Short History of East Lake Golf Club

Courtesy of CEM0030

Courtesy of CEM0030

The Atlanta Athletic Club bought almost 200 acres of land in 1904 around East Lake. The property was to the east and south of the town of Decatur, about five miles east of Atlanta. Tom Bendelow designed the East Lake Golf course. The first nine holes were completed by 1906 and the last nine in 1907. In 1908, Bendelow created the “No. 2” course at East Lake, the present day Charlies Yates Golf course.

World-renowned golf course designer Donald Ross re-designed East Lake in 1913. His design called for the front and back nine holes to end at the clubhouse. Unfortunately, this same clubhouse fell to a fire in 1925. Soon after, Atlanta architect Philip Shutze constructed the present day two-story Tudor style building. Shutze’s East Lake clubhouse is one of several of his projects listed on the United States National Register of Historic Places. Other Atlanta works include the Swan House, The Temple, the Albert E. Thornton House, and the Citizen’s and Southern Bank Building.

While the course and clubhouse remain icons of golf, East Lake may be better known for its association with legendary golfer Bobby Jones. Robert P. Jones, Bobby’s father, was a club member from its inception.   Bobby learned and honed his game on the East Lake course under the tutelage of the club pro, Stewart Maiden. At the age of 11, Jones carded an 80 on his home course at East Lake. Jones went on to an illustrious career as an amateur, including winning the Grand Slam of golf in 1930 (United States Amateur, United States Open, British Amateur, and British Open). Jones served as president of East Lake from 1946-47 and some of his golf memorabilia can be found in the clubhouse.

East Lake hosted the Ryder Cup in 1963. Arnold Palmer played and captained the winning United States team. Unfortunately, this event became one of the last pleasant memories until the early 1990s. The surrounding neighbor in the 1960s fell into disrepair. The Atlanta Athletic Club sold the No. 2 course and moved to its current site in Duluth, GA. A group of 25 East Lake members purchased the original course and clubhouse and created the East Lake Country Club in 1968.

The 1970s witnessed the construction of a public housing project on the site of the No. 2 course. Poverty, drugs, and violence surrounded the golf club through the 1980s.

However, in 1993, a local charitable foundation purchased East Lake Golf Club with the intent of restoring it as a tribute to Bobby Jones and the club’s other great amateur golfers, such as Charlies Yates. Around this time the East Lake Foundation emerged to aid in the revitalization of the surrounding neighborhoods. Golf architect Rees Jones, in 1994, restored Donald Ross’ original design to give East Lake its current appearance. Jones also re-designed the No.2 course, which opened as the Charlie Yates Golf Course in 1998.

Today, all of the profits from the East Lake Golf Club go to the East Lake Foundation. The Foundation aids in the support of the health, education, safety, and productivity of the East Lake neighborhood.

One of the biggest supporters of the East Lake Foundation is the Tour Championship by Coca-Cola, which is the finale of the Professional Golf Association’s playoffs and the pursuit of the FedEx Cup (winner receives $10 million). The Tour Championship first came to East Lake in 1998 and rotated with Champions Golf Club of Houston until 2004 when East Lake became the permanent home of the Tour Championship.

Besides the Tour Championship and the Ryder Cup, East Lake has hosted six Southern Amateur tournaments, three Southern Opens, one Western Junior tournament, one U.S. Amateur tournament, and one U.S. Women’s Amateur tournament.

East Lake Golf Club honors the golfing greats of the past, present, and future while giving back to the surrounding community. Certainly, it has earned its rightful place in golf lore with such venues as Augusta National, Pebble Beach, and St. Andrews and most definitely, the love and respect of its home city, Atlanta.

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