Golf Life: Bobby Jones GC gets full-scale reinvention

Bobby Jones Golf Club

Golf Life: Bobby Jones GC gets full-scale reinvention

Digital Edition

Golf Life: Bobby Jones GC gets full-scale reinvention

In 1932, Augusta National Golf Club opened for play. It was designed by Alister MacKenzie and Bobby Jones, and became home to the Masters and famous for its pristine conditions.

That same year, 150 miles to the east, Bobby Jones Golf Course opened in downtown Atlanta. Aside from the year it opened and the fact Jones loaned his name to the course, it had little in common with Augusta National.
Shoehorned into a site just east of Northside Drive and south of Woodward Way, Bobby Jones Golf Course was the city’s first public course. In recent decades, it had fallen into disrepair.

Marty Elgison , the Jones family attorney, said he had been driving past the course for years “and commiserating about the fact that it had been so horrible.”

When he retired in 2011, he decided to do something about it. Elgison is the president and co-founder of the Bobby Jones Golf Course Foundation, which is redeveloping the site as a nine-hole reversible course. It also will have a new short course and practice range, neither of which previously existed. Plans call for the course to open in late 2018.

$18 million raised for project

Chuck Palmer , chairman of the foundation and a law partner at Troutman Sanders, said the foundation operates the course under a 50-year lease from the state that went into effect Nov. 1, 2016. He said the foundation raised more than $18 million for the project and began construction in November 2017.

“There has been a tremendous amount of interest, frankly for the same reasons that Marty and I are interested in this project,” Palmer said. “The Bobby Jones name is just a magical name and it means something here in Atlanta. This is his native city, and the only thing that has his name on it is something that did not match up to his standards or befit the name on the golf course.”

Architect Bob Cupp did all of the design work for free, but died in August 2016 before construction got underway. Cupp’s son, Bobby, who rejoined his father’s firm in 2014, has taken on the task of finishing the project.
Bobby Cupp said his father initially studied whether he could rebuild an 18-hole course on the site. But the course, which was less than 6,000 yards, hadn’t kept pace with the modern game, and its parallel holes were regarded as safety hazards.

“You really had to keep your head on a swivel out there,” Elgison said. “It was not only in poor condition and obsolete, it was extremely dangerous.”
Bob Cupp concluded there wasn’t enough land to build an 18-hole course. But he reasoned he could build a nine-hole course and still have room to create a practice range and kids course.

From the outset, Cupp’s goal was create an environment welcoming to children. In a memo written six weeks before he died, Cupp recalled a short course he did a quarter century earlier at Golf House Tennessee.

‘To be 11 – again”

Cupp began the memo with these words: “25 years ago, when I was 51, I learned how to be 11 – again.”

Jack Lupton, who built The Honors Course in Tennessee, had asked Cupp to build a “Wee Links” for kids at Golf House Tennessee. He recalled Lupton telling him, “You can’t work on this course until you are 11 again.”
Cupp imagined creating holes much as he did when he was a child chipping balls near his house. The “golf holes” he imagined, for example, might play over or under tree branches in his backyard.

The Wee Links at Bobby Jones Golf Course – since renamed Cupp Links in the architect’s honor – will be a six-hole course with holes of less than 100 yards, Bobby Cupp said.

“The goal of it is that you can just drop a ball,” he said. “Aside from being a good place for kids to learn the game, it’s also a good place to practice your short game.”

The entire project focuses heavily on youth and adaptive golf. This, in part, reflects Jones’ life story.

“Bob Jones was a junior golf prodigy . . . and also spent the last years of his life in a wheelchair,” Palmer noted.

But Cupp’s nine-hole reversible design can accommodate players of all skill levels. Played in one direction, it will measure anywhere from 1,591 to 3,668 yards; played in the opposite direction, it is 1,573 to 3,681 yards. The reversible nines will be called Magnolia and Azalea, Elgison said.

More than just a Golf House

The course will employ the Longleaf Tee System, with eight sets of gender-neutral tees. That system was developed by Dan Van Horn , founder of U.S. Kids Golf, which is based in Atlanta.

Each hole has a double green with two flags; Elgison said greens will be as large as 12,000 square feet.

“When you play the same loop twice, you can play from a different tee to a different pin,” Elgison said. “There’s almost an infinite number of courses you can play, with combinations of tees and greens to suit your game.”
Bobby Jones Golf Course will become the home for the Georgia State University golf program.

One end of the practice range and a short-game area will be reserved for the men’s and women’s team.

The Georgia Golf House, which will be roughly 20,000 square feet, will house the pro shop and the 10th Hole Bar and Grille – another nod to Jones because the 10th hole at the Old Course in St. Andrews, Scotland, is named for him.

Beyond that, the Golf House will become a hub for golf in the state. It will house the Georgia State Golf Association, the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame and the Georgia Section of the PGA.

Part of the project involves relocating the neighboring Bitsy Grant Tennis Center , which currently has 10 courts. A multi-level parking facility is being built, and the top floor will have six tennis courts. Six more courts will be located adjacent to the parking structure.

The tennis facility is scheduled to open in July, after which the existing courts will be torn up to make way for the ninth green of the golf course. Gwk

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