Geeked on Golf

A Celebration of the People & Places that Make Golf the Greatest Game


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5th Annual Noreaster – Back to Long Island

After two years in Boston, our group was longing for a return trip to Long Island, and Friar’s Head.  Planning began over the winter, but took a detour.  Two of the original four members of the Noreaster crew, Brian and Shawn, weren’t able to make the trip this year.  They are good dads, and had travel plans with their kids that trumped golf buddy travel.  I understand and respect those priorities.  Fortunately, my network of golf geeks who get it continues to expand, and the slots were filled by Jon Cavalier and Gary M.

We pulled together a lineup of Friar’s Head, Maidstone, Quogue Field Club, and Deepdale GC.

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FRIAR’S HEAD

Since my last visit to Friar’s Head, I have had the good fortune of playing several more of Coore & Crenshaw’s best courses – Old Sandwich, Sand Hills, Sand Valley and Dormie Club.  My love of their work continues to grow, but I admit to wondering if the additional exposure would in any way diminish Friar’s Head.  It most definitely did not.  Friar’s Head delivers, every time.

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Behind the green at the short par-4 5th

The back nine gets most of the press, but on this visit I was much more taken with the front.  Those holes are brilliantly routed out to and back from the inland farm, and are packed with strategy and character.  I made the turn feeling that the front might be the stronger nine, especially with the recent tree removal.

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The fairway rolls down to the 9th green

Whereas the outward nine meanders around in a wide open area, much of the back nine winds through dunes closer to the clubhouse and water.  Beginning with the par-3 10th, the inward nine has more of an adventure feel.

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The view back from the 10th green

My feelings about the front side notwithstanding, there is a reason why the closing stretch from the 14th through 18th gets so much love.  It is all-world.

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The tee shot on the par-5 14th


MAIDSTONE CLUB

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Photo by Jon Cavalier

Maidstone was one of the courses we visited on our first annual Noreaster, which also included Piping Rock, Shinnecock and Friar’s Head.  Truth be told, it was not our crew’s favorite from that lineup, but it didn’t get a fair assessment either.  We played Shinnecock that morning in a howling wind and spitting rain, and it beat us up.  By the time we made it to Maidstone, the rain has stopped, but the wind increased to silly levels and it was difficult to see Maidstone for how special it was.

That first visit to Maidstone was also prior to the renovation by Coore & Crenshaw.  I filed it away in the “nice course” category until Jon Cavalier did his LinksGems course tour.  Reviewing Jon’s tour, I could hardly believe that it was the same Maidstone I had played.  From that day forward, a return to East Hampton has been on my mind.

Expectations were high as we made the drive east on Long Island on a perfect June morning.  18 holes later, my high expectations were thoroughly exceeded with Maidstone entering my Top 10 all-time favorites.  Willie Park’s routing – beginning and ending with a wide open field in front of the clubhouse, transitioning to the wetlands around Hook Pond, and featuring the seaside dunesland at its heart – is masterful and varied.  C&C’s work on the greens and bunkers is mind-blowingly cool.  And the stewardship of GM Ken Koch and Superintendent John Genovesi is spot on.

Still absorbing the morning months later, I am left believing that a fair argument could be made that Maidstone belongs in the same conversation with Shinnecock and National Golf Links as top dog on Long Island.  As was the case when I first saw Jon’s photos, I am once again counting the days until a return visit.

MAIDSTONE COURSE TOUR

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Hole #1 – Par 4 – 424 yards

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The opener plays downhill away from the clubhouse to a green that is both elevated and canted.  Long approaches are in danger of finding the road, which backs the green.  The Coore & Crenshaw team’s bunker rework is on display and gives a hint at the polish that has been applied to this Willie Park Jr. gem.

Hole #2 – Par 5 – 537 yards

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The first of the “wetland” holes plays straight through flanking bunkers to a stellar green featuring a low front tier and a long, angled back tier.  Approaches must be precisely played to find the correct section, while avoiding the large bunker that runs the length of the back right.  The renovation took this hole from ho-hum to holy moly!

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Hole #3 – Par 4 – 408 yards

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A straightaway two-shotter, the third demands proper positioning off the tee to access various pin positions on the green which features a false front and two tiers.  Great greens make great golf holes, and this hole is proof positive.

Hole #4 – Par 3 – 176 yards

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The first one-shotter marks another transition, with three of the next four holes playing over or around Hook Pond.  Bunkering rework around the green has added even more character to this thrilling hole, where two realizations hit the player on the tee: 1) The wind is really blowing, and 2) If I don’t make committed approaches, I will be watching balls roll back down false fronts ALL day.

