Bobby Jones' home club, restored by Rees Jones to its early-20th-century look, offers a classic season-ending stage for the PGA Tour
East Lake Golf Club is a private club located only a few miles east of downtown Atlanta. Established in 1904, East Lake is the oldest golf course in Atlanta and was the home course for Bobby Jones. Much of East Lake’s clubhouse serves as a pseudo museum to the great golfer’s career and accomplishments.
Over the past 100-plus years, the club has hosted numerous significant golf tournaments, including the 1950 U.S. Women's Amateur, 1963 Ryder Cup, and 2001 U.S. Amateur. It became the permanent home to the PGA Tour's Tour Championship starting in 2004.
Tiger Woods has won the event three times and been the runner-up on four occasions. But alas, Woods didn’t qualify as one of the top 30 in the FedEx Cup standings and reportedly is home in Florida, preparing for the U.S. Open in two weeks.
East Lake originally was designed by Tom Bendelow and served the membership of the Atlanta Athletic Club. However, shortly after East Lake’s opening, Donald Ross redesigned the course into two nine-hole loops, in 1913. The course remained unaltered until George Cobb took a scalpel to it ahead of the 1963 Ryder Cup.
When Atlanta Athletic Club fell on hard times in the late 1960s, the course was sold to 25 members who renamed the original course East Lake Golf Club. Tom Cousins, the principal member who turned around the club, was a wealthy real-estate developer who envisioned restoring his childhood course. The club sold $7.5 million of corporate memberships and, in 1994, retained Rees Jones to restore Ross’ work.
At the Tour Championship, which begins Friday (tee times), these three holes will be worth watching:
No. 6, par 5, 525 yards: This short (by PGA Tour standards) three-shotter features a fairway guarded by bunkers and three tall pines on the right, which require a fade for the right-handed player to achieve optimal position off the tee. With a well-positioned tee shot, many players will be able to reach the green in two shots. However, a well-bunkered green will penalize many errant approach shots. A player who fails to birdie this hole will lose a shot to much of the field.
No. 9, par 3, 235 yards: A long, uphill shot over water (that’s not really in play for the pros) is all about club selection. If there’s any wind this week, viewers could see players hitting anything from fairway woods to long irons. Flanked by deep bunkers left and right, this two-tiered green demands accuracy. If a player is left and putting from the upper tier to the lower one, watch out for a three-putt.
No. 18, par 5, 590 yards: An iconic finishing hole provides an eagle chance with a long precise drive into the fairway. Those players not going for the green in two need only carry the water to a generous landing area. When going for the green, a player probably will need to hit a fairway wood or long iron and avoid the deep front right bunker and awkward left-hand bunker. The red-brick clubhouse offers a picturesque backdrop.
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