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Porterdale plan could change face of area around historic golf course
City reschedules zoning board, city council meeting dates for rezonings
The Oaks operates on the site of a course first designed in the 1930s by famed golfer Bobby Jones for Bibb Manufacturing Co. - photo by Submitted Photo

PORTERDALE, Ga. — Development planned for the site of The Oaks golf course could change the face of an area of Newton County that has hosted golfers on and off for almost 90 years.

And area residents worried about increased traffic along Crowell Road outside Porterdale already have signaled their intentions to oppose the requests for a rezoning and change in the city’s future land use map for the development.

The Porterdale Zoning Board is scheduled on June 1 to consider a rezoning of the site that would allow retail, multi- and single-family construction — a change from the originally scheduled date of today, May 10.

Porterdale City Council is set to consider the zoning board’s recommendation June 7 — also a change from the originally scheduled date of May 20.

The new proposal by Covington-based Infinity Homes and Development calls for about 140,000 square feet of retail space; 142 single-family homes; townhomes and a 360-unit apartment complex, according to plans filed with the city. 

Almost half of the 243-acre site is in a floodplain but plans also call for reserving part of the site for a nine-hole golf course. 

The redevelopment plan can only go forward if the City Council rezones the site at the corner of Brown Bridge and Crowell roads from its current mix of single-family residential and light retail zoning. 

Porterdale annexed the site in 2005 by using a state law allowing it to use the Yellow River to connect its city limits north to the golf course. 

The move allowed The Oaks to serve beer and wine in its restaurant at a time when the practice was not allowed in unincorporated Newton County.

Plenty of local business and sports history surrounds the land, including early golf legend Bobby Jones reportedly being one of the designers of the first course on the site in the 1930s.

Former Porterdale City Council member Rebecca Roseberry said in a 2005 story in The Covington News that the land had been the site of two dairies. 

Bibb Manufacturing Co. developed the land along the Yellow River as a golf course for its employees in the 1930s. 

It paid R.C. Crowell and others to remove rocks from the site for the course, Roseberry said.

Jones reportedly designed the first nine holes for the company. He was a friend of such prominent Newton residents as Charlie Elliott and liked to hunt and fish in the county, according to The Oaks’ history.

The famed golfer would win numerous tournaments in the early 20th century and was a founder of what would become Augusta National Golf Course and The Masters Tournament.

The mill company, however, eventually relinquished the site as part of its retreat from the Porterdale area in the mid- and late 20th century. The site continued to operate as a golf course but was eventually allowed to grow wild through the 1980s, according to a history published on The Oaks website.

An Atlanta-based group, The Oaks Associates, then bought the land in 1989 and hired Richard Schulz to design a new course and restore it. 

Schulz said the land already was zoned for residential uses and one developer 

already had plans for a new subdivision on the site before the partnership developed the course.

The Oaks opened in August 1990 as a nine-hole course and eventually expanded to an 18-hole facility with driving range and putting green, according to a history of the course. 

The Oaks added Putters Restaurant and the Champions Room — including a kitchen, bar, banquet room, locker room and second floor — to the clubhouse in the late 1990s.

The Oaks has hosted numerous golf tournaments as well as charity events that helped the Cure Foundation raise nearly $1 million and a Miracle Field charity event in 2009 that raised more than $20,000.

Recent charity events have included an August 2020 tournament to benefit the Almon J. Turner Foundation.