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Published on January 12th, 2014 |

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Conservancy shows graphic Memorial Park concepts for changes to golf course, tennis center & park areas

Almost two years after representatives of the Atlanta Memorial Park Conservancy first appeared before the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods with a kernel of an idea to develop a master plan for the 190-acre Atlanta Memorial Park, they returned Jan. 9 with real graphic concepts for significant changes.
Atlanta Memorial Park Conservancy President Roxanne Giles Smith shows
the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods the extent of the area involved
in the Master Plan her organization has prepared for the Buckhead park.

Those attending the BCN meeting at Peachtree Presbyterian Church received a 30-minute preview of what the conservancy will formally present to the general public Jan. 16, from 6-8 p.m., at the Bobby Jones Golf Course clubhouse, 384 Woodward Way in south Buckhead.

The 190 acres of Atlanta Memorial Park encompasses the 128-acre Bobby Jones Golf Course, the Bitsy Grant Tennis Center and what most Atlantans only think of as Memorial Park—that passive park area along Peachtree Creek and Woodward Way west of Northside Drive.

The Memorial Park Master Plan encompasses the Bobby
Jones Golf Course, Bitsy Grant Tennis Center (both on the
right side of Northside Drive) and the passive park on the
west side of Northside Drive along Peachtree Creek.

The concept for the master plan leaves no stone unturned. It encompasses and makes changes to almost every square foot of that 190 acres—the passive park west of Northside Drive, the golf course and the tennis center and it adds PATH Foundation trails to connect the neighborhoods.

The Conservancy was formed originally as the Bobby Jones Golf Course and Park Conservancy by six surrounding neighborhoods—Peachtree Battle Alliance, Collier Hills North, Collier Hills, Memorial Park, Springlake and Channing Valley.

Conservancy President Roxanne Giles Smith said the draft plan was developed with input from the six neighborhoods surrounding the park and other concerned stakeholders and was drawn up by Bob Hughes, president of HGOR planning and design firm, along with Atlanta-based golf course architect Bob Cupp.

The present clubhouse for Bobby Jones Golf Course. 

The Master Plan idea was hatched in 2011 by a group that was standing in the present golf course clubhouse on Woodward Way. “This building is not going to survive much longer if we don’t do something about it,’” Smith said group agreed.

That initial thought of restoring the clubhouse to its former architectural grandeur has led to something far more encompassing and the present clubhouse would find a new use under the new master plan—a neighborhood center with possibly a swimming pool and at least a splash pond.

The most significant of the proposed physical changes involve the Bobby Jones Golf Course and the Bitsy Grant Tennis Center.

Marty Elgison explains the new entrance to the Bitsy Grant Tennis Center,
which would also serve as the new entrance to the golf course clubhouse
and to the new 400-space underground parking deck for both facilities.

They include moving the present entrance into the tennis center from its present location north to line up with where McKinley Wilson Road intersects with Northside Drive. The new entrance, with a traffic signal, would service both the Bitsy Grant Tennis Center and a new clubhouse and entrance for the Bobby Jones Golf Course.

A two-story underground parking garage for 400 cars would be constructed that would serve both the tennis and golf facilities and would have six new tennis courts on top of it, which would allow the opportunity to get some of the Bitsy Grant tennis courts out of the floodplain.

The master plan also calls for improving the connectivity of trails around and through the total park area and relocating active green spaces to areas outside of the park’s floodplain, the Conservancy president explained.

Marty Elgison explains the two options for Bobby Jones Golf Course:
the renovated 18-hole course, at right, and a “reversible” 9-hole option,
at left, which includes a 45-station driving range . 

The conservancy also has two options for renovating the golf course, explained Vice President Marty Elgison. One option is for an improved an 18-hole course with short fairways or a nine-hole “reversible” course with regulation fairways and a choice of hole distances and including a practice area.

The 18-hole version has a returning 9th hole, which the present course does not have, would be safer than the present course but would only be about a 5,500 yard golf course, which is fairly short.

