Published on April 28th, 2015 |1
Bobby Jones Golf Course future dominates Atlanta Memorial Park meeting
But the more than 150 south Buckhead residents and golfers from around metro Atlanta who attended the Monday evening meeting at the golf clubhouse seemed narrowly focused on one thing: plans to make changes to the landmark Bobby Jones Golf Course—for and against.
The one-page handout from the city of Atlanta’s Department of Parks & Recreation encouraged those at the meeting to provide them with “input, comments, suggestions & thoughts in regards to Atlanta Memorial Park as a whole.”
The city representatives present, including Parks & Recreation Commissioner Amy Phuong got an earful from those attending as well as an eyeful from post-it notes left on boards for them. But most of it dealt with just one part of the park, the golf course.
City officials said this meeting was called to start a public discussion about what to do with the park. They said more meetings will be held to narrow down and plan future park improvements. The next meeting may be held about June 1, they announced.
City officials told the overflow crowd they would not give a formal presentation, but instead asked residents to write comments on notes and stick them to comment boards. The notes said everything from “Keep as is” to asking for “Pool. Connectivity. Fix flooding.”
Some, who expected to hear a discussion of the pros and cons of the proposals for changes in the park, were not happy about the meeting format. Resident Brenda Smith told BuckheadView, “How rude to treat people this way. And they want to take over an Atlanta treasure.”
Opinions were strongly divided on what city officials should do with the golf course named for Atlanta golfing legend Bobby Jones. Conservancy members have felt the golf course is not up to par with the Bobby Jones name and needs major improvements.
The Atlanta Memorial Park Conservancy has proposed a park improvement plan that calls for either rebuilding the golf course as a shorter 18-hole course or as a reversible nine-hole course with a driving range, which would allow golfers the option of playing nine or 18 holes of golf.
In both cases, the object of the changes would be to improve the quality of the golf course.
On the other side of the issue, many of those attending the meeting are members of the Friends of Bobby Jones Golf Course, an 80-plus years old organization that object to any changes to the historic course….just improve the quality of what is there now.
That group claims 95-98 percent of golfers who play the course are opposed to the proposed changes, according to member Doug Balch. And, they had a four-page handout at the meeting, which was a letter that had been sent to Parks Commissioner Amy Phuong on April 23.
“We’ve got 1,000 signatures on petitions from golfers who play here,” Friends of Bobby Jones Golf Course member Walt Lambeth told BuckheadView. “We don’t want either the nine holes or shortened 18 holes.”
But other golfers disagreed, saying the course needed extensive improvements and better upkeep.
On person who has a home that is virtually adjacent to the golf course and tennis center told BuckheadView that most complaints about the golf course in the past is that too many of the golf holes are on low, flat land, making them less interesting. So he questioned why the nine-hole golf course configuration has the driving range taking up the hilly part of the course, instead of the flat areas.
BuckheadView took that question right to the golf course architect, Bob Cupp, who has been working pro-bono for the Memorial Park Conservancy on the golf course’s design. He said the driving range in the low, flat area of the property “would be useless.
Cupp said the major reasons for having golfing facilities: one would be the pure enjoyment of the golfing experience and the second is that it be economically viable. “If you don’t have economic value, you don’t have anything,” Cupp added.
Cupp said the driving range would be a separate revenue source. It would not have lights or nets, but he said it would have a lot of room for youngsters who are just beginning to play golf to practice.
Cupp worked on both plans for the Conservancy over the past couple of years and has traveled around with Conservancy members explaining the concepts of both a shorter 18-hole course (with improvements) and the nine-hone reversible course, which provides for 18-hole play.
He seems to favor the nine-hole reversible course design because he contends the course can be better designed to be more competitive for golfers of all
play levels—from aging golfers who may just want to play nine holes and enjoy their high handicap game, to young, long-hitting golfers who want a greater challenge.
Cupp told BuckheadView, it is very common for the golfing regulars at a course not to want changes made. He said they are comfortable with the course the way it is and they realize their golfing will be disrupted for some time if changes are being made to the course.
He recalled one instance during the 16 years he designed courses with Jack Nicklaus, when an older club member asked the two how long it was going to take to make the changes to his course. When he was told the answer, the man told Cupp and Nicklaus, “I may not be around that long.”
One golfer who drove a distance just to find out what was being proposed for the golf course was Sandy Springs City Councilman John Paulson, who told BuckheadView he often drives down to play the Bobby Jones Golf Course teeing off at 6:30 a.m.
“Playing at that time, I can be finished with 18 holes in three and a half hours,” Paulson said.
And, he said he enjoys playing the course. He must, since the council district he represents (and where he lives) is in the northeast corner of Sandy Springs, a long way from south Buckhead.
He was there primarily to learn what was being considered in terms of golf course changes. Most of the others at the meeting had already drawn their
lines in the sand on one side or the other of making changes to the course—either a shorter 18 holes or a reversible nine holes.
Alvin Dodson, director of Atlanta’s Office of Park Design who is no stranger to meetings with residents in Buckhead, opened the Monday evening meeting and told BuckheadView, he seems to always end up in the middle of controversial situations.
Some of those had to do with flooding from Peachtree and Tanyard creeks in Atlanta Memorial Park in past years. However, that is one of the issues the Conservancy’s plans hopes to rectify for the future that did not get a tremendous amount of air time Monday night. Maybe next time.