Image 1 – 9 Hole Course Plus Practice Facility Rendering:
Image 2 – Trails and Connectivity Rendering:
Image 3 – (Conceptual) Parking Facility Rendering:
(B – B’) – Conceptual view from Northside Drive looking into the park. This perspective shows the green, landscaped view from the street with the tennis courts in the distance and no parking facility visible from the street.
(A – A’) – Conceptual view from Bitsy Grant Tennis Center looking towards Northside Drive. The exposed view of the parking facility in this cross section demonstrates that 1) the structure is only two stories and 2) the view that neighbors from Overbrook Drive will see is of a green, landscaped slope with tennis courts in the distance.
- – - Black dotted line outlines the actual size of the proposed parking facility.
Preserve, Renovate and Restore:
As the 21st century dawns, the Atlanta Memorial Park Conservancy has adopted a compelling mission for preservation and improvements to be made to Atlanta Memorial Park and its associated sporting areas: The Bobby Jones Golf Course and Clubhouse, and the Bitsy Grant Tennis Center and Clubhouse.
Atlanta’s challenge, as a city that has less than half the park space of comparable metropolitan areas, is not only to increase park space, but also to protect and preserve what it already has. One of the organizations taking this challenge to heart is the Atlanta Memorial Park Conservancy.
The draft Master Plan presented in January of 2014 to the City of Atlanta’s Department of Parks and Recreation endeavors to:
- Rectify drainage issues caused by storm runoff of natural waterways that impact the Park;
- Renovate the Golf Course using current best practices for sustainable, environmentally-friendly course design and maintenance;
- Renovate the Golf Clubhouse to create a more attractive and efficient space for community use;
- Build a new clubhouse that will be in close proximity to the existing Bitsy Grant Tennis Center;
- Support initiatives taking place at the Bitsy Grant Tennis Center as an organic extension of other area improvements;
- Provide a parking solution to consolidate parking for both tennis and golf users, remove cars from residential streets thereby improving safety for pedestrians;
- Improve and enhance connectivity in and around Atlanta Memorial Park.
Golf Course and Tennis Improvements
There are numerous reasons to consider changes to the golf course, some of which are related directly to the golf course and some of which are related to other factors. From the outset, the Conservancy recognized that the golf course is not a stand-alone facility. It is part of, and integrated into, a regional park that also includes an iconic tennis center and a popular park. Two important creeks, Peachtree Creek and Tanyard Creek, run through and heavily impact conditions on the course. Accordingly, the Conservancy considered and studied many factors other than golf course design in developing the final draft Master Plan and proposed renovations.
As for the golf course, it was originally built more than 80 years ago and has never been renovated to modern standards. The course is located on approximately 128 acres, which is extremely limited space for a course—most courses require at least 200 acres. Because of the limited space, the course measures less than 6000 yards—the current score card for the course shows its maximum length at 5,880 yards.
The limited space for the course, coupled with advances in modern golf equipment, has made the course obsolete and dangerous to play. The course does not meet current safety standards with respect to the location of greens and tees and the distances between centerlines of fairways. Moreover, because of the unchecked growth of trees, there are several blind shots that pose safety hazards, particularly with golfers who are unfamiliar with the course. The course also lacks the sustainability benefits that can be attained through advances in agronomy and turf grasses. Although the greens were improved recently, the issues and problems with the design and layout of the course remain.
The Conservancy is fortunate to have on its Advisory Board a world-renowned golf architect, Bob Cupp, who has been advising the Conservancy on a pro bono basis. The Conservancy was aware that many golfers who play at Bobby Jones wanted to retain the current routing of the course, so Mr. Cupp studied the existing course extensively. He concluded that the costs to renovate the current golf course to bring it up to current safety and sustainability standards would be equivalent to or even greater than a complete renovation, but without the same quality of results. It is the opinion of Mr. Cupp that renovating the current golf course as routed would not be an efficient use of private and public funds.
