By Joe Earle
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed told a standing-room-only Buckhead crowd that a plan to transfer the Bobby Jones Golf Course to the state would bring $25 million in improvements to create a “best in class” course and improve the care it will receive in the future.
“This is not a back-door attempt to bring in new development into the Buckhead community,” Reed said. “It’s an effort to significantly enhance an asset we have in Buckhead.”
During the two-hour-plus meeting at E. Rivers Elementary School on June 3, Reed said state officials want to turn the 18-hole city-owned course into a reversible nine-hole course, add a driving range and other practice facilities.
The state also would add a “Golf House” that would include a golf hall of fame museum and offices for several golf organizations, said Chuck Palmer, chairman of the Bobby Jones Gold Course Foundation and chair of the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame committee. The course would remain public and the complex would be used to promote youth golf and as a home for the Georgia State University golf team, said Georgia State golf coach Joe Inman.
“This is going to be a golf course forever,” Reed said. “This golf course is going to be maintained in a way the city never could. I think when we get to the other side of this, we’re going to have something that will be a real jewel for the community.”
City officials plan to trade the golf course to the state for property near Underground Atlanta that the city needs to complete its sale of Underground for redevelopment for housing and shops. Reed likened the transfer to the decision to move the Cyclorama painting from Grant Park to the Atlanta History Center.
The Atlanta City Council is scheduled to take up the proposal on Monday, June 6.
Many among the more than 175 residents and golfers who attended the meeting didn’t seem convinced that the trade would be good for their neighborhoods.
“If the state gets control of this golf course, who knows what’s going to happen?” resident John Whitney asked.
Resident Roger Moister said the proposal seemed to benefit college golfers and not local residents. “We want to leave the golf course 18 holes, save the trees, preserve the green space,” he said. “That’s what our residents want.”
Moister also said the proposed deal was moving too fast and with too little public scrutiny. “The state has the city over a barrel on this,” he said. “Somehow, I think the city is being bullied or blackmailed by the state in order to get this golf course.”
Reed said the state takeover first was discussed nearly a year ago.
A number of golfers at the meeting objected to plans to redesign the course as a nine-hole course. But Reed and heads of golf groups supporting the change said the current course wasn’t safe to play. “We would love as much as anyone to keep 18 holes,” Inman said. “It just can’t be done [here].”
At the same time, Palmer and Inman said, the practice facilities will make the Bobby Jones a center for teaching golf to young players.
Reed said that during the meeting, he answered about 100 questions from 48 individuals. He said he believed that transferring the course to state control was “the path I think we should go down.”
“I never thought I’d be in a position politically that folks would be saying they’d rather have an asset in the hands of the city than the state,” Reed said.