Founded in 1898 as a recreational sports facility, the Atlanta Athletic Club has occupied several locations in the Atlanta area before moving to its current location in Johns Creek, a suburb 23 miles north of the city.
The club’s original home was at 56 Edgewood Avenue, a street away from Five Points. In 1924, the club purchased the Lyric Theater that encompassed Carnegie Way, Cone Street and Williams Street. The 140,000-square-foot club was 10 stories high.
The club built its first golf course – and the first in Atlanta – in 1904 on what is now the East Lake property. This is where legendary golfer Bob Jones honed his skills on the way to becoming a nine-time USGA champion. After his retirement from competitive golf, Jones remained an AAC member until his death in 1971.
In 1908, John Heisman, the Georgia Tech football coach for whom the Heisman Trophy is named, was hired as the Atlanta Athletic Club’s athletic director.
In 1950, Beverly Hanson won the U.S. Women’s Amateur on the East Lake Course, defeating Mae Murray, 6 and 4, in the final. The 1963 Ryder Cup Matches were also played on the East Lake Course.
In that same year, the club was looking to expand, so it purchased land in an unincorporated area of Fulton County that later became Johns Creek. The club membership sold the East Lake property in 1968. The vacated East Lake site eventually became East Lake Golf Club, which hosted the 2001 U.S. Amateur and is the current site of the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour.
Today, the club offers two championship layouts: the Highlands Course and Riverside Course, both of which opened in 1964 and were designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr., with Joe Finger assisting on the Highlands Course.
Rees Jones redesigned both venues, finishing the Riverside Course in 2003 and the Highlands Course three years later. Both courses will be used for stroke-play qualifying for the 2014 U.S. Amateur, with the Highlands hosting all match-play rounds.
The Highlands Course hosted the 1976 U.S. Open, won by Jerry Pate; the 1981 PGA Championship, won by 1983 U.S. Open champion and Georgia resident Larry Nelson; the 2001 PGA Championship, won by David Toms; and the 2011 PGA Championship, won by Keegan Bradley in a playoff over Jason Dufner.
Two other USGA championships were conducted on the Highlands Course: the 1984 U.S. Mid-Amateur (Michael Podolak) and 2002 U.S. Junior Amateur (Charlie Beljan).
Betsy King claimed the 1990 U.S. Women’s Open on the Riverside Course.
Besides Jones, famous club members include past USA Walker Cup competitor Charles R. Yates, three-time U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Alexa Stirling, tennis legend Nat Thornton, basketball star Mark Price and former NFL player/coach Dan Reeves. The club also was used to film many of the golf scenes in the 2004 movie “Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius.”