Review: Eastward Ho! Country Club

Designer: William Herbert Fowler (1922), Keith Foster (2004, Renovation)

Location: Chatham, Massachusetts

History: Once home to a World War I Naval Base, a luxurious hotel, and Squanto’s burial ground, Eastward Ho!’s land is uniquely suited for links golf. G. Herbert Windler and other prominent Boston businessmen discovered this and enlisted Englishman William Herbert Fowler for the design. Upon its completion in 1924, Fowler remarked, “I am quite certain that this course will compare favorably with the leading courses in the United Kingdom and will be second to none of them.” Initially named Chatham Country Club, the course was renamed Eastward Ho! in 1928 to compliment Fowler’s Westward Ho! in England.

Unfortunately, rapid tree overgrowth and poor conditions plagued the Club as it matured and its reputation faded. In 2004, Keith Foster removed thousands of trees that had blocked water views and again returned the course to its former glory. Considered the finest course on Cape Cod, Eastward Ho! currently holds the following accolades:

  • #153 Best Course in America – Golf Digest (2019)
  • #62 Best Course in America – Golf Magazine (2017)
  • #44 Best Classic Course in America – Golfweek (2018)
  • #7 Best Course in Massachusetts – Golf Digest (2017)

Conditions: 9/10, Eastward Ho! is one of the best maintained seaside courses on the east coast, with thick rough, firm ryegrass fairways, and quick bentgrass greens that roll extremely true. Their superintendent, Frank Hancock, came from Shinnecock and is one of the best in the business.

Value: N/A, This is a private course.

Scorecard:

Tee                           Par         Yardage         Rating          Slope

Black                       71           6437               72.2              143

Blue                         71           6168               70.6               141

Gold                         71           5843              69.3               133

White                      71           5378               67.1               123

Green                      71           4415               67.3               120

Hole Descriptions: There are certain courses that have that “it” factor and make it so you never want the day to end. Eastward Ho! is one of these courses. Undeniably the most aesthetically pleasing course in all of New England, it also features a terrific routing with some of the best holes in the world. I have no idea how Eastward Ho! isn’t a top 100 course by every publication, and I can’t think of any course in New England I’d rather play on a summer day than here.

In addition to sensational views of Pleasant Bay from almost every hole, Eastward Ho! is most famous for its undulating fairways, which are some of the wildest you’ll ever play thanks to the glacial moraine it sits on. At just over 6,400 yards from the Tips, this isn’t the longest course, but uneven lies, dramatic elevation changes, and the ever-present wind pose a serious challenge. The overarching theme at Eastward Ho! is fun and honestly we need more modern courses built with this in mind.

Constructed on a narrow isthmus, the layout is routed in a figure-8 shape, with the 1st and 10th running away from the central clubhouse and 9th and 18th returning to it. This design works well on water property, as Pete Dye utilized it on both The Ocean Course and Whistling Straits.  The opening hole is one of the few without water views, but is a terrific opening hole as a sweeping uphill dogleg left. Officially 380 yards, this hole plays longer with a patch of fescue down the left and OB right. Midline bunkers are to be avoided but begin at 275 yards so they won’t be in play for most golfers. Take at least one club extra to reach this heavily back-to-front sloped green.

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The uphill par 4 opener
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The 1st approach

After a short walk across Fox Hill Rd., the 2nd is a short but intimidating 350 yard par 4. Featuring a blind teeshot over an 150 yard forced carry, this fairway slides right with bunkers on the left at 180 and 250 yards and fescue down the right. This approach then runs uphill to a tiny, undulating green.

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The 2nd teeshot is one of the toughest on the course
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The 2nd approach

After a short walk back over the road, you come across one of the most breathtaking views in American golf. From the 3rd teebox, you have a panoramic view of some of the best holes on the course, Pleasant Bay, and the ridiculously unique terrain. The 3rd hole is the shortest par 4 at just 326 yards, but another blind, uphill forced carry makes this another difficult teeshot. The only thing in view from the teebox are deep bunkers squeezing the fairway at 160 yards, but there’s ample fairway beyond them. Requiring just a wedge for most golfers, this approach plays to a narrow, undulating green surrounded by three bunkers.

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The scenes from the 3rd tee
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The blind 3rd teeshot
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The approach at 3

At 182 yards, the 4th is the first of a tremendous set of par threes at Eastward Ho! Playing directly on the water, this hole requires another carry over a chasm to a square back-to-front sloped green lined by a severe drop-off right. A principal’s nose bunker is prominently featured on the left, but is more of a visual illusion 60 yards short of the green.

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The par 3 4th
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Cape Cod or Pebble Beach?

The 525 yard 5th hole plays straightaway, but is one of the wildest holes on the course with a fairway best likened to a roller-coaster. With an elevated teeshot over yet another serious forced carry, this hole features an extremely generous fairway lined by bunkers on the right at 260 yards and dense fescue on either side. The best defense on this hole is the fact that you’ll never get an level lie. This approach plays slightly uphill to a large green guarded by a severe false front and bunker short right.

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The par 5 5th
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The 5th approach with the 8th green in the background

It’s hard for me to pick a favorite hole on a course this good, but the number 1 handicap 6th hole would be my choice. One of the most recognizable holes in golf, this 455 yard stunner features an incredibly fun teeshot through a chute of mounds that’s partially obscured on the teebox by the fairway’s tilt. This fairway essentially acts as a pinball machine, kicking your ball left and right until many teeshots end up in the same hollow. The approach is equally as compelling, playing severely uphill to a back-to-front sloped green guarded by a giant false front. Missing right finds a bunker, but it’s the preferred miss with a steep drop-off left.