Factors external to the golf course and the recommendations of HGOR, a well-known and highly respected planning firm retained by the Conservancy, also support the Conservancy’s decision. For example, environmental and water management issues played a major role in the Conservancy’s decision-making process. The current course does not help to mitigate flooding of the two creeks that run through the park. The new design for the course will be developed in partnership with the Department of Watershed as well as the Department of Parks and Recreation and will provide opportunities for storm water detention and filtration, thereby helping to mitigate flooding in the sections of the creeks that run through the course as well as downstream.
Both the golf course and the tennis courts suffer from inadequate and unsafe parking facilities, and the proposed redesign and Master Plan developed by HGOR significantly improve parking and safety issues for both golf and tennis. By locating a new, scaled down golf clubhouse close to the Bitsy Grant clubhouse, the proposed Master Plan will create much more efficient conditions for parking and traffic flow. Furthermore, the existing hard courts, which are located in the flood plain and are eroding, can be relocated to the roof of the parking deck, resulting in an additional six courts for tennis players. Once the Conservancy concluded that the proposed Master Plan should include a new clubhouse and parking deck, the decision to build a new course was clear, especially coupled with Mr. Cupp’s recommendation not to renovate the existing course. The Friends of Bitsy Grant have been closely involved in the Conservancy from its inception and enthusiastically support the proposed Master Plan.
Safety issues off the course were also an important factor in the Conservancy’s proposals to build a new course. The 10-foot sidewalks that are being installed on Northside Drive along the golf course will exacerbate the safety issues that already exist on the two holes adjacent to Northside Drive, hole numbers 5 and 6. The Conservancy has been informed that, as a result of the safety concerns, netting will be installed along those holes to protect pedestrian traffic from errant golf shots. The nets will be large and unsightly. The only way to prevent them from being a permanent fixture is to relocate and redesign those holes, which is accomplished in Mr. Cupp’s proposed redesigns.
Last, but not least important, the workshops and other public events demonstrated a strong desire from the community for a driving range and practice facility to be built at Bobby Jones, since there is no public practice facility within 10 miles of the course and many avid golfers and prospective golfers live in the adjacent and surrounding neighborhoods. The existence of numerous public and private schools in close proximity to the course heighten the need for a practice facility where children can learn the game and improve their skills. As well, the children at the Center for Hope at Peachtree Hills would be able to utilize the facility given its close proximity thereby enhancing the youth program at that facility.
Given the limited land available for golf, there is not enough space for a driving range and 18 holes, but there is room for a driving range and nine holes. Because there was strong community support for the Conservancy to consider both options, the Conservancy asked Mr. Cupp to draw up routings for both, which he has done. Renderings of the two options and an overview of the workshops and other public events that helped form the final draft of the Master Plan can be found on the Conservancy website at www.atlmemorialpark.org.
Passive Parkland Improvements
AMPC is moving forward at the request of the Department of Parks and Recreation to make a difference on the passive greenspace west of Northside Drive. The current state of this 37 acre Park reflects decades of public neglect and deterioration: trees are dying, invasive plants are increasing and walking trails around the Park have either eroded or are nonexistent, leaving pedestrians to run and walk on the street with vehicular traffic – a hazardous and dangerous combination. The portion of Peachtree Creek that runs through Memorial Park is an environmental and ecological hazard to wildlife and people and is prone to periodic and damaging flooding and erosion.
With the support of individuals and groups who care about Memorial Park, AMPC will revitalize this area by embarking on the following projects in Phase I:
- Enhance walkability and connectivity;
- Assess, preserve and restore tree canopy;
- Restore native plant communities along Peachtree Creek and the trail system;
- Improve user experience and provide connection to park amenities;
- Address erosion, drainage and flooding issues along the trail system;
- Manage stream restoration and flood mitigation.
For an update on work currently underway for the passive side of the park, please refer to the FAQs page.
AMPC is excited to be working with the PATH Foundation for connectivity enhancements to the east side of Northside Drive. In 2015, a new .3 mile PATH was completed to connect the future 10′ path along Northside Drive to the Tanyard Creek Beltline.