The graphic above shows the proposed 9-hole option for the golf course,
with the driving range to the left, the new golf clubhouse and maintenance
facilities shown in red near the driving range. The present golf course
clubhouse is the red rectangle shown at middle right of the graphic. 

The nine-hole version includes a driving range with 45 stations that would be built on the high ground near Northside Drive and the new entrance to the course. The first nine holes would play counter-clockwise from the first tee and the return course would play clockwise back. Each nine would be 3,500-3,600 yards in length—creating a championship style nine-hole course. 

“They’re both a huge improvement over what we have today, which is an asset that is highly underutilized in a spectacular part of our city,” Elgison said of the golf course that has not been updated in 80 years. He said both are designed to be very walkable.

Cupp, a renowned golf course architect who has worked with the Conservancy pro-bono, first presented the two preliminary golf course concepts during the conservancy’s initial presentation to the BCN on Feb. 9, 2012. (To read BuckheadView’s 2012 story, click here.)

Cupp, who was not present at the Jan. 9 meeting, had earlier told the BCN of his strong support for good public golf courses and their bright future. These golf courses are truly viable … The game is about fun,” Cupp had said. “It is not about cigars, $500 drivers, golf carts or thumping on one’s chest.”

Robert “Bob” Cupp
But Cupp also had said during the meeting two years ago, “The golf course has grown old. The golf course could be in a lot better condition than it is right now.” He said he didn’t think many golfers would object to changes to the course. “If the course had grass and the holes were fun to play, they’d be happy campers.”

Eglison, who has represented the descendants of Bobby Jones for many years, said the Conservancy seeks to create an experience memorable for fine golf shots and challenging holes rather than bad sand traps and bare greens that cause putts to do strange things.

“It ought to be worthy of Bobby Jones’ name,” Egilson told the BCN at both meetings.

 “There’s an emotional feeling that the course should stay 18 holes,” Elgison said, “but there is also demand for a driving range since the closest one is more than 10 miles away. Both camps have been very vocal about the design of the course, but it’s evenly split on whether it should become nine or remain 18.”

Roxanne Giles Smith

If the nine-hole course is chosen, golfers would play the first nine holes, then would turn around and play the course in reverse. The design would allow for a different experience playing in each direction, Elgison said. He added that demand for the driving range would generate new revenue for the golf course.

An informal poll of the attendees at the BCN meeting showed the majority preferred the nine-hole course. Elgison said the decision about the golf course does not have to be finalized anytime soon.

Robert  Hughes
The goals of the Conservancy also include restoring Peachtree and Tanyard creeks by re-establishing the natural stream bank, a walking path completely around the property—adding to the current Tanyard Creek PATH Foundation trail, which is part of the BeltLine program—and improving the Memorial Park green spaces.


Smith said the work will be done in phases over several years—possibly 10—and would begin with the upgrades to the passive part of Memorial Park on the west side
of Northside Drive where the playgrounds and passive greenspace is located, there’s also a plan to add more greenery, move play areas out of the floodplain and install new walking trails.

“We can start with the greenspace in phase one, which is going to be the least expensive and the least invasive,” she said.

The graphic above shows the Conservancy’s concept for the new bridge
on Northside Drive over Peachtree Creek (looking east), with a car passage
and pedestrian passage under the bridge at left and a pedestrian passage
under the bridge at right. Below that it shows the segment above. 

Smith also said the Georgia Department of Transportation has announced accelerated plans to replace and raise the Northside Drive bridge over Peachtree Creek in the next three years.

She said the conservancy has requested that the raising of the bridge become part of the park plan and that GDOT consider continuing Woodward Way under the bridge or at least providing walkways under the bridge on both sides of the creek. 


The conservancy is estimating the overall project will cost between $10 million and $15 million. The original cost estimate had been $22 million. She emphasized the drawings being show are all concepts at this time. There is a lot of work to be done and city approvals to be obtained.

“It’s going to be a private-public partnership,” Smith said. “We will go after every federal, state and municipal dollar we can find and then we will go to foundations and fundraisers.” She said the conservancy will launch a capital campaign this month.

For more about the conservancy, visit atlmemorialpark.org.

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