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The 6th is one the best par fours in America
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These slopes have to be seen to be believed
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A look back from the 6th green; note the speed slot

Playing straight uphill and usually into a stiff breeze, the 181 yard 7th is another remarkable par 3.  Fowler makes great use of the land here, as this hole plays over the 6th fairway bunker adding to the intimidation. You can’t really see much else besides the flag from the teebox, but beware of two deep bunkers on either side of the green. While the land appears like it would lend to a redan, this green actually runs hard back-to-front.

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The beautiful par 3 7th
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Walking up to the 7th green

At 348 yards, the par 4 8th is an excellent hole that usually plays longer into the wind. A trio of crossbunkers on the left at 260 yards provide an ideal line off the tee. This hole is most notable for its tricky green complex, which runs hard back-to-front lined by four cavernous bunkers.

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The sporty par 4 8th

The 9th hole plays back towards the clubhouse again into the predominant wind. At 396 yards, this is a relatively straightforward hole with a generous fairway lined by only rough on the left and trees down the right. This rectangular green is lined by bunkers on three sides and is the only green that’s not a Fowler original.

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The par 4 9th

Playing inland away from the water, the 10th is the most difficult par 3 at Eastward Ho! at a prodigious 208 yards. Requiring a well-struck long iron or wood, this demanding hole plays over a valley to a large green partially obscured by mounds of fescue on the right. Bunkers guard well-short on either side but the real danger is long left, where anything remotely in that direction will be OB.

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The lengthy par 3 10th

Holes 11-13 are probably the weakest stretch on the course, but the dramatic contours continue and salvage the shorter length and lack of water views. At 485 yards, the 11th is a short, reachable par 5 complicated by a wild fairway and multiple blind shots. This hole plays as a dogleg left with a narrow fairway lined by OB left and trees right. Like the 5th, this green features a steep false front and is lined by bunkers on either side.

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The 11th teeshot immediately plays over a blind plateau
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The 11th approach after the dogleg

The par 4 12th is on the short side at just 333 yards, but Fowler’s genius allows this straightaway hole to be harder than it looks. With OB left and fescue down the right, hitting this fairway is a must. The left side of the fairway is preferred, as the right slopes off hard and leaves a horrible angle into the green. With deep bunkers on either side, this elevated, crowned green demands precision.

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The par 4 12th
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An approach from the right is less than optimal

The 13th plays back towards the water as another short par 4 at 336 yards. The longer you hit off the tee, the more danger awaits as this fairway progressively narrows with bunkers on either side starting at 240 yards. This back-to-front sloped green is guarded by bunkers on either side.

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The semi-blind 13th
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The 13th approach

As strong as holes 3-8 are, I think the closing stretch is equally as good if not better beginning with the par 4 14th. Officially 371 yards, this downhill dogleg left plays shorter with an exceedingly fun semi-blind teeshot to a fairway that slopes hard right-to-left. Due to the firm and fast conditions, any draw here will leave a mere pitch into the green. Bunkers line either side of this right-to-left sloped green. Apparently the original teebox was back left in the trees, and the Club would be wise to recreate this teebox, further inviting a draw off the tee. This hole is known as the “Elephant hole” due to a deep depression on the left side of the fairway. So much fun!

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The view from the 14th teebox
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The world-class 14th approach

Playing sea-level at the water’s edge, the 15th is Eastward Ho!’s shortest hole at 153 yards. This is another breathtaking one-shotter with a two-tiered green guarded by multiple rows of bunkers short and one to the right.

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The picturesque par 3 15th
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Note the strategic bunkering and subtle slopes on the 15th green
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The 15th green sits well-below the next teebox

The 16th hole was recently lengthened to 411 yards and is a legitimate par 4 usually playing into the wind. If you include the parallel 14th fairway, this hole has one of the widest fairways in America with the only danger being a pair of bunkers in the middle at 190 yards. This approach runs uphill to a slightly elevated back-to-front sloped green lined by bunkers on either side.

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The lengthy 16th from the new tees
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The 16th green allows for running approach shots

At 537 yards, the penultimate hole at Eastward Ho! is also its longest. This is a strong dogleg left par 5 with a semi-blind teeshot where left is better than thick rough right. Like the other par fives, this fairway features numerous swales and a particularly nasty bunker I was unlucky to find about 140 yards short of the green. This green is rather small and slopes towards the middle from both sides. Usually playing downwind, this hole is reachable, but large numbers are also possible.

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The 17th teebox doesn’t offer much in terms of sightlines
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The 17th green is very well-protected

As you’d expect from a course like Eastward Ho! with a flare for the dramatic, the closing hole is absolutely spectacular and may well be one of the best closers in golf. At 460 yards, this dogleg left is semi-blind and somewhat nondescript off the tee, but opens up beautifully once you reach the fairway. Although a long hole, those who can reach a speed slot at about 250 yards will have much shorter in. This approach runs straight back uphill with Pleasant Bay down your left and the majestic clubhouse in the background.

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I wonder if the Club has considered taking the trees down on the left?
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The all-world finale

General Comments: Eastward Ho!’s clubhouse is built on top of an old seaside cabin, and oozes a serious Cape Cod charm overlooking Pleasant Bay. Practice facilities include a large putting green near the 1st tee and range between the 10th and 18th holes. Pace of play was terrific and the staff and members I met were some of the friendliest anywhere.

Verdict: Criminally underrated, Eastward Ho! possesses a charm few courses have and might be my favorite course in New England. With breathtaking water views, an incredible terrain, and impeccable firm, fast conditions, fun is the priority here. An absolute must if you get the chance to play!


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