An Ode to East Lake
I have had the great pleasure to play the golf course at East Lake a number of times. It is always a treat to play
as the history of the course is almost unrivaled. For starters, the club house is a museum to one of the
greatest players the game has ever seen, Bobby Jones. Mr. Jones is the only player in the history of the game
to win all four major championships in the same calendar year, a feat he accomplished in 1930. Furthermore,
the USGA’s sportsmanship award is named after Mr. Jones. He is an icon and a great role model for all
The experience of playing East Lake is a treat. The course is a walking-only course and caddies always
accompany you on your round. There is a lot to be said for walking such a classic golf course. You get the
time to truly appreciate and admire the course. As for having the caddies accompany you on the round, frankly
this always makes me feel like a professional golfer. In essence, you ask your caddy for the distance to the
target, discuss the appropriate strategy for the shot, select the club that will maximize your chance of executing
the shot, your caddie hands you the club, you step up and hit the shot. Then hand your club back to the caddy
and you and him walk down the fairway with him carrying your bags…just like Bones and Phil. Really neat!
The course itself was designed by Donald Ross and is regarded as one of the best golf courses in the world.
The catch on Donald Ross designs is that they are all about the golf, not the glitz. If you are a serious golfer
looking to test your game, this is the course for you. If you are looking to go out enjoy a casual round of golf
with the gang, you will most likely get annihilated. However, you might not realize why you are getting
annihilated for at least a few holes and unless you really think about it you may never figure it out…you might
just think you were unlucky.
The reason you might not realize what is going on is the pure genius that makes Ross so great. On almost
every hole, you will stand on the tee box and see a wide open fairway. There might be a few trees here or
there maybe a trap or two out in the distance, but nothing scary at all. You will rip your drive and unless you
catch a trap you will be fine. You see, Mr. Ross doesn’t get you on the first shot…he prefers to build your
confidence and make you feel like you are having a good round before he crushes you.
So, there you are in pretty good shape after your tee shot and looking to attack the pin. You get your yardage
from your caddy, grab your club and fire away. Let’s say you hit the shot you want and it hits the green. You
are pumped…but wait…the ball bounds high into the air and rolls off the back of the green. What the heck?
You think it is bad luck and move on to your chip.
You hit your chip right at the pin. It bounces 10 feet short of the pin and the ball begins to roll right at the
flag…but it keeps rolling and rolling and rolling. In fact, it rolls off the green and into a trap. What the heck?
Another unlucky break.
If you are smart you will figure it out within the first few holes. However like I said before, you might not ever
figure it out. Donald Ross is the master of defending his holes with demanding greens. They are hard, they
are slanted, and they are fast…in fact they might even be shell-backed. But the real trick is that he is subtle.
The slopes and slants are so subtle that very few will notice them. That is why you can’t hold the greens. That
is why your chips are running long. He is devious and he relishes in it.
With all this in mind, the second shot at East Lake is the key shot. You must understand where you want to
land the ball, where it will roll to, and where you can afford to miss. If you don’t understand this, you will be
East Lake was one of the first courses I played when I first began to hit the little white ball. Being exposed to
the history of the course and the game itself at such an early time in my golfing career, opened my eyes to the
many different layers of interest that golf has to offer. I learned about Bobby Jones; all his victories and all his
class. I learned about Donald Ross and what goes into making a truly great golf course. And I got to
experience walking such an historic course with friends and professional caddies capable of giving me
educated advice concerning the game. Without question, this has been a major factor in fostering the affection
and passion that I have for the game. For this I am forever grateful.
#5 tee box
#8 approach shot
Tee shot from the par 3 second hole