Grade “A” Architecture

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Atlanta Athletic Club, Highlands Course
Posted on
June 26, 2021
M. James Ward in
Estimated reading time: 2 minutes


Architecture - Atlanta Athletic Club
Courtesy Atlanta Athletic Club

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes


18th hole / Par-5
576 Yards - Championship tees
462 Yards - KPMG Women's PGA Championship
Johns Creek, Georgia
Architect: Rees Jones (redesigned in 2006)


The Atlanta Athletic Club (AAC)  was founded in 1898 and was the home club of Bobby Jones, the greatest golfer from Georgia and one of the all-time greats to play the sport.

In the years to come, AAC would move to a new location -- roughly 27 miles northeast of Atlanta. The Highlands Course is one of two regulation courses at the facility.

At Jones' request, the USGA selected AAC to host the 1976 U.S. Open -- the first time the championship was played south of Washington, D.C., and east of the Mississippi River.



In the years to follow -- the Highlands Course would be the host site for the 1981, 2001 and 2011 PGA Championships.

In 1990, the companion Riverside Course served as host site for the U.S. Women's Open. This week's KPMG Women's PGA Championship marks the second major championship hosted for the best female players in golf.

The original 18th hole -- a par-4 of 460 yards was made famous during the 1976 U.S. Open when during the final round Jerry Pate hit a 5-iron approach over the fronting pond to two feet for a clinching birdie and the title. Fitting given the winning player was born in Georgia and snaring the national championship of American golf held in the Deep South for the first time.

During the updating of the course by architect Rees Jones in 2006 -- the 18th was extended to play as a par-5. The same pond remains protecting the green as well as the entire left side of the hole. On the right side are several fairway bunkers that narrow the landing area for the tee shot.

Architecture - Atlanta Athletic Club
Courtesy Atlanta Athletic Club


For the KPMG event -- the teeing area is in the same location used in 1976 where Pate played. Depending upon weather conditions and the nature of the competition, those in contention can opt to carry the pond with hopes of finishing with an eagle. Those opting to play safely will encounter a daunting approach particularly when the pin is placed ever so near the front edge with water awaiting those committing the slightest miscue.

The legacy of Bobby Jones remains alive and well at AAC 


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About M. James Ward

A GWAA and MGWA member, the 66-year-old from the USA has covered golf in all facets since 1980, notably the major championships and other high level events. He has played over 2,000 courses globally and has competed in USGA Championships.

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