Macon's golf course integrated before the rest of the city.
By Lynn Hobbs
As one of the states in America’s original 13 colonies, the Heart of Georgia has numerous sites on the National Registry of Historic Places, but only one of those is a golf course and that course continues to thrive today.
Bowden Golf Course in Macon was designed by professional golfer John “Dick” C. Cotton and built by the Works Progress Administration for the City of Macon in 1940. Named after Macon’s mayor at the time, Bowden’s most significant historical designation is that it became the first public facility in the city to racially integrate. The course integrated in 1961, a year before Macon’s city busses integrated.
Today, the course still embraces that status with a 50/50 ratio of black and white members and players, according to Director of Golf Jack Dean. Several of Bowden’s current members and players are descendants of those first golfers who broke the racial barrier.
“Back in the day, their grandfathers used to be caddies, and then one day they said, ‘we’re going to play’ and they haven’t stopped playing since then,” Dean said proudly.
The course was built on what was once the old Miller Field air strip, and holes No. 1 and No. 10 are where the runway used to be. The design of the 18-hole course features TifEagle superdwarf bermuda turf with the natural features maintained. Typical for golf courses built in that era, the mostly flat course follows the natural terrain of the land, with a rise and fall of land about every five feet. Several cobblestone benches that were installed when the course was built are still present at some tees.
Each year, the course hosts a United Way Tournament in the fall and a Cherry Blossom Tournament in the spring. “I had 200 golfers out here yesterday,” Dean commented, when he was describing Macon’s popular Cherry Blossom Festival event and the coinciding golf tournament.
Dean is most passionate about the PGA Jr. League program held at Bowden each year. The national program is based on the format of Little League Baseball and allows youth ages 17 and younger to learn and play golf. “They wear uniforms with their names on the back and have teams that compete against each other,” Dean described. “My goal is to get these inner-city kids off the streets and give them access to learn and fall in love with golf. It does not cost them anything and can open up so many opportunities for them.”
Bowden Golf Course, located at 3111 Millerfield Rd., Macon, GA, is open 7:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. seven days a week.
Rates: $12/9 holes and $17/18 holes walking non-members Monday-Friday.
$15/9 holes and $20/18 holes Friday-Sunday.
Rates for riding guests are $24/18 holes Mon-Thur, and $28/18 holes Fri-Sun.
Seniors, Ladies, and Juniors pay $21/18 holes Mon-Thur, and $26/18 Fri-Sun.
Tuesday is Senior Day, $12/18 holes for members, $20/18 for guest riding, and $10 for walking.
Driving Range is $4-$6 for baskets of balls.
For more information, call 478.742.1610 or visit bowdengolfcourse.com.
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Published in the 2023 March-April issue of Lakelife magazine. No portion of this story or photos may be copied or used without written consent from the publisher.