Coming to Atlanta for the PGA Tour Championship? You’re Going to Love The Side Trips
By Burt Carey
Whether you’ve already got tickets, or you’re coming to Atlanta Sept. 24-27 in hopes of scoring a pass onto the grounds of the East Lake Golf Club for the PGA Tour championship, you’re in for several treats.
First is the weather. You just can’t beat September in Georgia.
Second are the players — the 30 best on the PGA tour playing their best golf of the year.
And third are the side trips you could take while visiting this capital city.
The mere fact that you’ll be stepping onto some of golf’s most hallowed ground is most noteworthy. After all, saying East Lake was Bobby Jones’ home course is like saying Col. Harland Sanders knew how to fry chicken. Jones was 6 years old and in the accompaniment of his father, Col. Robert P. Jones, when East Lake’s opening reception was held. The club was originally built in the suburbs of Atlanta and was heavily influenced by John Heisman, the Georgia Tech football coach whose name adorns the highest award presented to college football’s best player each year.
Established in 1904, the golf course at East Lake is the oldest in Atlanta. Its original Tom Bendelow design was reworked by Donald Ross in 1913, and the club experienced a long run of solid membership and hosted a number of prestigious tournaments, including the 1963 Ryder Cup. Following that tournament Atlanta underwent huge cultural changes, with urban decay leading to the city’s storied white flight. The Atlanta Athletic Club’s No. 2 course was sold to developers and became the East Lake Meadows public housing project. Poverty, drugs and violence change the landscape.
Fortunately, a group of investors retained the original golf course and clubhouse, and sold them to a charitable foundation in 1993. In 1994 the foundation hired Rees Jones, the son of golf course architect Robert Trent Jones, to restore East Lake to Ross’ design and its current layout. It plays to a par 72 over 6,891 yards from the championship tees.
Now that you know some of East Lake’s history, here are some other sights and activities to take in while you’re in Atlanta.
East Lake is just five miles east of downtown Atlanta, and is easily accessible via car or MARTA (Metro Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority). During the day, Five Points can be a pretty cool hangout, but most visitors would rather keep going west to Olympic Park (remember, Atlanta hosted the Games almost 20 years ago). Adjacent to the park is the Georgia Aquarium and the World of Coca Cola Museum. That’s one entire day, trust me!
Too bad the Atlanta Falcons will be out of town that weekend (Sept. 27) visiting the Dallas Cowboys. The Braves are also out of town that weekend, so neither the Georgia Dome nor Turner Field should be on your list. Maybe next time.
Continue just a few miles farther west, and you’ll get to Austell, one of this sprawling city’s current-day suburbs. Six Flags Over Georgia is open Sept. 26-27 beginning at noon each day. (Psst: Get a Flash Pass.)
And if you’d rather just stretch your legs and experience some interesting Civil War history, there’s always Kennesaw Mountain northwest of the city and Stone Mountain east of Atlanta. Both offer plenty of hiking.