Eastward Ho! Country Club
Ninth hole, 390 yards; From the highest point on the property, the golfer needs to decide if he is willing to hug the cliff line with his tee ball. If so, he gains a level lie on a plateau some 230 yards from the tee. From there, the play is along the spine of a ridge, on top of which is located the fairway and then the green. As the hole is generally into the wind, a low running shot is the play but anything right or left will fall off the ridge and finish well below the putting surface. In several playing aspects, this hole may remind the golfer of the fourth at Rye Golf Club, one of golf’s most admired links holes. In fact, the green location along the spine is so inspiring that the golfer is stunned to learn it is the sole non-Fowler one on the course. His was thirty yards further back and slightly to the right but was lost during one of the clubhouse expansions. Exactly when this green was relocated and who did the work is not known but one thing is for sure: they acted wisely and Fowler would approve.
Tenth hole, 210 yards; Given the hole’s length, the golfer must take particular care in gauging the direction of the wind. Complicating matters is that this is the first and only shot on the course that plays in a southerly direction. Fowler wrote about how ‘the green itself is built up at the back and that the whole putting surface is in full view from the tee.’
Twelfth hole, 335 yards; With Fowler’s perfect placement of the green atop a knoll with sharp drop-offs on all sides, this hole is but one of the reasons that Eastward Ho! is always fully engaging to play. Even on the rare days when the wind is down, the greens on this 6,400 yard course provide vexing targets and the golfer is guaranteed to be engrossed with the task at hand.
Fourteenth hole, 370 yards; Fowler draped the entire hole over the side of a hill which heads down toward the shoreline. A draw from the tee will run forever and leave but a pitch. Common with many of his greens, it appears simple at first glance but looks are deceiving as the slope of the ground (and thus the green) is far more pronounced from right to left than the golfer first suspects.
Fifteenth hole, 150 yards; Fowler called the finally one shotter ‘perhaps the best hole on the course.’ Though short, it rejects greedy tactics. Anything left is a sucker hole location, given that the hazard line is a mere three feet from the back edge of the green. The better golfer will punch a little draw, knowing his ball will take the right to left green slope and feed close to the left hole locations.
Seventeenth hole, 520 yards; The trio of three shot holes at Eastward Ho! have a cumulative total of six bunkers amongst them. They don’t need any more as they fall over some of the lumpiest terrain on the property. With the sole exception of Pennard in Wales and maybe Cape Breton Highlands, the author has never seen a set of three shotters that come even close to capturing more ground movement. Fowler thought some would consider this the equal of the fifth and the small bumps and swales near the green make for one of the course’s most interesting approach shots.
Eighteenth hole, 460 yards; At some point during the back nine, the first time player may question if the course is really as good as he perceives it to be. After all, little is heard of this gem outside of New England, so surely something is lacking? And yet, all the golfer sees is hole after good hole, so perhaps the course will end with a whimper like Elie, and thus leave the golfer with the nagging feeling that the course is more a holiday course than something more enduring. Just as Lundin Links concludes with a superb long two shotter, so does Eastward Ho! In fact, the scale of the hole makes the golfer feel puny. If he can summon the courage to hit his tee ball over a grove of trees that protrude in from the cliff line, he may be able to catch a sharp down slope at the 240 mark from the tee and gain an additional 50 yards in run. For most of us though, the tee ball will stay up top and the golfer is left with a 200 yard plus approach over a valley to a green located beneath the clubhouse windows. The green’s highest point is in its front third with the remaining portion gently sloping away from the golfer, making most up and downs difficult. Though Fowler considered this the best two shotter on the course, many think the sixth, eighth, ninth and fourteenth rest just as comfortably in the golfer’s mind.
What would Fowler make of his design today? Undoubtedly, he would be thrilled as the course has never suffered at the hands of a lesser architect and the playing challenge remains strong, especially with the help of the ever present wind. Indeed, with today’s green speeds, it is fair to say that the pitched greens at Eastward Ho! are cumulatively the most difficult set that Fowler designed, even more so than those at Beau Desert in England. In addition, thanks to the recent tree clearing, Eastward Ho! is once again returning to how it was in Fowler’s day: an expansive feeling course and one where the golfer feels alone in nature. These are dominant themes at Walton Heath and Westward Ho! and it is great to see a similar sense return to Eastward Ho!
Chatham Country Club changed its name in 1926 to Eastward Ho! Country Club in deference to Fowler and his affinity for Westward Ho! in Devon, England. Both courses are unique in world golf and play markedly different from one day to the next. The golfer is continually asked to invent shots that he never knew he had. No wonder that Francis Ouimet and Bobby Jones both enjoyed spending so much time at Eastward Ho!