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Atlanta Athletic Club (Highlands)

Atlanta Athletic Club (Highlands)

Johns Creek, Georgia
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Patrick Koenig
Patrick Koenig
Johns Creek, Georgia

With 36 holes of championship golf, as well as a par three course, the Atlanta Athletic Club has plenty of holes to keep the golf club members happy and, as implied in the name, the club also has one of the best athletic facilities in the country. Naturally at such a fit and healthy club, golfers are encouraged to walk the courses rather than take a cart.

Founded way back in 1898, Atlanta Athletic Club was originally a pure athletics club and golf did not appear on the agenda until Tom Bendelow was commissioned to design a golf course in Atlanta’s suburbs as a golfing accompaniment for the athletic club members. The new course was called East Lake and it opened for play in 1908. Amongst the crowd, which was gathered for the opening ceremony, was a six-year-old boy called Bobby Jones.

GalleryPatrick Koenig
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Patrick Koenig

The Atlanta Athletic Club may be best known as the home club of Robert Tyre Jones but his home course was East Lake which the AAC sold shortly after the 1963 Ryder Cup had been staged there. The Atlanta Athletic Club subsequently commissioned another Robert T Jones to design twenty-seven holes on a new site at Johns Creek, which was large enough for athletics as well as golf.

In 1964, three new Robert Trent Jones-designed 9-hole loops opened for play and they were later named Highlands and Riverside after Joe Finger fashioned a fourth 9-hole course in 1971. The Highlands course comprises of nine RTJ holes and nine from Joe Finger and it's this course that's invariably considered to be the premier layout at Atlanta Athletic Club, which staged the 1976 US Open.

“Until 1976, the Open had never been played in the southeastern quadrant of the country – east of the Mississippi and south of the Potomac – but that year it went to the heart of the Confederacy, to the Atlanta Athletic Club.” Wrote Robert Sommers in The US Open - Golf’s Ultimate Challenge. “ It was there because Bobby Jones had written to the USGA asking for it to be played at his home club (this was, however, a different golf course; he grew up playing the old East Lake course). His letter was dated November 16, 1971; he died thirty-one days later. There was never any doubt he would have his wish. Unfortunately, the golf course, which was only a few years old, was nothing special, and if not for a stunning 5-iron shot on the last hole, it would rank among the least memorable of all U.S. Open championships.”

Jerry Pate’s 5-iron shot was “Heard Round the World” as he struck his ball to three feet on the final hole to win the 1976 U.S. Open. The 1981 and 2001 PGA Championships were held at Atlanta Athletic Club – Larry Nelson and David Toms won respectively.

The 93rd PGA Championship returned to Atlanta Athletic Club in 2011. Germany’s Martin Kaymer was the defending PGA champion following his maiden Major victory at Whistling Straits, but he failed to make the cut. The American rookie, Keegan Bradley, who beat countryman Jason Dufner in a play-off, won the event.


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Robert Trent Jones

​Robert Trent Jones arrived in New York aboard the steamship Caronia from Liverpool on Monday, 29th April 1912, exactly two weeks after the Titanic had sunk on her maiden voyage across the Atlantic.

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