The new Bobby Jones Golf Course is now officially under construction. It is a combination of years of perseverance, collaboration and outside-the-box thinking, all designed to create a new facility worthy of its namesake, the greatest amateur golfer in the sport’s history.
The course closed on Oct. 31 and crews got to work the next day. The boundaries for a below-ground parking deck that will serve the golf course and the adjoining Bitsy Grant Tennis Center have been marked. Crews have spray painted the utility lines. It won’t be long before the ground movers come along and start the shaping process.
“It’s going to be a 100-percent new golf course,” said Marty Elgison, president of the non-profit Bobby Jones Golf Course Foundation. “Not a blade of grass, not a green, not a tee will remain from the current course. It’s all going to be new.”
When the new course opens next Fall, it will feature an innovative nine-hole reversible layout, a practice ground with 40 stations, and a par-3 course ideal for beginners or youngsters.
A below-ground 280-space parking garage will have 140 spaces designated for golfers – good news for those accustomed to parking along Woodward Way — and 140 for tennis players, who will have access to 12 new courts incorporated in the design.
The course will open with a trailer serving as the temporary pro shop, but the Foundation will build a facility known as “Golf House,” that will serve as headquarters for the Georgia State Golf Association, the Georgia PGA and the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame. The Georgia State golf team will use the practice facilities during its fall and spring seasons.
The Bobby Jones Golf Course Foundation raised $17.5 million to complete the first phase. The group needs another $5 million to fund Golf House. The Foundation signed a 50-year lease with the Georgia Building Authority to operate the facility.
“I’ve lived in the neighborhood for 35 years and I’ve driven past the course for years and said that one day this golf course would be worthy of the name Bobby Jones,” said Elgison, a retired Alston and Bird attorney who spearheaded the effort. “It only took 25 years.”
The project got a huge boost when Georgia Golf Hall of Fame member Bob Cupp agreed to do the design work on a pro-bono basis. Cupp, known for notable courses like Pumpkin Ridge, Liberty National and Hawk’s Ridge, was originally asked to study the existing layout and see what could be done to improve it and add a driving range.
“Bob came back to us and said there was no amount of money you could spend on this golf course to make it safe and good,” Elgison said. “There were too many problems, too much earth to be moved. He said for the money, you might as well blow it up and build a new course.”
Cupp concluded there were two options for the 128-acre parcel of land: build a short 5,400-yard executive course or build a nice nine-hole course and driving range. They agreed to go with the nine-hole design.
Cupp later came back with a new wrinkle: a reversible layout with large double greens. The Red Course will be played in a clockwise direction, the Blue Course will play counter-clockwise. Each hole will have multiple tees and each green will have two pin placements, meaning golfers won’t simply play the same layout twice during an 18-hole round.
The design was the final project completed by Cupp before he died of pancreatic cancer in 2016. The mini-course was named “Cupp Links” in his honor.