Renovations nearly complete at Atlanta Athletic Club

When David Toms sank a par putt on 18 at the 2001 PGA Tour Championship in Duluth, it gave him a one-stroke championship victory over Phil Mickelson.

Toms did that on a par-4 18th hole that was 490 yards. That hole, and a lot of others, just got a little tougher at the Atlanta Athletic Club golf course.

AAC is finishing renovations to its Highlands Course and when completed the home club of Bobby Jones will give players a challenge.

"I don't think there is any doubt it will be tougher," Atlanta Athletic Club Director of Golf Rick Anderson said.

The 18th in which Toms won his first major will be one of four holes on the course that will be more than 490 yards long.

"When you really look at it, they were just really too short for everybody," Anderson joked.

Nos. 2 and 18 will become par 4s when the PGA Championship comes back to Duluth in 2011 and both will be played over 500 yards. It will be the third time AAC has hosted the PGA Championship with 1981 and 2001 being the last two times the club hosted the PGA major. AAC has also hosted Ryder Cup matches (1963), the 1976 U.S. Open and the Women's U.S. Open (1990).

"Every hole was changed," said Ken Mangum, Atlanta Athletic Club's Director of Golf Courses and Grounds. "The fairway's were re-contoured, all the greens re-bunkered, we added tees to some holes, but we left the greens pretty much as is."

Players at the course will experience playing on a surface like no other golf course.

"We've got grasses found nowhere else in the world," Mangum said. "Diamond zoysia and the Tifton 10 bermuda grass in the rough, you won't find that anywhere else in the world."

The renovations were made in part because they were due to the course that hadn't been renovated since 1994-95 and because the PGA Championship is coming back.

"The renovation is not exactly for the tournament, but in preparation for it, if that makes sense," Mangum said.

AAC was planning to make renovations to the course's drainage system, but decided since it would have to make changes to the course for the PGA Championship to do it all at once and not again in a couple of years.

"Anything we were going to do we wanted to go ahead and get it done and give it a few years to mature and let everything fall into place," Anderson said.

The biggest reason for the renovation that began in mid-March was to upgrade the course's drainage system.

"During this renovation we've regraded, put in more drain pipe and re-contoured the fairway so the water gets off the golf course better," Mangum said.

In addition, the irrigation system that was installed allows AAC to water just the fairway and just the rough, which keeps the fairway firm and fast while giving the rough to grow.

Other changes to the course include all fairway and green side sand bunkers being reshaped and made deeper. Ponds near hole Nos. 6, 7, 11 and 14 are redesigned. No. 6 will feature new bunkers and a changed location of the green.

On the back nine, holes 13 through 18 will be a tough stretch for golfers. Nos. 14 and 16 will be 480 and 495, respectively, uphill. The 18th will play 528 yards with a lake on the left side. All 18 fairways will be PGA Tour regulation width.

Renovations are expected to be completed to the front nine by Labor Day and the entire course should be ready to play by mid-October.

"What I envision is simply the zoysia grass making a huge difference in the way it looks and of course the new bunkering we've done out there is going to be a lot more dramatic," Anderson said.