Rees Jones brought in to renovate Atlanta Athletic Club's Highlands course
The Atlanta Athletic Club is starting a massive renovation on its award-winning Highlands course, which includes lengthening the overall yardage in preparation for the 2011 PGA Championship. But, don't expect it to be Tiger Woods-proofed.
"We're not going to try to jack up the golf course to 8,000 yards," AAC General Manager Chris Borders told TravelGolf.com. "So many courses are going to have to be taken out with Tiger hitting the ball 350 yards. But you know what? So what if he is? He isn't winning every tournament. We may lengthen a few holes, but not every hole, and on those we do it will be lengthened with sort of a balance. You know, Fred Funk can still play it."
Funk, Woods and all those who play the course from the new championship tees will be playing a different course than the one that exists now, considered one of the best in Georgia. Golf Digest ranks the course ninth best in the state, while the South course is ranked a notch below.
"There's going to have to be more challenge given to placement of tee balls," Borders said. "There will be more thoughtful shot-making in the future."
Club officials did some work on the greens, greenside bunkering and tees in 1994-95 to get a PGA Championship, and the 2001 tournament was played there. At that time, much of the South was experiencing drought conditions but in 2002 Atlanta and other areas in the region were hit with heavy rains. The AAC found out the Highlands course had a very poor drainage system.
"We had just been lulled to sleep," Borders said. "We decided we'd have to go in and do some major renovations of the fairways. We were also looking forward to 2011 to see what we needed to do."
The club called in Rees Jones, son of Robert Trent Jones Sr., who designed the original two courses. Rees Jones has gained much of his reputation for renovation work, particularly on U.S. Open courses.
The course will get a new $1.2 million irrigation system, as well as renovations to the fairways. Many of the fairway and greenside bunkers will also get major work, resulting, club officials say, in a course with a more modern feel.
They also plan to change out the grass to a new strain of diamond zoysia.
"The plant itself is sturdier," Borders said. "It holds up in our transition zone. That diamond zoysia, the blade is so fine it almost looks like bentgrass. It will give us a nice separation between the two courses. The ball on zoysia tends to stand up - some of the pros say it's almost like cheating."
Though some irrigation work has already begun, the project is expected to begin in earnest in March, 2006, and be complete by late fall '06.
When reshaped, all greenside bunkers will be shifted closer to the adjacent putting surface, officials said. All the tees, collars, approaches and green surrounds that are cut at fairway height, and fairways will have diamond zoysia. All of the holes will undergo some revision, although the greens will not be rebuilt.
Some water features will change, including extending the pond from No. 7 toward the front left portion of the green on No. 6. No. 7 will have the pond enlarged towards the tee by 15-20 feet, and the pond on No. 11 will be expanded back towards the hillside and towards the fairway.
On No. 4, the pond bordering No. 11, which runs parallel to No. 14, will be expanded to come into play on the right side of the fairway.
The course has also hosted the 1976 U.S. Open and the 1990 U.S. Women's Open.
December 21, 2005