Hole #5 – Par 4 – 325 yards

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Multiple options are available to the player on this short four, including going for the green when the wind is right.  Bunkers guard the landing zones and the green, which backs up to Hook Pond.  Reward awaits the bold, but not without risk.

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Hole #6 – Par 4 – 403 yards

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The green on this hole, featuring bold contours, and surrounded by jaw-dropping bunkering is a harbinger of the architecture to come.  Hit the approach on the wrong tier, and you may as well try and negotiate a three-putt with your playing partners as you walk up the fairway.

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Hole #7 – Par 4 – 341 yards

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The best cape hole in America?  An argument could be made.  Step on the tee, gauge the wind, check your pucker factor, and let er rip.  A thrilling tee shot, followed by an approach into a green with killer contours and creative flourishes in the surrounds.  Sublime.

Hole #8 – Par 3 – 151 yards

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The tee shot plays blind over the large dune to an elevated green.  A wise man once said, a shot is only blind once.  That wise man may have been right, but he would be intimidated on the 8th tee too.

Finding the 8th green – wonderfully contoured, floating on a sea of sand – with one’s tee ball is an exhilarating relief.

Hole #9 – Par 4 – 415 yards

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Ahhhh, the iconic 9th.  With the ocean on the right and the whipping wind, the player must focus to find a safe landing in the fairway winding through the dunes.

A service road left of the green has been replaced by a wild runoff shaped by Dave Zinkand.  Continuous improvement and relentless attention to detail.  What separates the good from the world class.

Hole #10 – Par 4 – 387 yards

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This unique hole is one of Maidstone’s most natural and rugged looking, with sandy wastes, long grasses and colorful dune vegetation.  Standing in the fairway looking at the green set atop a dune, the player can be forgiven for concluding that there is no safe place to land an approach.

Hole #11 – Par 4 – 464 yards

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This slight dogleg left is an elegant hole with bunkers guarding the drive zone and green.  It highlighted for me just how perfectly balanced Maidstone is.  From turf maintenance, to bunker treatments, to tree management, nothing has been left undone, and yet nothing is overdone.

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Hole #12 – Par 3 – 181 yards

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This used to be a nondescript connector hole.  Thanks to C&C, that is most definitely no longer the case.  The forebunker confounds depth perception, the flanking bunkers intimidate, and a back left bunker lies out of sight, waiting to punish misjudged shots.  All this sand, defending a green that is tough enough to not need defending.  The 12th is now up to the standards of Maidstone’s other wonderful one-shotters.

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Hole #13 – Par 5 – 500 yards

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The 13th plays back toward the ocean and the fairway narrows as it nears the green.  A green that, now running at an angle between two bunkers and featuring a large false front, might be the most improved on the course.  This hole used to be “the one before the iconic 14th”.  Post-renovation, it is THE 13th.

Hole #14 – Par 3 – 152 yards

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This all world one-shotter can play dramatically differently from day to day based on the wind.  Whether holding a wedge or a long iron, the player is guaranteed a dose of beauty to soothe their frazzled nerves.

The view of the 14th from behind shows a) how close to the ocean the green sits, and b) how little margin for error there is for tee balls. Find the green, enjoy the sound and smell of the ocean, and consider yourself among the fortunate few.

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Hole #15 – Par 5 – 493 yards

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Playing straightaway from the ocean, the green is reachable in two with the right wind.  Multiple subtle plateaus mean that an eagle or birdie are far from guaranteed even if a bold approach safely finds the green.  This hole marks the end of the seaside adventure as the course heads back to the clubhouse.

Hole #16 – Par 5 – 485 yards

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The par-5 16th ends the fun 3,5,3,5,5 stretch. The cape-style tee shot plays back over Hook Pond to a fairway that makes a right turn toward the low-set green.  Judging the wind and playing the angles well can result in birdies.  Picking the wrong lines…different result.

Hole #17 – Par 4 – 328 yards

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This short four starts with a second straight cape tee shot, playing in the opposite direction.  Yet another fun little routing quirk.  The player can take multiple lines off tee to gain the most advantageous position to approach a green set intimately at the intersection of two roads.

Hole #18 – Par 4 – 390 yards

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The home hole plays uphill toward the clubhouse and ocean.  The shared fairway makes for an expansive view and provides plenty of room to get way out of position for the approach.

Maidstone’s final green setting is so breathtakingly beautiful that it almost masks the sadness the player feels to be walking off this all-world course.  The adventure ends, but the memories last forever.


