If you’re building a top-of-the-line sporting clays course, having a blank canvas of eight hundred largely untouched acres of Georgia pine forest is already an almost unfair advantage. Add the expertise of the British-born clays course designer Justin Jones—a former Olympic shooter, who transformed the sporting facilities at Scotland’s iconic Gleneagles and the West Virginia grand dame, the Greenbrier—and the new Reynolds Lake Oconee Sandy Creek sporting grounds are an outdoorsman’s dream. The compound, once the private playground of the Reynolds family, occupies 125 acres of the sprawling Georgia spread. Open to hotel guests beginning last week, the grounds include a twenty-station sporting clays course over a one-mile loop, a stunning five-stand set-up, a private instructional area, kayak and canoe rentals for catch-and-release fishing on the forty-acre lake, an archery field, air rifles, and an outfitters.
The project came together quickly. “I started the design in the summer of 2017,” Jones says. “Within three months, we had it built.” But don’t mistake speed for skimping. Jones, who has worked with members of the British Royal family, including Prince Charles, knows a thing or two about luxury shooting experiences, and he’s woven British notes throughout the experience. The clays course has six signature stands, including two with grouse butts (low-lying stone walls traditionally covered with moss and heather) built by local stone masons. On August 12, Jones and team plan to introduce a fifty-clays Glorious 12th tournament, celebrating the opening day of red grouse season in the United Kingdom. They will also begin hosting Holland & Holland shooting clinics later this year. And there is a Scottish bothy in the works. A bothy is a simple rustic building—the shooting equivalent to a golfer’s halfway house—that provides a place for rest and refreshment, or refuge in the event of inclement weather. “It was important to us that the grounds be a little bit grand. We wanted the best,” Jones says.
On a typical day at Reynolds, guests will be outfitted with Berettas, a shooting vest, cartridges, and a guide. Novices and pros alike are welcome. More advanced shooters should feel free to bring their own shotguns. Your guide will take you to the instruction area to warm up with a few flurries or to lay down the basics for newbies before tackling the clays course, which takes a little over two hours to complete. Wrap up the day some friendly competition at the five-stand, housed inside a cabin overlooking one of the property’s spring-fed ponds. There’s even a fireplace, and on winter afternoons you’ll find it blazing.