’ve been coming here since I was a kid,’’ Lamb said. “I’d heard about Cordelia’s but never had eaten here, so this is a new experience for me.’’
Given his roots, Lamb keeps each of his menus what he calls “more updated Southern.’
“We have people from the North come here, too,’’ Lamb said. “So, we’re working on keeping our Southern ways, but with different twists.’’
For example, Lamb takes fried chicken – a traditional Southern dish – and braids them with pecans, which are easy to find in South Georgia.
“We’ve run it as a special and done very well,’’ Lamb said. “We’re also working on a farm-to-table menu where we will use all Georgia products.’’
At Cypress Grill, the resort’s lakeside restaurant, Lamb recently added a terrific Cypress Burger, peel and eat shrimp and revamped the mahi tacos. Particularly in weekend, Cypress Grill is a great spot for a lunch on the deck, boat watching and mixing with the locals. Don’t miss the live music on Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday afternoon.
About a five-minute drive from the tower and Cordelia’s is Georgia Veterans Memorial Golf Course. Designed by Dennis Griffiths, the course plays through loblolly pies with some outstanding views of Lake Blackshear. The Dwarf Bermuda greens are large and challenging with a good amount of undulation. It’s a solid layout – nearly 6,900 yards from the tips – that you must play more than one time to get a feel for all its nuances.
For example, the ninth (452 yards, par four) is a terrific hole, featuring bunkers down the left side; a large tree on the side blocks the green for tee shots hit too far on the right side of the fairway.
“It’s a stellar hole, especially if the wind is blowing,’’ said Director of Golf Brian Boeling.
As is the 456-yard, par-four, 13th hole, which has a creek running across the fairway that is reachable off the tee, and a narrow, kidney-shaped green that’s difficult to see from the fairway.
No. 13, Boeling said, “is a beast.’’
But as with all of Lake Blackshear Resort, there is more beauty than beast. That’s what makes it a great resort experience.