The Atlanta Memorial Park Conservancy’s proposed renovation of Bobby Jones Golf Course, to the right in this illustration, would reduce it to nine holes from 18 holes.
The Atlanta Memorial Park Conservancy’s proposed renovation of Bobby Jones Golf Course, to the right in this illustration, would reduce it to nine holes from 18 holes.

This morning, The Georgia Trust released its 2016 Places in Peril list, which included the Bobby Jones Golf Course at Atlanta Memorial Park in Buckhead. The Atlanta Memorial Park Conservancy has released a statement stating it does not agree with the intent of the designation. You can read AMPC’s  statement below:

While the Atlanta Memorial Park Conservancy (AMPC) appreciates The Georgia Trust for bringing attention to the declining condition of the golf course and clubhouse and agrees both are in peril and in need of renovation, it does not agree with the intent of the designation made by the applicant, the Friends of Bobby Jones Golf Course (FoBJGC), who wish “to generate sufficient public opposition so as to deter the Atlanta Park and Recreation Commissioner from altering the original 18 hole layout or making any other use of the Clubhouse” according to the application submitted by FoBJGC President, Tony Smith.

Bobby Jones Golf Course and its clubhouse are part of Atlanta Memorial Park, the City’s third largest regional park. The Park and the golf course face a challenging future if steps are not taken to make long-term, sustainable improvements. “Addressing the environmental and safety issues is a critical need. Sewage overflows last week are proof of that” said Ms. Spillman, AMPC Executive Director. “We want to see a park and golf course that is safe, and that offers recreational opportunities and world class facilities accessible to a broad demographic for all citizens to enjoy.”

Accordingly, AMPC’s draft Master Plan, currently under review with the City of Atlanta, recommends necessary improvements to address connectivity, safety and environmental issues, which are the appropriate course of action versus a do nothing approach. “Under that lens, The Georgia Trust’s recognition brings attention to the neglect and lack of necessary maintenance of this important natural resource” according to Ms. Spillman.

AMPC’s draft Master Plan process was a community effort with input from top experts in the field including landscape design firm Hughes, Good, O’Leary and Ryan, a world-renowned golf course designer (Bob Cupp), and additional professionals and firms specializing in connectivity, environmental/safety aspects, and watershed.

From its inception, preserving the legacy of Robert Tyre “Bobby” Jones, Jr. has been a top priority for AMPC. Dr. Robert T. Jones IV, grandson of Bobby Jones, agrees with AMPC’s recommendations for the renovations to the course and recently shared the following with AMPC:

I know that my grandfather would be delighted to hear of the plans to renovate the Bobby Jones Golf Course. No stranger to change and innovation, Bobby Jones oversaw many changes to his beloved Augusta National Golf Club and even whole-heartedly supported the outright move of his home club, the Atlanta Athletic Club, from East Lake to its present location in Johns Creek. This renovation of Bobby Jones, with its creative design, practice facility, and “wee course,” will help make golf accessible to new generations of golfers and provide a venue that is challenging and enjoyable. The entire Jones family is proud of Atlanta’s commitment to the legacy of our grandfather and we wholly support the efforts of the Conservancy in this matter.

AMPC will continue in its mission to make Atlanta Memorial Park a beautiful, environmentally sensitive and sustainable park, accessible and connected to the neighborhoods and the City, by enhancing the Park, tennis and golf experiences through a collaborative process of renovation, restoration and preservation. AMPC acknowledges The Georgia Trust for recognizing the deteriorating condition of the golf course and clubhouse. Both are deserving of significant capital investment to ensure that the clubhouse is renovated and that the golf course is brought up to current safety standards, incorporating environmental improvements that will ensure the legacy of Bobby Jones is preserved for generations to come.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.

One reply on “Conservancy responds to golf course ‘peril’ designation”

  1. The Atlanta Memorial Park Conservancy makes little or no concession that The Bobby Jones Golf Course and The Bitsy Grant Tennis Center were created and have been maintained to whatever degree the City of Atlanta has devoted energy and resources over the years (which in some years seems to have been quite meager) to preserve this “Sports Specific” park. My response to the heirs of this legacy is that Robert Tyre Jones, the visionary who created The Georgia National Golf Club, home of the world’s most prestigious title The Masters, is that he made no concessions for accommodating other uses, recreational or not. Let it not be lost in rhetoric that the changes that Mr. Jones made in regards to the Masters Course were to improve the facility which has no other raison d’être other than golf. The success of the creation of The Atlanta Athletic Club proved fortuitous for the club members and anticipated the decentralization of the population of The Atlanta Athletic Club’s golf playing patrons. Any Atlantan whose residence is of a certain duration is well aware of the deterioration of the city of Atlanta during years of decline and suburban flight and the fact that the East Lake area became one of the most crime ridden areas in the entire United States. The tenacity of lovers of the legacy of the East Lake Golf Course and the privilege of playing such an historic course thankfully preserved the hallowed grounds and club house of the oldest golf course in Atlanta. And because of the devotion of those members, the course has survived, even thrived to become the home of one of the crown jewels of the PGA tour, The Players Championship of the PGA. What is now called the East Lake Golf Club is a testament of devotion to the sport of golf. Had the East Lake Golf Club leaders not purchased the facility years ago, it is more than doubtful that the grounds could even be accumulated at the current time, nor for a price now that would make it even feasible. There, in itself, is a great lesson to be learned as applicable to the grounds of the Bobby Jones Golf Course. There is no real estate “comparable” in Atlanta. With the new vitality of development and the desire of people to live in town once again, Bobby Jones Golf Course is poised to experience new vigor and increased patronage, especially if the course is improved not reduced. With the creation of Top Golf, a driving range and golfing experience only a short distance from Bobby Jones Golf Course, the current proposals are not realizing the growth potential from golf enthusiasts who want to play the sport not just hit practice balls. There is no way that the City of Atlanta’s Bobby Jones Golf Course can compete with the luxury experience offered by Top Golf but a real golf experience is something that Bobby Jones Golf Course can offer that Top Golf can not.

    The reaction of The Memorial Park Conservancy to the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation’s vigilance to prevent the denigration of the golf course is disappointing to say the least and alarming to say the most. The time for zeal is now, not when the damaging changes are done, irreversible, and the golf course is no longer viable resulting from the “well thought out proposals.” I find it disingenuous for the AMPC to espouse such a thing as, and I quote, “enhancing golf experiences” by their proposed changes to reduce the golf course.

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