Herbert Fowler, the esteemed English golf course architect – best known for his work at Walton Heath and The Berkshire – was the man responsible for creating this classic layout in 1921 at the former Chatham Country Club on the eastern seaboard at Cape Cod.
Coincidentally, Fowler had reworked Old Tom Morris’s original course at Westward Ho! (Royal North Devon) a few years earlier so it was somehow rather fitting that he should also be the man chosen (over Willie Park Jnr) to design Eastern Ho! on the other side of the Atlantic.
Fowler’s understated approach is apparent here on the cliffs above Pleasant Bay with simple tee box areas, minimalist bunkering and straightforward greens (that are often seamless fairway extensions) laid out on a rolling landscape.
The four par threes at 4, 7, 10 and 15 are exceptional short holes with the 140-yard 15th considered the signature hole on the course. Some, however, regard the best on the scorecard to be the 395-yard par four 9th, which is played from the highest point on the property towards a landing area that leads along the spine of a ridge to the green.
Massachusetts has a number of superb top tier layouts – many congregated in and around the Boston metro area. But I can say without any hesitation or reservation that those fortunate to play Eastward Ho! will reap a golf experience of the highest order. The course is blessed with first rate terrain – heaving and moving about so that golfers must by necessity adjust to both the lie and the wind pattern of the day. Those who have grown accustomed to flat and predictable fairways had best be forewarned when coming to the course because shotmaking dexterity is a prerequisite to success.
Herbert Fowler did a stellar job in creating the layout but it's the work of architect Keith Foster who is to be saluted for a sensational restoration completed in 2004.
One of the elements I often consider when reviewing a golf course is whether the blood was stirred – the emotions front and center. Being at Eastward Ho! does just that. You relish the varying holes and conditions. The penalties are commensurate with your skill level – or lack thereof. Fun golf – not the slavish devotion to inane difficulty – is what makes the course so appealing. Eastward Ho! is not a long course – but the wind will have you gritting one's teeth when facing a 3-4 club headwind or even more challenging crosswinds.
When you reach the long par-4 18th hole – you play one of the fine closing holes in the game. The fairway reminds me of an ocean on a stormy day – and as you come around the corner you see the clubhouse perched on the hillside with the green just below. Be ever mindful of the menacing false front that is quick to grab the half-hearted approach.
The Cape Cod area has long been a draw for vacationers and the enchanting views of the Chatham area along the coastline are mesmerizing on a sunny day. Eastward Ho! is a powerful statement that golf need not be the banal cookie-cutter assembly line variety of designs that dot the landscape. The memories of one's time here are indelible.
by M. James Ward
“A variety of stances in the fairway is a key challenge of golf, and Nature is much better at providing this variety than the hand of man.” Tom Doak
I’m not sure Doak had Eastward Ho! in mind when he wrote his Minimalist Manifesto, but I can think of few other courses in the U.S. where the undulations of the fairways are such an integral part of the challenge. And it’s more than just the uneven lies. Only one hole here (#8) has fairway bunkers to challenge one’s drive, but on half the tee shots (5, 6, 9, 11, 13, 17 and 18) there are opportunities to find the most advantageous landing spot, or conversely, the difficult one—all courtesy of the rolling terrain. And when the wind blows, as it does most days, the challenge is even greater, despite the shortness one finds on the scorecard.
The lovely views of Pleasant Bay—on all but one hole—also help to make playing here a pleasurable experience.Most of the challenge on the greens at the Ho! (as the locals call it) lies in the severely sloped greens, particularly on #s 1, 4, 6, 7, 8, 11, 14 , 15, 17 and 18, some of which are blessed with amusing undulations to really test one’s nerves. The other eight greens are rather dull. Nonetheless, this is my favorite course on Cape Cod and easily one of ten favorites in Massachusetts.
I would love to catch this in a dryer period or play it when it was really being maintained as a true links course playing very firm and fast. That would be heaven. As it is now it's already fantastic. What a wonderful surprise, don't miss Eastward HO!