Longtime Candler Park resident Michael Short and I are standing near the Candler Park Golf Course's first tee box, downhill from the shabby brick clubhouse. His dog, a rescue Weimaraner named Foster, is investigating a patch of grass nearby.
"The park is a golf course. But the golf course is also a park," Short says of the 87-year-old rec area.
Short says he's parred every hole on the course with one club, a five iron. I, on the other hand, couldn't play a round of golf to save my life. I realize I probably should've borrowed a golf club or rented one. Short assures me it's fine, but points out that having a club while on the course is technically the rule. And, he adds, golfers always, always have the right of way.
In 2011, Short founded Friends of Candler Park Golf Course (FoCPGC), an advocacy group that encourages residents to take advantage of everything the course has to offer: flora, fauna, and sport. Located about four miles northeast of Downtown, the nine-hole course is one of a handful of city-owned golf courses in Atlanta. It sits on 55 acres of greenspace that Coca-Cola founder Asa Candler donated to the city in 1922. It's a relatively short stretch of fairways and greens — a mix of par threes and fours tucked in and around grassy, rolling hills.
As we descend the slope toward the first green and follow the bend near holes three, four, and five, I realize how rugged this piece of land is. You don't notice it so much from the high ground, but the hill from below looks like an old burial mound.
"Check your six every now and then," Short says. Getting hit in the head with a flying golf ball is not intended as part of the tour.
Short heads over to the shore of a pond in the middle of the course. I can imagine the tree-lined pool draped with glowing greenery in the summer. In the bright gray light of this almost-spring day, though, the leafless trees look inky black, jagged, and menacing.
"See, that's the beavers," Short says. I'm excited to see a furry critter gnawing on a tree. But Short says he's only seen the beavers around dawn and dusk. Instead, he was pointing to a 20-foot-long dam jutting out across the water and a fallen tree gnawed completely through near the base. He's also seen bats, birds, snakes, turtles, and frogs. We have no such luck today.
Back along the fairway, Short points out a couple of cardinals and blue birds fluttering around a distant tree. Just the other day, he says, some folks conducting a bird census were out here counting.
"Bluebirds are the canaries of greenspaces, and we have lots of bluebirds," Short says.
Past the pond, whispers of street traffic on Ponce de Leon Avenue float through the wall of trees to the north, signaling the end of the hike.
The final stretch along holes seven, eight, and nine is uphill all the way. As we trek back up to the street, I'm already plotting my return trip and a future beaver expedition to the pond. Short and I turn to take one last look across grounds.
"[I]t's peaceful in here," he says. "It's a good place to hang out, and we do."
Candler Park Golf Course
Candler Park's historical nine-hole golf course offers an easy hike or round of golf for an affordable price. 585 Candler Park Drive. 404-371-1260. www.pasturegolf.com/courses/candler.htm.
Candler Park Market
Candler Park Market provides locally prepared sandwiches, burgers, panini, and sides along with craft beers and more. 1642 McLendon Ave. 404-373-9787. www.candlerparkmarket.com.
Dr. Bombay's Underwater Tea Party
The small shop hosts daily high tea from 3:30-5:30 p.m. Pastries and breads are baked on the premises. The breakfast menu is limited, but there's great ice cream and lots of old books. 1645 McLendon Ave. 404-474-1402. www.drbombays.com.
Donna Van Goghs
Donna Van Goghs provides locally produced artwork, gifts, and unique tchotchkes. 1651 McLendon Ave. 404-370-1003.
Full Moon Records
This storefront vinyl outpost stocks used LPs, CDs, DVDs, Laserdiscs (!) and an ever-popular $1 section. 1653 McLendon Ave. 404-377-1919.
Learn how to rock climb or practice your climbing skills at Wall Crawler. 1522 DeKalb Ave. 404-371-8997. www.wallcrawlerclimbing.com.
Going out to breakfast should be relaxing, and this is one of the few places left in Atlanta where jockeying for a table isn't a professional sport. The space is cozy, but not cramped, and the funky art on the walls could perk up even the most bleary-eyed night owl. 1530 DeKalb Ave. 404-659-6594. radial.us.
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