Catherine Spillman, executive director of the Atlanta Memorial Park Conservancy, stands before a photo of golfing legend Bobby Jones as she discusses proposed changes with the crowd of about 200 gathered at the Bobby Jones Golf Club clubhouse on June 1.

Golfers packed the Buckhead clubhouse of the Bobby Jones Golf Course on June 1 to hear proposals on how best to fix up the venerable city-owned golf course named for an Atlanta golf icon.

The Atlanta Memorial Park Conservancy is proposing that the city reduce the course from 18 to 9 holes as part of a $15 million to $18 million renovation of the portion of the park containing the course.

The conservancy, a nonprofit group that supports the park, proposes to rebuild the golf course as a 9-hole facility, to add a driving range, a parking deck, child-friendly golfing areas and a multi-use trail, and to expand tennis facilities in the park. The park, conservancy executive director Catherine Spillman told the crowd, covers about 200 acres and is the third largest park in the city of Atlanta.

“Our intent the entire time is to create a place that is applicable to as wide a group of people as possible,” Kirk Billings, president of the conservancy told the packed house.

But many in the crowd of about 200 people voiced displeasure with some conservancy proposals, notably the proposed reduction in the length of the course. Several audience members shouted criticism during the conservancy’s presentation.

Anthony Smith of Friends of the Bobby Jones Golf Course said 1,200 people had signed an online petition opposing the conservancy’s plan.

“We think Bobby Jones is not broken,” Smith told the crowd.

Smith presented a counter-proposal calling for improvements to the course, but keeping it 18 holes. He estimated the plan could cost as little as $1.5 million to implement, a tenth of the estimated cost of the conservancy plan.

Smith said the golfers liked some parts of the conservancy plan, such as construction of a multi-use trail around the golf course – “with the emphasis on around,” he said.

Jane Yates, a member of the board of the Friends of Bobby Jones, said she would support some modifications to the course – “It does need upgrades,” she said. — but she thought it should remain an 18-hole course. “I just prefer Bobby Jones as it is now,” she said.

The Atlanta Memorial Park Conservancy’s proposed renovation of Bobby Jones Golf Course would reduce it to nine holes from 18 holes and add a driving range.

Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.