Atlanta Athletic Club embraces landscape for Riverside renovation

  • Atlanta Athletic Club
    Dave Sansom Photography

    Tripp Davis has completed a renovation of Atlanta Athletic Club’s Riverside course (pictured, the sixteenth)

  • Atlanta Athletic Club
    Dave Sansom Photography

    The architect has worked to tie holes into their natural setting, like here at the par-four thirteenth

  • Atlanta Athletic Club
    Dave Sansom Photography

    Holes three (pictured), four and five were rerouted, becoming a par three, four and five respectively

  • Atlanta Athletic Club
    Dave Sansom Photography

    While on the back nine, there are new holes for the stretch from twelve to fourteen (pictured)

  • Atlanta Athletic Club
    Dave Sansom Phtoography

    Tees (including here at the second) were rebuilt and repositioned

  • Atlanta Athletic Club
    Dave Sansom Photography

    Davis paid particular attention to how greens sit on the land (pictured, the fourth)

Toby Ingleton
By Toby Ingleton

The Atlanta Athletic Club (AAC) in Georgia, USA, has completed a renovation of its Riverside course, ahead of its 125th anniversary in 2023.

Golf course architect Tripp Davis oversaw the project, which had three primary goals: update the course infrastructure to allow for improved playing conditions; accentuate the terrain in a more natural way; and enhance the playing interest and enjoyment for members and high-level players alike.

Work on the course – which has a number of holes alongside the Chattahoochee River – has included the rebuilding and repositioning of tees, greens and bunkers. Reshaping has developed surface and subsurface drainage, and a new state-of-the-art irrigation system was installed. Fairways were sand-capped and replanted with Zorro Zoysia. Rough was replanted with Tiftuf Bermuda or, further from play, seeded with a fescue blend. Tree removal has enhanced vistas across the property.

Davis focused on tying the course into the land in a natural way, from the style of the bunkers and fairway contouring, to how greens sit on the land and tees tie off subtly to surrounding grades. This involved the rerouting holes three to five and twelve to fourteen.

“I wanted the visual perspective the golfer has while playing to be more interesting, which on this site meant getting the ground to flow with and embrace the overall landscape. With the great trees, the rolling land, distinct ridge lines, and the river, it is such a majestic site, and we wanted the golf course to look and feel like it is just a part of that,” said Davis. “Rerouting the holes was a vital part of this.”

To make the course more interesting and enjoyable to play, Davis employed a strategic approach to the placement and shape of tees, bunkers, fairways and greens. Players can choose how aggressive or conservative they want to be and are not forced to play in a prescribed manner.

“Riverside can be set up to be a very enjoyable course for the membership on a daily basis, but we instilled design elements that will allow high-level events to test the best players in the game. We can grow the rough a little, speed up the greens, and use a variety of tougher hole locations to present a complete test,” said Davis.

Davis paid specific attention to how the course would flow for match play, with the first few holes now setting the tone for a match, while the new stretch from twelve to fourteen can be decisive. Changes to eighteen were also geared to make those matches that do go the distance more interesting by encouraging more aggressive play.  

“Tripp has done an excellent job reimagining Riverside by making better use of the land, creating a unique style, and making the course both fun and interesting to play,” said John Stakel, board member and chairman of the Riverside Renovation Committee at Atlanta Athletic Club. “The infrastructure work will allow our Director of Agronomy, Lukus Harvey, to dial in playing conditions, notably allowing the course to play firmer and faster most of the year.”

“Riverside now has a more classic feel and playing quality, like a 1920s-era course that hasn’t been touched, which is exactly what we were trying for,” said Davis. “I am incredibly pleased with how the work turned out. In fact, it is better than I thought it could be. While we certainly tweaked small details, we did not change much from the original basic plan we developed. It all just fit.”

The Riverside course hosted the 1990 US Women’s Open and stroke play rounds for the 2014 US Amateur. The Highlands course at AAC has been the site of the Women’s and Men’s PGA Championships, the US Amateur, Junior Amateur and Mid-Amateur, and the 1976 US Open, won by Jerry Pate. The 2030 US Amateur will be held during the 100th anniversary year of AAC member Bobby Jones winning the Grand Slam.