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A Publication of the National Golf Foundation

Questions, Answers and Insights for Everyone Interested in the Business of Golf

Golf Course Turns Park, (Ball)park Turns Course Amid Pandemic

by National Golf Foundation

July 2020

Every Tuesday until mid-August, the golf course in Atlanta’s largest park becomes public greenspace, with golfers giving way to walkers, bicyclists, picnickers, dogs and backyard games.

The two-month “test” period started in mid-June, when Chastain Park Golf Course re-opened for play after having golf operations suspended for three months amid the pandemic. The public had access to the course during that time, providing an opportunity for locals to get outside, exercise and enjoy the fresh air while practicing safe physical distancing.

As a result of public input, the Atlanta Department of Parks and Recreation agreed to keep the golf course closed to play on Tuesdays, but open as greenspace.

“If you can do it in the birthplace of golf, we can do it here in Atlanta, Georgia,” District 8 Atlanta City Councilmember J.P. Matzigkeit, who co-founded the Chastain Park Convervancy, told Buckhead.com, referring to the common Sunday practice of using Scotland’s St Andrews Links as community greenspace. Matzigkeit has been involved in planning and discussions about the future of 268-acre Chastain Park, including some that call for the elimination of golf altogether or reducing the course from 18 to nine holes.

The golf course generated $1.6 million in revenue last year from 56,200 rounds, according to Buckhead.com. Designed by H. Chandler Egan, a colleague of Bobby Jones who also helped design Pebble Beach Golf Links, the course formerly known as North Fulton has a rich history, with Matzigkeit noting that Black Atlantans played golf there during a period the city was segregated.

The Chastain Park Golf Course is closed for golf, but open to the public as greenspace each Tuesday through the end of August. (Photo courtesy of Buckhead.com)

Decisions on the golf course’s future will come from the city’s parks leaders, with input from the public, who at least for now have access whether they’re golfers or not.

A recent NGF survey of golfers indicated that 28% would support using a local course as a free, public park – albeit for one day a month. An additional 54% of respondents said they were opposed to the idea while 18% said they were indifferent or unsure.

As a golf course has turned into an occasional park in Georgia, a ballpark on the Mississippi Gulf Coast has morphed into a part-time short course.

With minor league baseball on hold, the Biloxi Shuckers transformed their stadium, MGM Park, into a unique nine-hole target course.

All nine “greens” are in the outfield, with participants paying a $25 greens fee to hit two balls from each of nine tee boxes throughout the ballpark, including home plate, the elevated party decks and the concourse. Golfers can compete in groups as large as eight people, taking aim at targets about 70 to 120 yards away, and pre-order concessions to take on the course including buckets of beer.

 

A member of the Shuckers’ staff accompanies each group as a caddie throughout the stadium. A ball that lands within a white circle for a given hole is scored as a par, while inside a smaller red circle closer to the flag is a birdie. A shot that misses the target and lands in the outfield is considered a bogey, while an errant shot elsewhere in the ballpark is a double bogey.

“We wanted to offer something unique with this crossover between baseball and golf that people can’t get anywhere else and allow our community to enjoy this great facility while we await Minor League Baseball’s return,” Shuckers General Manager Hunter Reed said.

 

 


 

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National Golf Foundation

The National Golf Foundation is a community of individuals and golf businesses committed to being the most well-informed advocates for the growth of the industry. With the world’s largest research team dedicated to golf, NGF provides members with the most accurate and objective insights on the game. We help golf businesses better understand their market and grow their businesses. The NGF is the only association for everyone in golf, and we advocate for growth by educating and connecting our members.