Sunday, April 22, 2012

Round #15: Georgia - East Lake Golf Club

The #1 rated golf course in Georgia is the Augusta National Golf Club, best known for hosting the Masters Tournament each year. Getting tickets to the tournament is almost impossible; playing the course is not even conceivable. In the process of selecting a course to play, I quickly moved down the list and began to look at the Peachtree Golf Club. It was clear that outside guests may not be welcome after an unsuccessful attempt to locate either an internet site or phone number for the club. I was hoping to find a course in the Atlanta area in order to play golf with my brother, John. The topic came up while I was playing golf at Crow Valley with another John Deere retiree, John Quinn. He mentioned that John Deere has a membership at the #3 rated course in Georgia - - - the East Lake Golf Club. After making a few contacts, the plan fell into place..
Playing golf at East Lake is an experience. The club does not have any signage that might help a person identify it. The single external use of the club’s name was on a clock near the #1 tee box. A security guard at the front gate checked our names against a list before allowing us to enter. After driving up to the clubhouse, the staff descended upon us to carry clubs to the practice range, valet park the car, and personally escort us to the men’s locker room. We were assigned a locker for the day and a temporary membership number for any miscellaneous charges (820: the same number as our designated tee time). 

Front gate

Starter's time clock

Clubhouse entrance

The golf club was originally formed by the Atlanta Athletic Club. They purchased  property in 1904 on which to build a golf course. John Heisman was director of the club’s athletic program (the John Heisman after whom the college football Heisman Trophy is named). The father of golf legend Bobby Jones served a 5-year term as club president and as a director for 38-years. Bobby also served a club president for a 2-year period; pictures of his golfing victories adorn the clubhouse walls. The East Lake Country Club was officially formed in 1968. It’s current membership is limited to 100 corporate members and a few individual “honorary” memberships. John Deere is one of the 100 corporate members. John pointed out the name on a locker door of one honorary members he was familiar with: Home Depot’s founder, Bernard Marcus.
 John Deere locker

Men's locker room

Round: #15
Location: Atlanta, GA
Golf Digest Best-In-State Rank: #3
Date: 19 Apr, tee off at 8:20 AM
Conditions: overcast skies, 2 MPH wind, 60 degrees
Yardage: 6,883
Lost balls: 1
Score: 86 on a par 72
The practice range was unusual, requiring a 75-yard shot to carry over a pond that sat directly in front it. Needless to say, a few balls found their way into the water as we warmed up. John & I were the 2nd group of the day to tee off. The first group let us play through on the 3rd hole. Perhaps they were intimidated by a player in the 8:20 group who carries a 1-iron in his bag (John). In any event, we were able to play at our own pace for the remainder of our round. 

 414-yard par 4 hole #1

 182-yard par 3 hole #2

383-yard par 4 hole #3

East Lake is a walking only golf club. We were assigned a caddy for our round who was also named John. He grew up on Long Island in New York where he returns for visits to family members. He held the distinction of carrying the highest number of golf bags during a season of any of the caddies. Brother John noted that Caddy John was a very somber person, he did not smile or laugh much during the round. Perhaps he has carried too many bags! The club has a strict “no tipping” policy that extends to their entire staff. It is very unusual to not tip your caddy and in this case I suspect working for a tip would have improved the outcome.

 The two John's

Jim & John

 547-yard par 5 hole #5 (view of 2nd shot from the fairway)

 164-yard par 3 hole #6

551-yard par 5 hole #9 (view of approach shot to the green)

As you would expect, a big Atlanta-based company like Coca-Cola is a corporate member at East Lake. An antique Coke machine sits in the corner of the pro shop that remains in use. The Tour Championship by Coca-Cola is one of the PGA tour playoffs for the FedEx Cup. It will be held at the East Lake Country Club during the 3rd week of September this year.

2012 PGA Tour Championship trophy

 493-yard par 5 hole #10

 496-yard par 5 hole #15

401-yard par 4 hole #17

At the conclusion of golf, our shoes were cleaned by the locker room attendant. The car was delivered to the clubhouse entrance, clubs loaded and we departed. John indicated that he was not used to this level of service; neither am I but I think we could both get used to it very quickly! 

211-yard par 3 hole #18

John threw some LG logo golf balls into my bag; for a man that does not like to play golf he always seems to have plenty of new golf balls. You may recall the ball I used at Pebble Beach on the hole-in-one shot was a Home Depot logo ball given to me by John. 
We met Julie & Lisa for lunch at the Highland Bakery. After lunch, Julie & I departed for South Carolina while John & Lisa were planning to catch one of Austin’s soccer games at the high school.

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