Clutching a set of sketches and routing plans on a sweltering late-September afternoon, Bobby Cupp stops on a hillside overlooking the 6th green of the Azalea nine at Bobby Jones Golf Course. Cupp begins describing the green and the flow of the hole while general manager Brian Conley gazes at a hillside adjacent to the fairway.
After Cupp finishes speaking, Conley directs a visitor to the hillside, which offers a glance at Atlanta’s gleaming, expansive and expanding skyline.
“That,” Conley says, “is our ‘Selfie Central.’”
Cupp rolls up the sketches. “I never thought of that,” he says.
Those responsible for one of the nation’s biggest urban golf transformations learn something each time they tour the 128-acre site, which debuts a reversible 9-hole course this month to residents accustomed to a dearth of selfie-worthy public golf courses.
The Atlanta metro area, hometown of Jones, winner of the 1930 grand slam, supported just one 18-hole public course per 64,754 residents in 2016, which ranked 314th out of 345 cities the National Golf Foundation examined for its 2017 “Golf Facilities in the U.S.” report. The option of hopping in a car, bus or train, traveling 15 minutes and playing a two-hour nine or blasting a bucket of balls doesn’t exist for thousands living near Atlanta’s urban core.
Once a stagnant city-owned, 18-hole facility opened in 1932 and operated by a management company, the Bobby Jones GC marks the first urban reversible layout opened in the United States during the current construction wave. High-end resorts in remote parts of Michigan and Oregon have also introduced reversible courses.
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