EASTWARD HO! – A COURSE TOUR & APPRECIATION
Chatham, MA – Herbert Fowler
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Doglegging slightly left, the first plunges down into a valley and then back up to the green at the top of a long hill.
Looking back toward the clubhouse from the first green reveals the tumbling nature of the land.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Looking back up the 3rd fairway from the green – note the tiered descent from the crest of the fairway.
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.
The beautiful setting for the 4th green.
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.
The heaving 5th fairway.
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.
The 5th and 8th greens. The surrounding banks create an amphitheater effect.
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.
The stunning approach to the 6th green requires a shot to a raised green. Absolutely beautiful.
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.
The elevated 6th green sits hard on the water’s edge, providing panoramic views of the bay and the small islands in the distance.
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.
While short is the preferred miss, due to the slope of the green, deep pot bunkers guard the short sides of the green.
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.
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.
The many hazards surrounding the raised 8th green are not visible from short of the fairway bunkers.
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.
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.
Framed by the gorgeous clubhouse, the 9th is an excellent green, though the only unoriginal putting surface at Eastward Ho.
The view from behind the 9th green reveals how the fairway rolls seamlessly into the green.
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.
Wide view of the 10th green and the clubhouse.
Hole 11 – 485 yards – Par 5
A very short par 5, the 11th appears rather benign off the tee.
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.
The incredible 11th fairway.
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.
The short approach to the raised green at 12.
A more gently rolling fairway.
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.
The 13th green at the far end of the property, before turning for home.
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.
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!.
As is the 14th green near sunset.
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.
Fowler placed the green to blend elegantly into the hillside on which it sits.
A ridge cuts the 15th green from left to right.
A beautiful setting for golf.
The view from above reveals the contour of the green, perhaps inspired by the movement of the water beyond.
Hole 16 – 380 yards – Par 4
The 16th turns back to the southwest and runs slightly uphill and parallel to the 14th.
The view from the 16th green back down toward the tee, the 14th and 15th greens, and the bay.
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.
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.
The green is built to catch and direct long running approaches that can scale the far wall of the fairway depression . . .
. . . as seen in this shot from behind the 17th green.
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 . . .
. . . 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.
The approach on 18 is demanding, as the hill on which the green sits is quite steep, and very close to the gorgeous clubhouse.
Looking back from the 18th green at the fairway and the bay at sunset, made me happy to be a golfer.
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.
Eastward Ho! is a unique experience, and I cannot imagine anyone not enjoying this golf course.