Most Augustans have seen it by now: The grand resort-like structure that is being built by the Augusta National Golf Club which stretches along the old Berckmans Road property, towering behind Jay’s Music on Washington Road.
Locals are definitely talking about it.
People have described it as everything between Augusta’s own Four Seasons Resort to the Augusta National’s version of the Berlin Wall separating the private golf club from the rest of the commoners in the city.
Whatever you want to call it, the structure can’t be missed while driving down Washington Road.
And, yet, it’s amazing what little is known about the club’s plans for the building.
There really haven’t been any news stories or media coverage about the enormous development and construction on the Augusta National property along Washington Road.
It’s particularly mind-boggling considering The Augusta Chronicle will eagerly write a lengthy business story about topics such as a new Waffle House opening at the intersection of Davis and Pleasant Home roads, and yet the newspaper is somehow blind to the major construction on the Augusta National’s property.
Of course, we all know that William S. Morris III, publisher of The Augusta Chronicle, also happens to be a member of the Augusta National, so that might be a major reason why there isn’t a front page story about the changes to the club.
But the city of Augusta also hasn’t really publicly discussed the project. Or if the plans for the project were publicly reviewed, city officials were extremely low key regarding the development.
With a major structure like this, shouldn’t it have gone through some serious stages of approval by the city’s planning department? You would think so.
However, mum’s the word when it comes to Augusta National and its vision for the future.
Now, everyone knows that Augusta National is a private club that can build basically whatever it wants to on its property as long as it gets proper approval from the city.
But as the National continues to buy more and more land along Washington Road, shouldn’t there be some point in time where the club feels an obligation to Augusta and its residents to let local residents know what’s ahead?
Apparently, not. It doesn’t work that way when it comes to the Augusta National.
Most locals seem resigned to the fact that the National will get its way regardless of who or what will be impacted down the road.
After all, it takes only a few seconds for long-time Augustans to clearly see all of the major changes that have occurred over the past several decades surrounding the Augusta National Golf Club.
Entire neighborhoods are gone. Many hospitality houses are history. And no one is ever going to make any money parking cars in their front yards during Masters Week again.
From 1999 until 2006, this private golf club purchased more than 50 lots surrounding its property for approximately $23 million.
Golf World magazine called the purchase of the properties one of the most “unprecedented buying sprees of neighboring commercial and residential properties” it had ever seen.
Over the past two years, this is the same private golf club that loaned the city of Augusta the necessary money, interest free, to advance the first phase of the Berckmans Road’s $16 million project in order to get it moving ahead of the state’s schedule.
Basically, the Augusta National bypassed Georgia DOT using its own money to get what it needed done in less than half the time.
That’s some real power, folks.
But local residents still can’t help but wonder, what does Augusta National have up its sleeve next?
The gossip around town is that Augusta National might be itching to purchase even more property along Washington Road, including parcels such as the Publix shopping center, Walgreens, Olive Garden Italian Restaurant and Wendy’s.
Some people are even speculating that Augusta National’s interest in land could stretch as far down Washington Road as the Washington Square Shopping Center, which includes the stores Stein Mart, 2nd & Charles, Carrabba’s and Hooters.
With the completed construction of the new Berckmans Road, the rumor is Augusta National wants to create a completely self-contained and highly refined experience for Masters Week that would include luxury accommodations and the best in fine dining without having to even leave Augusta National’s property.
A totally private, insular experience.
The current structure on Washington Road behind Jay’s Music definitely appears as if it is the beginning of some kind of resort or high-end rooms for guests of the club.
Only time will tell what Augusta National really has planned.
Until then, local residents are left to play the ultimate guessing game about the city’s future.