East Lake Golf Club - Course Guide
I’ve never seen anything like the fans and the commotion.
The Atlanta Athletic Club was created in 1898 and six years later it acquired land to build a course at East Lake which was opened in 1909 with the great Bobby Jones, then just six-year-old, among those present.
The early decades were thrilling as the course, redesigned in 1928 by Donald Ross from Tom Bendelow’s original layout, and Jones’ reputation grew at the same speed.
But in the mid-1960s, shortly after hosting the Ryder Cup, the area began to suffer from urban decay, the property’s second course was sold and the housing project built on it only intensified the social problems.
Change was desperately needed and in 1993 the East Lake Foundation was conceived.
Rees Jones was quickly employed to upgrade the course, the Foundation helped transform the housing project into a successful community and the PGA Tour soon settled upon the course as the site for its season-ending Tour Championship, which now also encompasses the conclusion to the FedEx Cup Play-Offs.
The design features few doglegs, but it has one very distinct characteristic – the need to find the fairways.
If a player does so, he will have wedge in hand and be able to attack the pin, but the fairways are very narrow, making them difficult to locate, and the rough is not only thick Bermuda grass but famously difficult to control from.
There is a touch of another familiar Georgia course about the challenge, with the approach shots often sitting on undulating lies, just as at Augusta National.
East Lake GC Fast Facts
Yardage: 7,346 yards
Course designer: Tom Bendelow, George Adair, Donald Ross, George Cobb, Rees Jones
Course record: 60 – Zach Johnson
Past Championships at East Lake
2019 Tour Championship
Redemption for Rory McIlroy, who felt he had underperformed the year before when in the final pairing with Tiger Woods. The Northern Irishman went head-to-head with Brooks Koepka and emerged triumphant.
2018 Tour Championship
Sensational scenes as Tiger Woods completed an astonishing recovery from back injury with a two-stroke victory over Billy Horschel. The win prompted unprecedented celebrations by the galleries which flocked across the final fairway, surrounded the 18th green and chanted their hero’s name.
2013 Tour Championship – Henrik Stenson held off Jordan Spieth and Steve Stricker to win the tournament and with it the FedEx Cup. He soon became the first player to complete the Trans-Atlantic double when also claiming the European Tour’s Race to Dubai.
2009 Tour Championship
Phil Mickelson opened the week with a 73 to sit 26th in the field of 30, seven shots off the lead, but he closed with laps of 67-66-65 to win by three shots from Tiger Woods.
2007 Tour Championship
A first win for Tiger Woods on the course and it was a brutal performance. Rounds of 64-63-64 opened up a three-shot lead on the field and a final day 66 left him fully eight blows clear.
2005 Tour Championship
A remarkable case of David defeating Goliath, as journeyman Bart Bryant left runner-up Tiger Woods six shots in his wake.
2004 Tour Championship
The start of the full-time residency of the tournament at East Lake witnessed a strong effort from South Africa’s Retief Goosen who finished four strokes clear of Tiger Woods.
1998 Tour Championship
The first time the Tour Championship made its way to the course, alternating initially with the Champions Club in Houston, Texas, and Hal Sutton emerged victorious.
1963 Ryder Cup
Playing captain Arnold Palmer led the United States to a dominant 23–9 victory. The Great Britain and Ireland team, already seven points down heading into the final set of eight singles, lost seven of them with Peter Alliss gaining their only half.
1922 Southern Amateur
East Lake has a long tradition of hosting top amateur events (in 2001 Bubba Dickerson won the U.S. Amateur there), but the great Bobby Jones first claimed success on home soil in 1922 and five years later added the Southern Open.
Par 4, 481 yards: Stunning views of the Atlanta cityscape add to the drama of this downhill hole. As always at East Lake, from the fairway, the approach is straightforward, but from the tee three bunkers protect down the left and anything wide right disappears into the woods.
Par 3, 235 yards: Prior to the 2016 Tour Championship this short hole was the 18th until the two nines were flipped. It is played over water, but that provides no fear for the pros. Instead, they seek to avoid deep bunkers that surround the small raised green.
Par 3, 211 yards: For the most part the course is protected from the wind but the trees, but with a green perched on a tiny peninsula heading out into the lake, there is no such assistance here.
Par 5, 600 yards: A hole that provides a huge advantage to players who can carry the ball 300 yards because at that distance the fairway kicks forward. Find that spot and birdie is on the cards.
East Lake Golf Club Quotes from Famous Players
It’s definitely a course where you have to manage your game. It’s not just a hit it as hard as you can, find it, and try to get it close. There’s a little more thought that goes into it.
If you find the fairway, you’ve got a lot of wedge shots. So if you’re on with your wedges, you can shoot a good score around here. But it needs to be in the fairway because, if you’re in the rough, you’ve got no control over that golf ball.
Anybody can win on this golf course. You don’t have to be a long hitter or a short hitter. You’ve got to hit fairways and hit quality shots into the greens, and the green complexes here are as good as anywhere.
Tiger Woods (on his 2018 win):
I’ve never seen anything like the fans and the commotion.
Chad Parker (East Lake General Manager on Tiger’s win):
People were running through bunkers and jumping over things. It was unlike anything I’ve seen in golf.
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Matt Cooper has been a sports journalist since 2009 with his work appearing at ESPN, Sky Sports, NBC, Sporting Life and the Planet Sport Network among many others, in addition to guest appearances on the BBC and CNN. Although a specialist in golf, who has traveled the world to cover the sport, Matt has also covered rugby, cricket, football and the Olympics.