ATLANTA — East Lake Golf Club will undergo an extensive renovation next year. Renowned architect Andrew Green, who recently oversaw the restoration of Oak Hill Country Club’s East Course, will alter East Lake and attempt to bring the course back to its original Donald Ross design.
The bulldozers and the dump trucks arrive next week, but that does not matter much for this year’s Tour Championship.
The players certainly do not care about that either, as their sole focus is on the 7,346-yard layout that will play as a par 70.
East Lake has two par-5s, one on each nine, which will prove to be crucial holes this week.
The par-4 8th and the par-3 15th will also be pivotal, so let’s break them down:
Hole 6 – Par 5, 525 Yards
The 6th hole at East Lake is an uphill, dogleg right par-5 that requires the player to find the fairway off the tee.
Should they miss the fairway, then the gnarly Bermuda rough that lines the fairways here at East Lake will produce inconsistent lies. It may not be deep, but Bermuda grass gets tangled up with the club quite easily.
Alas, three bunkers protect the fairway, with two sitting on the right side. The other lies long and left, about 320 yards from the tee.
Trees line the fairway too, and as Xander Schauffele said during his pre-tournament press conference, pro golfers can do almost anything except hit through trees.
The second shot is all uphill to an elevated green. Players will likely require an extra club because of the elevation change.
They will also need to avoid the two bunkers that guard the green. One sits left of the putting green, while another lies short and right.
As is customary of Ross courses, the green slopes from the back to front, as the putting surface is shaped like an oval lying at a 45-degree angle.
Hole 8 – Par 4, 455 Yards
Perhaps the most beautiful spot on the property, the 8th hole is a brutal par-4 with water all the way down the left side.
The lake comes into play quite easily, as only a couple of yards lie between the fairway and the edge of the water.
It is quite intimidating.
Three fairway bunkers sit on the right side, so anything pushed is not good either.
Should players find the fairway, they will find that everything slopes from right to left towards the water. The 29 right-handed players in the field will play their second shots with the ball above their feet. For Brian Harman—the only lefty this week—his second shot at the 8th will be played from below his feet.
Either way, the natural slope of the fairway forces the ball to go toward the water, so players will have to aim farther right than usual.
Up at the green, one bunker guards the front of it while another sits to the right of the putting surface.
Like the fairway, everything on the green slopes towards the water, which, again, very much comes into play.
Hole 15 – Par 3, 211 Yards
A beast of a par-3, the 15th hole at East Lake is almost completely surrounded by water.
The tee shot requires all carry, as any mishit short will find the lake.
Tiger Woods almost suffered this fate at the 2018 Tour Championship, but thankfully for him, his tee shot held up in the Bermuda rough just a couple of feet away from the water’s edge. He went on to make a bogey, but he still won the tournament. Had he knocked it in the water, a different outcome may have presented itself.
Up around the kidney-shaped green, one bunker sits to the left of it and usually receives plenty of action.
The green is somewhat tricky, as it slopes back to front.
Anyone who walks away with a three will be satisfied. Par is a good score, especially when big numbers loom all around.
Whoever leads on Sunday will need to find the green—or at the very least dry land—or else they could potentially lose millions of dollars.
Hole 18 – Par 5, 590 Yards
The most famous hole at East Lake is a dogleg left, downhill par-5 that finishes right in front of the club’s historic Tudor-style clubhouse.
The tee shot is blind and requires a draw off the tee.
It is a downhill tee shot, and finding the fairway is imperative to finishing the round with a good score. Gnarly Bermuda rough and tall Georgia pines line each side of the fairway.
Should players find the short grass, they hope their tee shot reaches the slope roughly 315 yards off the tee. That steep hill will extend drives by at least 40 yards, giving players a long iron into the green for their second shot.
The lake bisects the fairway roughly 200 yards from the green but does not usually come into play.
Should players decide to layup—an easy decision if they missed the fairway—two bunkers sit roughly 100 yards short of the green, one on each side of the fairway.
Up by the green, which slopes severely from back right to front left, two bunkers sit right while another sits long and left. A deep collection area short and left of the green could be difficult up-and-down.
Nevertheless, the 18th is an entertaining and scorable hole. It will produce plenty of drama to close out the championship come Sunday afternoon.