East Lake’s history is truly moving so we think it is worth sharing. Tom Bendelow originally designed the East Lake course as a golfing accompaniment for the members of the Atlanta Athletic Club. The course was laid out in the suburbs of Atlanta on the site of an old amusement park and the course opened for play in July 1908. A young six-year old called Bob was at the East Lake opening ceremony in the company of his father, Colonel Robert P. Jones.
In 1913, the famous Scottish architect Donald Ross redesigned East Lake creating two loops of nine holes and in 1928 he returned to fashion a second East Lake course which opened in 1930 to coincide with Bobby’s Grand Slam victory celebrations. George Cobb made a few minor alterations to the original course ahead the 1963 Ryder Cup which culminated in a resounding 23 points to 9 victory for team USA against a beleaguered Great Britain & Ireland squad.
East Lake’s luck soon changed after the 1963 Ryder Cup as the Atlanta neighbourhood fell into urban decline. The Atlanta Athletic Club sold the second course to developers and moved out. But 25 members stepped in and saved the original course and formed the East Lake Golf Club. In the early 1970s public housing was built on the site of No.2 course and the area soon became a centre for poverty, drugs and violence. East Lake slowly but surely degenerated.
A charity with great vision bought East Lake in 1993 and decided to rebuild the course as a tribute to Bobby Jones. In 1994, Rees Jones was called in. Using the original drawings, Donald Ross’s original 1926 design was re-born. Today’s East Lake is the driving force behind the effort to revitalise this Atlanta neighbourhood. All profits from the club go to support the East Lake Community Foundation and as a consequence East Lake now stands as a symbol of hope as well as tradition.
We raise our glass to East Lake but we’ve just noticed that we haven’t mentioned anything about the course... click here to find out more or scroll down to read the course reviews.
In addition to hosting the 1963 Ryder Cup matches, East Lake played host to the 2001 US Amateur Championship. East Lake is also host venue for the Tour Championship, which has been held consecutively here in Atlanta since 2004.
East Lake, like Los Angeles Country Club, is a city course hemmed in in its entirety by a perimeter fence. The course is built on gently rolling hills and with the exception of holes 4, 6, 8 and 17, the holes are routed east-west to play directly into the wind or down wind. After a gentle starter into the wind, the par three second hole plays down wind. Gently sloping hills and typical at East Lake as are shaved fall-off areas surrounding the green.
The 551-yard par five ninth hole was my favorite on the course. It sweeps down the hill from a tee box at the top and you have to play your third shot over the lake to a very well protected green. The majestic clubhouse in the background adds to the grandeur of the hole.
The front nine plays on the west side of the clubhouse and the back nine plays on the east side; and on the back, with the exception of the seventeenth, the holes run parallel to each other as you play up and down the hill. The back nine is the more interesting of the two.
The "signature" hole at East Lake is the eighteenth, which is a par three finishing hole which plays 207 yards uphill into the prevailing wind. It is a real testing way to finish off a testing round.
The clubhouse is shrine to Bobby Jones and is one of the best in the world.
John Sabino is the author of How to Play the World’s Most Exclusive Golf Clubs
Once I had my trip to the Masters confirmed I started my quest to play some Major Venues. It was pretty fast and not tough at Atlanta Athletic, but getting to ELGC was not easy at all. My first request through the Golf Club was not successful and felt disappointed, but just 2 weeks before flying I was confirmed by a friend who I didn´t know he was a Member. Luck? Maybe!
We flew the night before and landed 6am at Atlanta Airport, got the car and went directly to the Club. We were introduced to the Locker Room and I was lucky to get one from a 4 time Major Champion! A well deserved shower and a great breakfast watching 17th green where Bill Haas made that fantastic shot from the water to win the FedEx Cup some years ago.
Then we made a Tour through the Club House ... WOW! If you feel Bobby Jones is your idol like I do, this Club House for you is Disneyland! Memorabilia, Trophies, Luxury and Respect all together to tell us a lot about maybe the greatest golfer ever. It took us more than 1hr to visit every corner of it, guided by a very kind waiter who previously had given breakfast to us.
After that some warming up to get the Airplane off our body and to the course. We played walking with a fantastic caddie and it was a true golfing experience. At every hole he had stories from the past and the Tour Championship, showing us where the pros where shooting tee shots and about pin positions and all other secrets of the course. Unfortunately we did not play fantastic par 5 9th because it was under repair and scheduled to open 2 days after. They have a substitute hole between 6th and 7th, a par 3 of maybe 145yds.
Back 9 plays a lot tougher than front and it did reflect in my score. But who cares, I was able to walk a course with such history and I am graceful for having the chance to play it. There are some great holes and final 4 are really tough (4 bogeys for me!). If you have the luck to play this course, do not feel it is just the golf round. You are walking Bobby Jones' playgroung. There is a very nice mark on par 3 11th where Jones made a hole in one. Another Top 100 I will remember for my entire life.