Atlanta’s first public golf course opened in 1932, a tribute to the city’s most famous sportsman, Bobby Jones. The Bobby Jones Golf Course has reopened this month following a year-long renovation. It’s a legacy to Jones, but also to Bob Cupp – as the last design he completed before his death in August 2016.
In a tribute to Bob Cupp, Golf Digest architecture editor Ron Whitten recounts a meeting with the architect in his final months. Atlanta City Council had agreed a land swap with the state of Georgia that meant the project to rebuild the Bobby Jones Golf Course could go ahead: “Bob was positively gleeful,” said Whitten. “His course would get built, even if he weren’t around, as he’d completed a detailed set of plans that his older son, Bobby Jr, an experienced golf architect himself, could use to see the project through to completion.”
Little over two years later and the course has reopened.
The project was spearheaded by a group of local citizens with a passion for the historic golf course. They formed The Bobby Jones Golf Course Foundation and raised US$23 million for a major redevelopment of the course and facilities.
“The foundation is very excited to reintroduce the new Bobby Jones Golf Course to the public in November,” said Marty Elgison, the foundation’s president.
“We are especially thankful to our donors for helping make our vision a reality. We are excited to honour them, Bobby Jones, and Bob Cupp by giving back to the Atlanta and Georgia golf communities.”
Cupp’s legacy is a course that provides public golfers in Atlanta with something special. His design was for a reversible nine-hole course, with the Azalea course played in one direction and the Magnolia in the other. Two flags will be cut into the large double greens each day, one for each course, meaning that with a shotgun start, golfers can play nine holes and then turn around and play nine more in the opposite direction.
The course employs the Longleaf Tee System, an approach to tee box placement developed by the American Society of Golf Course Architects, of which Cupp was a past president, that allows golfers of all abilities to enjoy the game. The two nines can be played from 7,313 yards to just 3,164 yards.
Cupp also made room for a ‘Wee Links’ course with six holes of 50-70 yards, designed specifically for junior golfers aged 12 and under. The club has since renamed it Cupp Links. There is also a high-tech driving range, brand new clubhouse and two state-of-the-art instructional centres. “All of which fold in perfectly with the ‘grow the game’ movement as well as the USGA’s ‘Tee it Forward’ and ‘Play9’ initiatives,” said Bobby Cupp Jr.
The club will partner with youth organisation YMCA of Metro Atlanta and Shepherd Centre, a local non-profit hospital providing medical care and rehabilitation for patients with spinal cord injury, acquired brain injury, multiple sclerosis, and other neuromuscular limitations, to create a state-of-the-art program for adaptive golfers.
As well as helping to grow the game and contributing to the community, the foundation wanted to be a good steward of the environment. Grass varieties were selected to minimise water usage and grading was designed to mitigate flood impact.
“Unique playability and bringing the golf community together is the spirit of the new Bobby Jones Golf Course,” said Chuck Palmer, the foundation’s chairman. “The foundation’s partnership with key state golf organisations has been, and will continue to be, a great step in preparing the course to become the golf centre of Georgia.”
Cupp Jr said: “The project has been an amazing adventure and I am truly grateful to be a participant and from so many perspectives: to be witness to the Bobby Jones heritage, arguably the greatest player of all time, has been monumental. To have the opportunity to work with the Foundation, its founders Marty Elgison and Chuck Palmer and their exceptional leadership has been a fantastic experience along with the tremendous team they assembled.
“And for me to personally carry the torch for Dad, to see his final project through to completion, well the ability to articulate it eludes me.”
This article first appeared in the October 2018 of Golf Course Architecture.