Saturday, April 1, 2006

Golf in Atlanta - Peachtree and East Lake

I recently returned from Atlanta where I had an opportunity to played the two top 100 courses located there. I have always liked Atlanta for its Southern charm, weather and respect for tradition that is part of the culture. Atlanta still has true gentleman. Peachtree (ranked #87 in the world) is the better of the two courses. Golf in Atlanta and Bobby Jones are inseparable. Jones grew up playing golf at East Lake Country Club (ranked #99 in the world). The story goes that Jones and a group of his friends grew frustrated at slow play at East Lake and thus founded Peachtree. Bobby designed the course with Robert Trent Jones Sr. in 1948.

Peachtree only has 225 members and on the beautiful Spring day I play it we saw only two other group all day. The terrain is some of the hilliest I've played thus far (although the Olympic Club Lake course is hillier). It is not an exaggeration to say that the only flat lies you are likely to get all day are on the tee boxes. Many of the approach shots are to elevated greens, thus the course plays longer than the card indicates. I have encountered only two courses with faster greens than Peachtree: Merion and Oakmont. The course also has an ever-present creek that winds its away around the course and is always ready to catch a wayward shot or to penalize those that should have hit three wood off the tee but through their hubris take the driver.

Comparisons between Peachtree and Augusta are inevitable because Bobby had a hand in designing both; their respective topographies are very similar and Peachtree, like Augusta, was previously a nursery. Several of the vistas a Peachtree could be mistaken for those at Augusta. Peachtree is a decidedly low key affair, the clubhouse is understated, the grill room is understated and the membership is both low key and low profile. I am a fan of golf clubs like Peachtree.

An interesting historical note is that the Union General William Tecumseh Sherman slept in one of the clubhouse buildings at Peachtree, which at the time was a private residence, on his march through the South.

East Lake, on the other hand has a very corporate feel to it. The course has many corporate memberships, who apparently stepped in to rescue it through a charitable foundation when the course started to founder in 1993. The course is located within the city and is hemmed in on four sides in a rectangular grid. The course is not a brilliant design and is not particularly picturesque either. The tudor style clubhouse is a shrine to Bobby Jones and it is hard not to think of him playing here over the years as you walk the fairways.

East Lake Web Site

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