A 60-day experiment in partly opening Buckhead’s North Fulton Golf Course to roaming visitors of the surrounding Chastain Park is underway, with a public input session coming in mid-July to help determine whether it will become permanent.

As the coronavirus pandemic forced the closure of various city amenities, the golf course became a popular spot for visitors to hang out, with many picnicking and tossing balls on the shuttered greens.

Chastain Park visitors enjoy the golf course on April 18, during the pandemic closures (File)

On June 15, the city-run golf course resumed operations, except on Tuesdays, which remain reserved for public use of the property. It’s an experiment “to see how we can share,” said City Councilmember J.P. Matzkigkeit, whose District 8 includes the park and who is a co-founder of the Chastain Park Conservancy.

“We’ll see how that goes,” Matzigkeit said. The Atlanta Department of Parks and Recreation will begin a “dialogue with the public” this month for feedback, he said.

Matzigkeit said that during the impromptu open use in the early weeks of the pandemic, there were no issues with damage to the course, though some instances of “people misbehaving.” Those who roamed the course were “discovering something amazing, and it truly is amazing,” he said.

He noted the golf course remains one of the most popular in the city and country, with more than 50,000 rounds a year played.

Matzigkeit said that open use of the course was among several alternative uses of park facilities that were discussed well before the pandemic. “There are always envious people,” he said, and added that the idea of opening the golf course was long moot because it was operated by a private company under contract until late 2016.

“That conversation can [now] occur and COVID just sort of brought it out into the open and really, really put it front and center,” said Matzigkeit.

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.