QUOGUE FIELD CLUB

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Photo by Jon Cavalier

Fortunately for me, my golf buddies are willing to indulge my recent obsession with 9-holers.  I could not have been more excited to experience Quogue Field Club, thanks to our host Peter Imber.  It did not disappoint.

Peter has been at the forefront of the restoration of Quogue, and he has graciously agreed to participate in an interview and course tour on which Jon Cavalier and I intend to collaborate.  With that closer look on the docket, I won’t dive too deeply into the course here.  I will say, however, that Quogue Field Club embodies everything that I love about the game.  It is both simple and intensely interesting at the same time.  It provides plenty of challenge, especially when the wind blows, without sucking out the fun.  It is a joy.

I could go around and around this course endlessly…

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The green at the par-3 2nd

Quogue’s nine holes have nine terrific greens, as well as plenty of old-timey quirk – grassy mounds, church pew bunkers, shots over roads, a punch bowl surrounded by sand.  The list goes on and on.

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The redan-biarritz 4th is one of a kind

The course is open to and intimately embedded in its community.  It is a source of inspiration for what community golf can be, whether public or private.

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The 9th green, set close to the understated clubhouse


DEEPDALE GOLF CLUB

On a trip that was packed with high notes, the highest relative to my expectations might have been our visit to Deepdale.  I must admit that I did not know much about the club, other than that the course was designed by Dick Wilson, an architect whose courses I had never played.  Sometimes, going into a golf adventure “blind” makes it all the more enjoyable and that was certainly the case here.

The course was wonderful, from the routing, to the imposing bunkering, to the sloped and contoured greens.  Wilson created a course that challenges the low handicapper, without punishing those who are less skilled.

The club is outstanding.  A great mix of old school charm with new school amenity.  The showers are almost as good as Friar’s Head (and that is saying something), and the seafood cobb salad might be the best post-round meal I have ever had.  Deepdale is the kind of club that would be a pure pleasure to frequent – a golf getaway from city life that isn’t even all that far away.  It was the perfect end to our trip.

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The approach to Deepdale’s 1st

From the first hole, several things are evident about Deepdale.  It is immaculate, the doglegged fairways sweep beautifully over the land, and the greens are anything but boring.

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From behind the 12th green

I had no idea that the land so close to the highway and airport could be so stunning, with rolling hills and plenty of elevation change.

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From the 15th tee


CONCLUSION

The more golf adventures I have, the more I come to realize that the enjoyment of the experience is as much dictated by the quality of the company as it is by the quality of the courses.  I am fortunate to be able to play the courses I do, but my fortune is exponentially better because of the company I keep.  These are simply stellar dudes.

Reflecting on the trip, there was one missing element – immersion.  Because of some last minute shuffling, we were not all staying in the same place.  A big part of what I truly enjoy about buddies trips is the camaraderie, on the course and off.  Car time and meal time, talking golf, architecture and life, add richness and depth to these trips.  The logistics robbed us of a bit of that this time around.

The 2017 Noreaster consisted of our most eclectic group of courses and clubs to date, in terms of both vibe and architecture.  We had modern and classic, understated and luxurious, big and small, modern and classic.  One common thread that runs among them all – greatness.

Familiarity born of return visits to the area, and Friar’s Head and Maidstone, increased my appreciation.  These trips are often a blur and repeat visits help to crystallize memories and perspectives.  I often wonder, which Noreaster area has the strongest collection of courses?  Boston, Long Island, or Philly?  The answer came to me this year.  Whichever area I just visited.


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Eastward Ho! Tour by Jon Cavalier

EASTWARD HO! – A COURSE TOUR & APPRECIATION

Chatham, MA – Herbert Fowler

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Homeward bound at Eastward Ho!

I was in the general area on for a round at Wannamoisett.  On my way up to the course that morning, I noticed that Eastward Ho! was a mere 90 minutes further along, and having missed an opportunity to play there a few months back, I decided to try to head over later that day.  After a very enjoyable round at Wannamoisett, and having been well and duly throttled by both my host and the course, I headed over.

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Lone tree at fifteen

The place is, in a word, wonderful.  I arrived at 2pm on Sunday, and with sunset for Cape Cod creeping up to before 4:30pm, I knew that I had limited time to get a round in.  I also knew I would need to take a cart.  But no matter.  The weather was perfect, and I enjoyed every minute of my time on the property.  I have had the great pleasure and fortune of playing some of the most “charming” golf courses in the east — Myopia Hunt, Garden City, Maidstone, Fishers Island, etc. — and Eastward Ho!, in my opinion, belongs on any list of such courses.  It’s an exciting, fun, playable and unique golf course that deserves more than the share of accolades that it currently receives.  I can’t remember having such an enjoyable time on a golf course.

