Inside the course: East Lake Golf Club

August 27, 2012
Fast facts
Course superintendent Ralph J. Kepple
Original architect Tom Bendelow (1904)
Redesign Donald Ross (1914), George Cobb (1959), Rees Jones (1994 and 2008)
Number of TOUR events as host venue 12 (including 2012)
Course ranking Ranked 28 (out of 51) in difficulty on the PGA TOUR in 2011
Yardage history 6,980 yards (1998-2002)
  7,141 yards (2004)
  7,154 yards (2005-2007)
  7,304 (2008)
  7,154 (2009-present)
Par value: 70
Grass Bermudagrass, Meyer and Cavalier zoysiagrass, Poa annua (tees); Zoysiagrass (fairways); Bermudagrass (greens, rough)
Tournament Stimpmeter 12+ ft
Sand bunkers 72
Water hazards 3
Course tour Click here
Course record
Zach Johnson
There has been 1 ace recorded during THE TOUR Championship presented by Coca-Cola.
Player Hole Year
Jerry Kelly 11th 2002
2011 Rankings
Toughest Hole
The first of two par 5s that have been shortened to play as par 4s for THE TOUR Championship presented by Coca-Cola, this 520 yard hole will play much shorter than the yardage as the drive will pitch forward on the downslope of the fairway. The second shot will be a long iron from a downhill lie making it tough to get to tight hole locations.
2011: 0 eagles, 7 birdies, 79 pars, 33 bogeys, 0 double bogeys, 1 other.
Easiest Hole
Three tall pines on the right side of the fairway force players to hit a fade to the best position in the fairway. With a good drive, players can reach this short par 5 in two. A well-bunkered green poses problems if missed long or short. A par here will drop a shot to the field.
2011: 2 eagles, 73 birdies, 39 pars, 5 bogeys, 1 other.
East Lake Golf Club2011 rankings Last 11 years
Hole Par Yards Avg. Score Rank Avg. Score Rank
1 4 424 4.008 11 4.006 10
2 3 214 3.075 7 3.053 8
3 4 387 3.917 14 3.932 15
4 4 440 3.967 13 4.003 11
5 4 520 4.242 1 4.237 1
6 3 209 3.158 2 3.062 7
7 4 434 4.075 7 3.979 13
8 4 405 3.908 15 3.936 14
9 5 600 4.592 17 4.673 17
10 4 469 4.142 3 4.192 3
11 3 197 3.05 9 2.998 12
12 4 391 3.883 16 3.924 16
13 4 476 4.117 4 4.116 6
14 4 442 3.975 12 4.015 9
15 5 525 4.417 18 4.443 18
16 4 481 4.1 6 4.227 2
17 4 470 4.117 4 4.129 5
18 3 235 3.05 9 3.164 4
Course origins
East Lake Golf Club was the home course of Bobby Jones, who learned to play at East Lake and played his final round at the club. With construction beginning in 1904, East Lake is the oldest golf facility in Atlanta. In preparation for the 15 biennial Ryder Cup Matches in 1963, East Lake became one of the first, if not the first, golf courses in Atlanta to install bentgrass putting greens. With the installation of MiniVerde bermudagrass greens, the club came full circle in 2008.
John Kim, coordinating producer, wrote in 2007: Renowned for producing golf legends such as Bobby Jones, Charlie Yates and Alexa Stirling, East Lake Golf Club quickly became the hub of the nation's golfing focus in the early 20th century. As the host of many prominent events and home to several top players, the club enjoyed decades as an icon of sports and high society. But that lofty status took a tumble as the course and community became a victim of the civil rights strife and urban decay that gripped Atlanta in the late 1960s. The wealthy members of East Lake began to migrate to the suburbs, and the property surrounding the course was sold to a developer, who built low-income public housing on the land. That accelerated an already deteriorating community. The storied golf course, which had welcomed the world when it hosted the 1963 Ryder Cup, soon after became a blight to the Atlanta landscape. In a ranking of criminal activity in the city of Atlanta, the East Lake neighborhood ranked last. The crime rate was an astounding 18 times higher than the national average, and the main economic engine was the drug trade. The neighborhood was trapped in a cycle of poverty and crime.
The golf course mirrored the surrounding community in its fall from grace. Conditions and memberships deteriorated until the East Lake Golf Club was only a golf club via technicality. Though a few hardcore purists remained as members, those who braved a round at the course were as concerned about stray bullets as they were about stray tee shots.
Tom Cousins, a lifelong member of East Lake and one of the nation's top real estate developers, along with a charitable foundation, purchased the dilapidated golf club in 1993 with a vision to restore it to its one-time grandeur and make it a worthy tribute to its most famous member. He believed he could use the restoration of East Lake Golf Club as a catalyst for social revolution in the surrounding area. Cousins had no interest in displacing one community and replacing it with a higher-income version. He had a vision to elevate the entire community -- residents included -- and have East Lake serve as a focal point for the golf world and for urban renewal. East Lake was not convinced that they could trust the altruism and intentions of an outside agency to build a better community and allow them to live in it. As the Foundation demonstrated commitment and sincerity, residents eventually grew to trust its intentions and motives. New homes were built. A charter school was established for residents. The golf course was renovated. And a new East Lake was born, looking very much like the old East Lake -- the one from the early 1900s.
In a dozen years since the re-emergence of the East Lake community, the numbers are already overwhelmingly positive. Violent crime has been reduced by 95 percent since 1995. All adults receiving government housing assistance are required to either be working or in a job-training program. The Drew Charter School boasts an 88 percent rate of students who meet or exceed state standards for reading and 74 percent that meet or exceed in math. In 1995, the number for area students in the math portion was five percent. And 100 percent of alumni from Drew Charter School are on course to graduate from their respective high schools. Fewer than a third could say that back in the mid '90s. Furthermore, The Villages of East Lake is a beautiful, thriving mixed-income community with a diverse population that shares a common goal of bettering the community. But the numbers aren't nearly as compelling as the smiles and the optimism that pervades the faces of the neighborhood youth as they take part in a multitude of after-school opportunities, including The First Tee program, which had its origins at East Lake. -- Source: Golf Course Superintendents Association of America
Tournament course history
Course Location Years
Oak Hills CC San Antonio, Texas 1987
Pebble Beach GL Pebble Beach, Calif. 1988
Harbour Town GL Hilton Head, S.C. 1989
Champions GC Houston 1990, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2003
Pinehurst Pinehurst, N.C. 1991-1992
Olympic Club San Francisco 1993-1994
Southern Hills CC Tulsa, Okla. 1995-1996
East Lake GC Atlanta 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004-present

East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta is where the final playoff tournament takes place. Here is all you want to know about the course.