Bon Air Golf Club, as Augusta Country Club was originally called, dates back to the 19th century, 1897 to be precise, and the club pre-dates its famous neighbour across Rae’s Creek (Augusta National) by more than 30 years. The club started out with a 9-hole course featuring sand browns instead of greens. My how things at Augusta have moved on since then!
At the turn of the 20th century, the club had expanded its facility to 18 holes and re-branded itself the Country Club of Augusta. Golf in the area continued to grow in popularity, fuelled by visits to the club by US presidents Warren Harding and William Taft, and by 1909 a further 18 holes were added by club president William Harrison and club pro David Ogilvie for the exclusive use of club members. The new course became known as the Hill course and the original layout as the Lake course.
In 1927, Donald Ross was commissioned to convert the sand putting surfaces on the Hill course to grass. Additionally Ross re-routed the front nine and re-bunkered the entire course.
After the Great Depression the Lake course was sold but thankfully the Hill course survived, becoming an important tournament venue for ladies golf with the club hosting to the Titleholders Championship for thirty years.
In 2000, inspired by original Donald Ross plans, Brian Silva was commissioned by Augusta Country Club to restore the course. The result of his greens, bunkers and tees reconstruction has put Augusta Country Club back on the map.
The club will always be overshadowed by its famous neighbour, but Silva’s work is undoubtedly artful and we’re sure Augusta Country Club will only rise higher in future rankings.
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The Country Club will, of course, always be in the shadow of its famous neighbour. Make no mistake though, this is a great and historic club with an impressive course. It predates the National and members will tell you that it provided the inspiration for Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts to pick the adjacent plot of land for Alastair Mackenzie to lay out his masterpiece. A plaque on the par 3 14th hole serves as a permanent reminder of Jones' fondness for the Country Club, as the site of his hole-in-one in the Southeast Open. The course features many of the original Donald Ross traits, including a few crown greens and plenty of false fronts. Quirky updates of his design have created square-cut greens on many of the holes, which give the appearance of a cloth laying on a turtle's back. Stand-out holes are the downhill par 5 8th, the par 3 12th with its elevated tee and steamy pond, and the fun punchbowl green on the par 4 16th. It's refreshing to see slightly wayward approach shots eventually nestle down in the centre of the huge green there! If you get the chance, you'll be playing a course which will surprise and thrill you in equal measure. No wonder that a course built with such great imagination has produced champions including Larry Mize and Charles Howell III.
Augusta is a truly magical place to play golf. And the history imbedded in the Augusta Country Club course adds to the great design work of the course. It has an old school design with excellent and strategic bunkering and absolutely fabulous greens. The greens don't run at an obscene stimp rating, but the undulations are so much fun to put on. If you ever get a chance to play Augusta Country Club... do it. You will have a great time! Check out mprgolf.com