I hope you enjoy this tour.

EASTWARD HO!

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The incomparable setting of Eastward Ho!

Set in Chatham, Massachusetts, the drive to Eastward Ho! takes you through some beautiful countryside.  The anticipation builds as you get closer to the course, and you begin to get glimpses of coves and small bays.  It’s a quiet, peaceful area – ideal for golf.

The course was designed by Herbert Fowler and opened for play in 1922.  The course is laid out in a figure 8 routing, with the front 9 on the northeastern side of the clubhouse, and the back 9 to the southwest.  It sits on a glacial moraine, which resulted in some one-off landforms rarely found in the United States.

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The Scorecard

The course plays to a par 71 over 6,372 yards – short by today’s standards, but as the 71.7/135 rating and slope indicate, it is no pushover.  I thought the mix of holes and the terrain compensated well for the lack of overall length — the course played longer for me than the yardage on the card.

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Hole 1 – 380 yards – Par 4

Some courses, Maidstone and Fishers Island for example, hide their charms until several holes into the round.  No such wait is required at Eastward Ho!  As soon as you pull into the small parking lot, the first hole and ninth fairway are visible to the right of the gorgeous clubhouse, and you know immediately that you are in for a special round.

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Doglegging slightly left, the first plunges down into a valley and then back up to the green at the top of a long hill.

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Looking back toward the clubhouse from the first green reveals the tumbling nature of the land.

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Hole 2 – 350 yards – Par 4

After crossing a small road to the second tee, the player is confronted with a tee shot over Crows Pond to an elevated fairway and a partially blind landing area.

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Upon cresting the hill, most players will have only a delicate wedge into a green defended by a banked fairway and collection area to the right, and a small but deep bunker short left.

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As is so often the case at Eastward Ho!, a look back down the fairway from the green shows the astonishing ground features that are present on almost every hole.

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Hole 3 – 326 yards – Par 4

Walking across the small road from the 2nd green to the 3rd tee reveals one of the most incredible views that I have ever seen on a golf course.  To the player’s left, the 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th holes are visible, as is the expansive bay to the right of the 7th green.  The excitement for the player is palpable as he knows that these four holes remain ahead.

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The tee shot on the 3rd is over a valley, and again the landing area is obscured.  This hole is reachable for longer players, and that fact coupled with a blind landing zone make for an exciting combination.

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Those that don’t go at the green will likely have a half-wedge to a small putting surface that is well-guarded by both bunkers and slopes to all sides but the front.

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Looking back up the 3rd fairway from the green – note the tiered descent from the crest of the fairway.

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Hole 4 – 182 yards – Par 3

The first par 3 on the course, and perhaps the prettiest, the 4th green hugs the cliff long and right.

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The beautiful setting for the 4th green.

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Hole 5 – 525 yards – Par 5

The 5th hole at Eastward Ho! begins one of the most remarkable series of holes that I’ve had the privilege of playing.  The terrain over which these holes play is unlike anything I have ever seen before, and the expanse of this section of the golf course is literally breathtaking.

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The heaving 5th fairway.

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The approach to the 5th green, which sits so close to the 8th green that on first glance, it appears to be a shared green.

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The 5th and 8th greens.  The surrounding banks create an amphitheater effect.

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Hole 6 – 421 yards – Par 4

The 6th hole at Eastward Ho! is one of the most spectacular par 4s in American golf.  Plunging sharply downhill through a valley created by some of the most severely sloping fairways you’ll ever see, the 6th plays shorter than its yardage but is far from easy.

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The stunning approach to the 6th green requires a shot to a raised green.  Absolutely beautiful.

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The view back up the incredible 6th fairway.  Hard to believe that a golf course was built over this land more than 90 years ago.

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The elevated 6th green sits hard on the water’s edge, providing panoramic views of the bay and the small islands in the distance.

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Hole 7 – 181 yards – Par 3

The second par 3 at Eastward Ho! calls for an uphill shot to a green sloped back to front.  The putting surface is not visible from the tee.

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While short is the preferred miss, due to the slope of the green, deep pot bunkers guard the short sides of the green.

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Looking back from the elevated 7th green provides one of the best views on the course, with the 6th green, the bay, and Strong Island in the background.

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Hole 8 – 348 yards – Par 4

A stiff par 4 running uphill along the bay to the right, three bunkers set into the hillside provide both a target and a hazard off the tee.

