Golfers wary of changes after Atlanta takeover of city courses​​

North Fulton Golf Course

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North Fulton Golf Course

UPDATE: Paul Ballam, American Golf VP of Business Development, provided the following statement:

American Golf did not participate in the most recent competitive bidding process to lease the City of Atlanta courses because Bobby Jones was not included in the RFP. It was our opinion that the removal of Bobby Jones from the City lease removed a key economic driver from the solicited lease, with the remaining group of courses not providing a viable economic option for a lessee and the City. With our operating teams and equipment in place at the courses, we proactively engaged with the City to continue operating the remaining four golf courses, including our proposal to operate those courses under a management agreement which we believed to be a more mutually beneficial operating structure. We were recently informed that the City was not able to pursue this solution.

In June, the

Atlanta City Council approved a property swap

in which the city would transfer to the state the Bobby Jones golf course, parts of Atlanta Memorial Park and other property around Underground Atlanta. In return, the city would receive property near Underground Atlanta, including a parking deck needed for a proposed overhaul of the downtown mall.

Three months later, the city council amended that plan to allow the city to lease the historic Bobby Jones clubhouse back from the state.

ORIGINAL STORY (Nov. 10): A recent change involving the longtime management company for Atlanta's golf courses leaves some questions about how the substitution will affect patrons.

The city's contract with American Golf Corporation — which managed courses including Browns Mill, Candler Park, North Fulton and Tup Holmes for 30 years — ended Nov. 1 after the company did not compete in a bidding process.

American Golf signed a 20-year management contract with the city in 1986, and it was renewed for 10 years in 2006.

City officials declined to answer questions about the contract process and future operation of the courses, and instead referred The Atlanta Journal-Constitution to an op-ed on the issue published in Atlanta Intown Paper.

Commissioner of Parks and Recreation Amy Phuong said in the op-ed that the "department will work hard to minimize disruptions in service in the short-term and improve the physical state of our courses over the long-term."

The editorial outlines a plan in which project manager Arthur Culbreath will serve as the interim head of golf operations with a "full team dedicated to golf management and operations working under his direction." Current American Golf staff will be hired as subcontractors, city employees will be assigned to maintain current service levels and necessary equipment will be in place for patrons to use.

The city told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution it plans to "fully transition" by February 2017.

American Golf Corporation did not respond to a request for comment.

On a recent Saturday, two men sat on a low wall by the sidewalk in front of the North Fulton clubhouse after finishing a round.

One of them, Zettie Davis, 58, has been golfing there for about 15 years. Yet, the experience he had on the course that chilly day was different.

The grass wasn't freshly mowed. They didn't see a "cart person" selling beverages and snacks, like usual. The golf cart they were supplied didn't have a windshield.

Davis said the change in management may affect his decision to continue playing there.

"It will if the city doesn't get the course in the conditions I know it can be," Davis said.

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