East Lake Golf Club: A Closer Look at Atlanta's Historic Course

By Kellie Noszka

Bill Haas plays Eastlake's 13th hole

Located just five miles east of downtown, the renowned East Lake Golf Club is the oldest golf course in Atlanta. The club opened in 1904 and was the home course of one of golf’s best, the great Bobby Jones. Today, East Lake Golf Club is the permanent home of the PGA Tour Championship, the FedEx Cup finale.

The History of East Lake Golf Club

The first course at East Lake Golf Club was designed by golf architect Tom Bendelow in 1908 on land that once was the site of a lakeside amusement park. Legendary architect Donald Ross redesigned the course in 1913 with a friendlier layout that ended at the clubhouse.

While the course was gaining in popularity over the next several decades, so was its most famous golfer. Jones was dominating the golf world and in 1930 completed golf’s Grand Slam with wins at the U.S. Open, U.S. Amateur, British Open and British Amateur.

Economic changes in the adjacent area saw the club take a major decline in 1980s. The club was purchased in 1993 by a charitable organization and returned to its former glory. In addition to renovations to the historic clubhouse, the course was updated by Rees Jones (son of Robert Trent Jones) to match Ross’s original design.

In 2016, the club permanently reversed its front and back nines.

East Lake Golf Club by the Numbers

Members at East Lake can choose from four tees with the back tees on the par-72 course measuring 6,886 yards. Golfers playing from the par-70 championship tees face a 7,346-yard challenge with just two par-5 holes.

Legacy of Bobby Jones at East Lake Golf Club

Bobby Jones was just six years old when the course opened and he attended the opening reception with his father Colonel Robert P. Jones. The younger Jones went on to win golf’s Grand Slam and 13 of the 31 major tournaments he played in.

It is believed that Jones played his first and last round of golf at East Lake. The club honors its most famous member by displaying memorabilia like golf clubs designed by Jones, tournament scorecards, photos and news articles in the clubhouse.

The Tour Championship

The 2021 Tour Championship will be held at East Lake Golf Club September 2-5. The club has hosted the tournament 20 times, the first in 1998. In 2005, the club was named the permanent host course of the Tour Championship.

In 2020, Dustin Johnson shot 11-under-par to capture the Tour Championship title and secure top place in the FedEx Cup standings.

Featured Holes at East Lake Golf Club

While the course has a fantastic design throughout, a few holes really shine.

No. 15 - 211 Yards - Par 3

This 211-yard par-3 is almost completely surrounded by water making it one of the most challenging tee shots on the course. A large bunker sits to the left back of the hole, creating a risky second shot for those who miss the green long.

No. 18 - 590 Yards - Par 5

The par-5 finishing hole at East Lake is long at 590 yards but birdie isn’t out of the question. With excellent views of the historic clubhouse on the horizon, the 18th hole is fairly open with the lake coming into play on the second shot. The front of the green is protected by several bunkers.

No. 9 - 235 Yards - Par 3

Before the front and back nine were flipped, this daunting 235-yard par-3 hole was a nightmare ending for many golfers. This uphill hole requires an accurate tee shot over water. Bunkers sit on either side of the front of the green and a row of trees and clubhouse entrance sit just beyond the green.

Community Impact

The East Lake Golf Club works closely with the East Lake Foundation in the revitalization of the East Lake community. A portion of the proceeds from the Tour Championship and other events held at the club are donated to the foundation. Members of the private club are also encouraged to make a $200,000 donation to the East Lake Foundation in addition to membership fees.

Image: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

About the Author

Kellie Noszka is a freelance writer and former sports reporter for the Cincinnati Post. She was a golf caddie for 10 years and earned an Evans Scholarship to The Ohio State University. Kellie developed a deep appreciation for the game of golf at an early age.