Winged Foot Golf Club (East) p. II
Seventh hole, Quaker 480 yards; A similar approach to the 8th hole on the West Course two fairways over, the 7th is a long par 4 which allows for a properly flighted second shot to run up onto the green. Given the right to left tilt in the green, any miss on the approach must be to the left to have a chance at saving par. The back right thumb of the green is one of the toughest hole locations on the course given the hole’s length and the risk of missing the green right, but it is an excellent way to make the hole play as a half par in match play.
Eighth hole, The Hook 450 yards; A dogleg left par 5 as the hole’s name implies that now plays as a par 4 due to advances in technology and deforestation of the inside corner of the dogleg. A new bunker on the inside corner, however, gives something else for the long hitters to think about before trying to draw it around the corner too much. The problem with converting short par 5s to par 4s though is that architects of the Golden Era made difficult greens on short par 5s to act as the main defense, expecting a short approach on the third shot to be taken. This is the case here where the green has two ridges that bisect the green into four quadrants with pronounced slopes making it arguably the toughest green to two putt of the 36 at Winged Foot regardless of the hole location. The center hole location where the ridges intersect is the easiest looking but hardest to putt to on the green with approach shots often roll off into one of the four corners and any putt up to it quickly falling away downhill past the hole.
Ninth hole, Mercury 410 yards; In a similar fashion to Merion, the East Course at Winged Foot has its own Drama (1-8), Comedy (9-15) and Tragedy (16-18) flow to it and the ninth marks the start of the second act with no par four over 410 yards from the tips. Playing straight away off the tee before bending to the left, the hole location dictates the precise combination of distance and spin to hit the approach close.
Tenth hole, Parade 355 yards; Echoing back to an era when architects fit the course to the land, the East Course heads for home on the 10th hole instead of the 9th with a beautiful view looking towards the iconic Wendehack clubhouse, which was built with stone dug up from the property during construction when the courses were originally built. Depending on the wind direction and location of the tee marker, the cross bunker 75 yards short of the green can be carried by the longer hitter, making it driveable.
Eleventh hole, Broadway 360 yards; Similar to the tenth, a delightful short par four that can be attacked laying up short, alongside, or carrying the fairway bunker on the right. The depth and extreme proximity of the greenside bunkers at Winged Foot provide a real challenge to the amateur player and are on full display here. After being expanded during restoration, the green now runs over 50 yards long, but the distance to the hole is tough to judge by the naked eye given the green’s slight elevation.
Twelfth hole, Long John 562 yards; Similar to the second and fourth holes, the only par 5 on the back-nine requires a specific shot shape to hold the canting fairway, but this time it is a fade. The longest hitters can reach the flat at the corner, but the green here is fronted by a bunker requiring a full carry. Like most holes at Winged Foot, the green is the defense of par with extremely difficult rear hole locations on this three tiered green requiring complete spin control on the approach to access them.
Thirteenth hole, Cameo 145 yards; The author’s favorite par 3 at Winged Foot where scores can range from two to eight depending on where the tee shot finishes. While not quite as short, the 13th shares the do or die qualities of the Postage Stamp at Troon with a severe false front deflecting shots that come up short and one of the deepest and largest bunkers on the property guarding the right. The most difficult hole location is the back right section which slightly protrudes out at an angle requiring right handed players to execute a gutsy fade with a short iron to access it. However, the worst miss is a pull over the left side of the green which falls off twelve feet and leaves a recovery from either hardpan or thick rough, depending on the season, to a green that runs away into the bunker on the other side.
Fourteenth Hole, Hell Bent 410 yards; Although both courses at Winged Foot run primarily North/South, the constant change of ideal shot shape required to hold the fairway during the round grinds away at the player, especially if they can only shape it one way. The 14th requires a strong fade to not only carry the bunker on the corner but also to avoid the one straight away on the other side of the fairway.
Fifteenth Hole, Shrine 335 yards; The end of the Comedy section requiring only a 210 yard shot off the tee since a blind pond lies 70 yards short of the green. Controlling spin and trajectory of a short iron into this elevated and deep green can be more of a challenge than it looks, particularly into the prevailing breeze. A miss to the right leaves you in the deepest bunker on the property.
Sixteenth Hole, Hope 450 yards; The brutal three hole finish, typically all into the wind, begins with this long uphill par four to one of the largest greens on the course. The key on the approach is to get the ball on the correct side of the ridge running down the middle of the green which will then leave some chance for a birdie.
Seventeenth Hole, Lightnin’ 225 yards: During the 2015 Met Open, the 17th played the toughest in relation to par. Originally the hole had the largest bunker on the course but it was removed early on due to drainage issues. In fact it was so vast and deep it was said that the only way to escape from it was with a bolt of lightning, hence the hole’s name. Gil Hanse proposed to reinstate the bunker given the capability of today’s bunker drainage technology, but it was decided not to reinstate it at this time, unfortunately. Regardless, the difficulty of the hole comes from its length playing downhill into the prevailing wind to an extremely small target when you consider the undulation caused by the 6 foot false front and large knob on the left center of the green.
Eighteenth Hole, Taps 470 yards: A grand finish up to the clubhouse, aided by a new back tee which doubles as a forward tee for the 12th and lengthened the hole from 410 yards to 470 yards. A ridge in the fairway tends to keep balls from rolling out, but the approach remains to the largest green on the course and a makeable putt by Winged Foot standards if the distance is right.
Thanks to Gil Hanse’s research and extraordinary team, Winged Foot’s East Course has come back to life and shows how even the best courses can change slowly overtime without close supervision. In many ways Winged Foot East is the ideal course. It is exceptionally walkable, has a wonderful variety of hole lengths, including two par 3s under 150 yards, and the one-of-a-kind green complexes provide more than enough defense for the elite player while allowing the amateur to run the ball up in most cases. Like the Old Course at St. Andrews, it demonstrates the greatness that can be achieved on almost any piece of property if enough thought is put into the green complexes and should be the standard aspired to by every architect regardless of the canvas they have to paint on.