It’s the start of a new era for the iconic Bobby Jones Golf Course, which is part of Buckhead’s 128-acre Memorial Park. The golf course was built in 1932 in honor of the late Bobby Jones Jr., an Atlanta native and arguably one of the sport’s most influential players. The course closed in late October in preparation for an ambitious and groundbreaking renovation that began this month after the Bobby Jones Golf Course Foundation inked a 50-year lease with the Georgia Building Authority. The revamped course will include a reversible, 9-hole championship course, a new driving range, a new restaurant, a pro shop, as well as tennis courts atop a new parking deck. To date, the Foundation has raised $17.5 million (with plans to bring in an additional $6 million) from individual and corporate sponsors (including Cox and Southern Company) to kickstart its bold vision for a state-of-the-art golf complex and community right in the heart of Buckhead. The most immediate impact will be found in the adjacent neighborhoods of Collier Hills, Springlake, Haynes Manor and the neighborhood of Memorial Park.
Ben Hirsh sat down with Marty Elgison, Foundation President and longtime attorney for the Jones family, for more details about this revamp:
“It’s not a renovation in the classic sense—it’s really an all-new golf course. I started all this almost 7 years ago when it was still part of Atlanta Memorial Park. As the Jones’ family attorney, my job is to make sure everything with the Bobby Jones name is up to a very high standard and this clearly hasn’t met the standard. I moved here in 1981 and have lived within 2 miles of this course that whole time; I’m on my seventh house in the neighborhood, and I love the area. When I retired in 2011, I thought, ‘I’m going to get this course renovated’—and the original idea was just that—to keep the clubhouse and renovate it. Bob Cupp, a world-renowned architect who lived in Brookhaven volunteered his services and said: ‘Marty, there’s no amount of money you could pay to renovate this—it’s too bad and too dangerous, and for all the money you would need fix it, you could build a new golf course. Six years and $17.5 million later, the plans are ready and under construction.
Bob knew how to solve existing problems. He decided to build a parking garage and move some current tennis courts in the floodplain to the top of the parking deck and focused on a driving range, which there was a really high demand for. Ultimately, we want to make golf more accessible, more fun, and give fans a place to play properly. We also want to grow the game and teach people how to play. For example, we’ve created a Cupp Links designed specifically for juniors—they’re 50-100 yard holes for young folks as well as guys who play on prosthetics or need an adaptive golf environment.
You know how great Chastain Park is? This is going to be better. And our donors are so excited this will bring our neighborhoods together, whether by Northside Drive, or all these creeks. There’s currently a lack of that—you don’t see your neighbors. At Chastain, everyone sees each other—and that’s what this will do.
I’m incredibly proud of this. Bob Cupp took a piece of land that’s not even big enough for an 18-hole course and created that and a driving range and a tennis center – all on land that shouldn’t be big enough for any of those things.”
And it won’t be just the Buckhead community who will get to enjoy Elgison and Cupp’s grand vision, which will be bolstered by a partnership with the City of Atlanta and the PATH Foundation to create family-friendly trails that’ll connect to existing trail structures for more walkability and access. The Georgia State Golf Association and the Georgia Section of the PGA of America partnered with the Foundation to create the “Georgia Golf House,” a new facility that will become the destination for golf in Georgia and home base for the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame and the Atlanta Junior Golf Association. Georgia State University will also move its men and women’s golf teams to the new complex and work with the Foundation to develop an instructional center.
If all goes according to plan, the new course will be open next winter. And Elgison is already thinking about what he’ll do after: “I’d like to go back to retirement!”
Renderings: The Bobby Jones Golf Course Foundation