Scores of golfers and neighbors of the Bobby Jones Golf Course packed its clubhouse on April 27 to discuss changes proposed for the course.
Opinions expressed during the gathering varied widely on what city officials should do with the 82-year-old Buckhead landmark named for the Atlanta golfing legend.
“When you look at the history of this course, it’s a storied history,” said Herb McKoy of the Friends of Bobby Jones Golf Course Inc., which supports the course. “To destroy this course…”
That’s what some golfers say they fear could happen to the city-owned course. The Atlanta Memorial Park Conservancy has proposed a park improvement plan that calls for improvements to the golf course, the Bitsy Grant Tennis Center and other parts of the park.
The conservancy’s draft master plan calls for rebuilding the golf course either as a shorter 18-hole course or a nine-hole, reversible course with a driving range.
City officials said they called the April 27 meeting to start a public discussion over what to do with the park. They say the park conservancy presented them with its proposal, and that a number of meetings will be held to discuss the proposal and to plan future park improvements. The next meeting will be held about June 1, they said.
Some regulars at the Bobby Jones course said they opposed both the 18-hole and nine-hole designs for the course.
Walt Lambeth, along with McKoy and several other golfers, signed a letter to city Parks Commissioner Amy Phuong calling for better maintenance of the existing course. “Under either of the conservancy ‘alternative’ proposals, the salient result is to strip away roughly 20 to 25 percent of the golf course’s existing acreage and to eliminate the historic clubhouse…,” the letter said. “Under either proposal, the resulting new course would be squeezed into the flood plain, giving up the more desirable higher ground it now occupies along Northside Drive…”
The course, Lambeth and others said in the letter, is “a diamond in the rough.”
But some golfers found the proposed changes appealing. Oscar Person, who described himself as an average golfer and said he lives nearby, said he welcomed efforts to improve the course. “I think it’s good for all the change being proposed,” he said. “I’m excited.”
And Rob Scheiman, who plays golf regularly, said the Bobby Jones course needs major improvements to attract serious golfers. “When it rains, it’s sewage,” he said. “I’ve lost pants, socks. I’ve lost a golf bag. I lost a rain jacket. I had to throw it away. I couldn’t get the stench out.”
The location of the course makes it attractive, he said. “With this location, they should be able to charge $100 a round and have 1,000 people waiting to play,” he said.
Some neighbors said they’d like to see other amenities in the park. “A lot of my neighbors want a pool,” Leslie Joseph said.
City parks officials told the overflow crowd on April 27 that they decided not to give a formal presentation to the group during the meeting, but instead to ask residents to write their comments on Post-It Notes and stick them to comment boards.
The decision not to debate any proposals as a group angered some at the meeting, who had expected to hear the pros and cons of various changes suggested for the park. “This is a terrible meeting,” said resident Elizabeth Morgan Spiegel, who was worried the park improvement plans could allow new development in the area. “They did not give us anything. I think they should have at least explained the things they want.”
City officials said using Post-It Notes would allow more people to comment. The comment boards quickly filled with brightly colored notes expressing a wide range of thoughts.
The notes said everything from “Keep as is” to “pool. connectivity. fix flooding.” to “In 1962, a man jumped naked into a cactus plant. That was stupid. This is more stupid.”
George Tasioudis, who held up a trophy showing he was a former course champion, and Chris Kene said that last note was theirs. “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it,” she said.
Across the room, Peggy Rogers looked over the conservancy’s plans and tried to figure out what she thought of them. She often jogs through the park, she said. “I’m trying to figure out what problem they’re trying to solve,” she said. “We have a very nice course now…
“I’m still on the fence.”