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The many hazards surrounding the raised 8th green are not visible from short of the fairway bunkers.

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The vantage point at the top of the ridgeline above the 8th green affords absolutely stunning views of 6 of the 9 holes on the outward nine.

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Hole 9 – 396 yards – Par 4

The 9th meanders downhill back to the clubhouse and toward a green set on a small ridge fronting the clubhouse.

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Framed by the gorgeous clubhouse, the 9th is an excellent green, though the only unoriginal putting surface at Eastward Ho.

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The view from behind the 9th green reveals how the fairway rolls seamlessly into the green.

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Hole 10 – 208 yards – Par 3

The 10th takes the player around the clubhouse to the southwest side.  The green is benched into the side of a large hill.  Another fine par 3.

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Wide view of the 10th green and the clubhouse.

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Hole 11 – 485 yards – Par 5

A very short par 5, the 11th appears rather benign off the tee.

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But upon reaching the crest of the hill, the player is confronted with an abrupt plunge down the roller coaster fairway.  While many players can reach this green in two shots, there is little margin for error as the fairway is bordered closely by trees and vegetation on both sides.

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The incredible 11th fairway.

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Hole 12 – 333 yards – Par 4

If Eastward Ho! has a weak spot, it is to be found at hole 12 and 13.  These two short par 4s are inland and deliver the player to the furthest part of the back nine to begin the home stretch.  They are fine holes, but they are subtle as compared to the rest of the course.

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The short approach to the raised green at 12.

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A more gently rolling fairway.

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Hole 13 – 336 yards – Par 4

The landing area is blind to the tee at 13.  The green is marked by the aiming post to the left center of the frame below.

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The 13th green at the far end of the property, before turning for home.

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Hole 14 – 371 yards – Par 4

After finishing 13, the player turns back toward the clubhouse for one of the most spectacular finishing stretches on the east coast.  The 14th plays downhill the entire way to a fairway sloping hard right to left.  A draw off this tee will run forever.

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I, unfortunately, did not hit a draw, and so had a short iron into this gorgeous green.  The middle of the 14th fairway is yet another remarkably beautiful spot at Eastward Ho!.

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As is the 14th green near sunset.

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Hole 15 – 153 yards – Par 3

A stunner of a short par 3, the 15th is tucked into a nook along the edge of the bay.

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Fowler placed the green to blend elegantly into the hillside on which it sits.

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A ridge cuts the 15th green from left to right.

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A beautiful setting for golf.

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The view from above reveals the contour of the green, perhaps inspired by the movement of the water beyond.

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Hole 16 – 380 yards – Par 4

The 16th turns back to the southwest and runs slightly uphill and parallel to the 14th.

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The view from the 16th green back down toward the tee, the 14th and 15th greens, and the bay.

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Hole 17 – 537 yards – Par 5

In my opinion, the 17th is the best of the three par 5s at Eastward Ho!.  It begins with a tee shot over a small rise which obscures most of the fairway.

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The second shot is over a sharp dip and rise – the green is reachable for longer players if the ball can be carried over the depression in the fairway.  The clubhouse barely peeks over the right shoulder of the green.

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The green is built to catch and direct long running approaches that can scale the far wall of the fairway depression . . .

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. . . as seen in this shot from behind the 17th green.

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Hole 18 – 460 yards – Par 4

The longest par 4 on the course starts simply, with a tee shot through a wide chute to a fairway that appears to bank left toward the clubhouse.  What comes next is . . .

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. . . simply amazing.  Most tee shots will carry this rise and tumble down to the flat area at the bottom of the fairway, shortening the hole.  Before arriving at the drive, however, the player cresting the 18th fairway is presented with one of the finest views in golf.

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The approach on 18 is demanding, as the hill on which the green sits is quite steep, and very close to the gorgeous clubhouse.

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Looking back from the 18th green at the fairway and the bay at sunset, made me happy to be a golfer.

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In the end, Eastward Ho! was one of the most enjoyable rounds of golf I’ve ever played.  Being out on this course alone, as sunset approached on a perfect November afternoon was an amazing experience.  The club staff was very nice and extremely welcoming, the few members that I ran into were most hospitable, and the course was in beautiful condition.  As I made the long slog back to Philadelphia that evening, I continually replayed scenes from the course in my mind.  Although I only spent a few hours there, it is a round I will always remember quite fondly.

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Sunset at Eastward Ho!

Eastward Ho! is a unique experience, and I cannot imagine anyone not enjoying this golf course.