121119_MNS_NAF_fields golf tourney group

Participants in the Northside Athletes Foundation’s 29th annual golf tournament gather on the putting green in front of the North Fulton Golf Course at Chastain Park in Buckhead.

The North Fulton Golf Course at Chastain Memorial Park in Buckhead could be closed one day a week to let residents and visitors use it as greenspace to walk through, an Atlanta City Council member said.

“We are working with the parks department, looking at ways to see is there a way for sharing (it),” said District 8 Councilman J.P. Matzigkeit, who represents the area where the park and course are located and lives a block from it. He pointed to a longtime tradition at the famed St. Andrews course in Scotland, the oldest golf course in the world. It’s closed on Sundays (except when it hosts major tournaments such as the British Open), so it can be opened as greenspace for the community.

Matzigkeit talked about the proposal during a panel discussion that included fellow council members Jennifer Ide (District 6) and Howard Shook (District 7) during at the Rotary Club of Buckhead’s June 8 weekly lunch meeting, which was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Livable Buckhead Executive Director Denise Starling served as the panel’s moderator.

When the North Fulton course was closed briefly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many individuals hit the course to walk around, fish and participate in other activities. They enjoyed it so much that the city of Atlanta placed signs around the course to remind them that fishing was prohibited, along with walking on the greens and tee boxes and in the bunkers.

In May, the Chastain Park Conservancy even posted a message on Facebook that included photos of the signs to reinforce that message. Based on the comments posted by eight individuals in response to the message, residents and visitors are for and against the course being used as greenspace.

While not everyone using the park as greenspace followed the rules, Matzigkeit said the large numbers of users proved there’s a demand for parks in the city.

“You see kids learning how to ride bikes and people fishing and jumping off bridges to put small boats in ponds,” he said. “We don’t have a lot of greenspace and don’t have a lot of open greenspace like you would have at a Piedmont Park. People have been really excited about using the golf course as greenspace.”

But the councilman wonders if the demand will remain high once all the other park amenities completely open back up later this year.

“One of the things I’ve asked is, ‘Could a concept like that work?’” he said.

However, with the course’s popularity – Matzigkeit said it’s the most popular one in the state – and the revenue it generates for the city, closing it one day a week to let others walk on it could be a problem.

“Chastain Park is a jewel for neighborhoods and the city. It’s the largest park in the city. The golf course is a key to that. … There are over 50,000 rounds played at North Fulton Golf Course each year. It actually also subsidizes the three other golf courses the city (operates). There are a lot of people who love the course like I do.”

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