Dating back to 1897, Wentworth by the Sea Country Club started out with a 9-hole course laid out by George Wright that was later revised by Donald Ross. Geoffrey Cornish added nine new holes in the 1960s.
Former Senior Editor at GOLF Magazine, Brian
McCallen, commented as follows; “the current layout is a Yankee patchwork quilt
of a course, its original nine by Donald Ross (1910) later expanded to 18 holes
by Geoffrey Cornish. His protégé, Brian Silva, returned in the late 1990s to
create a handful of new holes, phase out old ones and add a little length and
coherence to a compact layout that plays nip and tuck with the sea.”
Great location. Quirky Layout. Condition is inconsistent. Definitely worth playing if you are able to get on. The ocean holes themselves warrant a trip.
Wentworth by the Sea has an interesting pedigree. The original architect was none other than George Wright who was a Hall of Fame baseball player and employed Francis Ouimet. Donald Ross, Geoffrey Cornish and Brian Silva also have had their fingerprints on the course design. Thus, it is a course designed by a committee.
The first hole is a long tight par 5 with a bunker left of the green. The 2nd hole is a short par 3 with a carry over a small water hazard. Gunch growing between the tee and the hazard obscured the green and detracted from the hole’s appearance. The green is a double green with the 12th. The 3rd hole is another par 3 with a greenside bunker right being the only real challenge. The 4th is a tough hole with carry over water and you need to determine how big your appetite really is. There is a lot more room right. The green is nestled against the harbor left with a bunker right and slopes left. It is deservedly the number one handicap hole. The 5th is a reprieve. Off the tee aim left of the rock outcroppings. The green is quite small with a bunker left. The 6th is from an elevated tee box over a valley to a rise with the green behind it. Not a long hole, but depending upon your drive you may have a blind approach to a green with a bunker right. The 7th and 8th are good birdie oppties. A decent drive will give you an attack iron to a green with bunkers left, front left and right and granite outcroppings right. The 8th is tighter off the tee and the best line is just right of the bunker on the left. Another small green, hopefully the pin is left, as there are bunkers front right and the green slopes left. The front ends with a long par 3 over water. I hit driver and was a bit long, but a dry ball is a happy ball.
The back starts with a short par four and is a good birdie oppty. A decent drive should give you an attack wedge with front bunkers left and right. The 11th is a tight par 5. Off the tee the hole can be misleading, deceiving, confusing, pick your adjective. The best line is just inside the right tree line. Hopefully, you hit a decent drive to set up another perplexing blind shot over moguls. Best option is a draw to set up your approach. The green slopes right to left with a bunker right. The 12th is a short par 3 with a bunker left, however, the real bunkers are in the sky. Choose your ball flight carefully. The 13th is a narrow uphill par 5. Really tight, you may want to consider hitting an iron, driver did not work out for me. The 14th brings us back to the harbor. Off the tee there is more room right than you think. It is a 400 yard par 4 into the ocean breeze. The 15th is 195 yards, but I hit driver and barely got on. That is good, but we could not see the green due to fog. Fortunately, I was playing with locals who were pretty savvy golfers, they took into account my hook and gave me a line and they were pretty spot on. The par 5 16th is a fun hole. A reachable par five and you get to determine how aggressive or stupid you choose to be as the drive is a carry over the bay. Too conservative and you are thru the fairway, too confidant and you are on the beach or worse. I called it the beach and was corrected that it is a waste bunker. This is one of the larger greens and is two tiered, with the back being higher. This hole was also a challenge as we could not see squat. Fortunately, my locals knew their stuff and I was able to get home in two and sneak in my come backer for birdie. For you football fans, I was told Coach Chip Kelly lived across the street. After the adrenaline rush of 14-16, the finishing holes were bound to disappoint. The last par 3, 17 is another 200+ yarder and is uphill with 2 bunkers left and 2 right. The 18th is rated as the hardest on the back side. Long with a water carry approach. We were inside of 150 yards and could only intermittently see the green. First time I ever experienced golfers hitting approaches and other golfers saying I heard a splash or I think I heard it land on the green.
I enjoyed Wentworth By The Sea. I understand why it is a polarizing course, but I do recommend it.
What started as a 9-hole layout and later expanded to 18-holes and feature the involvement of several different architects you get the resulting hodge-podge of design styles and hole types.
The course features holes split between two land areas. After the first three holes located on the main section where the bulk of the holes is located you cross over a portion of wetlands which is part of the adjoining Piscataqua River. The par-4 4th is a quality hole -- you commence from a narrow tee strip and play across the wetlands to a hole that turns slightly to the left and is reminiscent of a cape hole. Four other are located entirely on that side and they are sufficient but there's not enough differentiation to make them truly standout. At the par-3 9th you play back across the wetlands to the same side of land you originally commenced the round.
The 10th thru the 13th hole features pedestrian holes but things do get better when you reach the par-4 14th. The par-4 plays in a parallel direction to the wetlands and the green features one of the more challenging targets to safely land one's approach. The par-5 16th is a quality risk/reward hole tempting players to decide how much of the corner is worth taking on with one's tee shot.
The final two holes conclude the round in fine fashion -- the long par-3 17th features a well-defended green and the ending hole features a green fiercely protected by a fronting pond. Club selection into the target is pivotal since any approach not hit sufficiently is doomed.
Wentworth does permit guests who stay at the nearby Marriott and the facilities do provide a slew of different things to do. The golf is just crammed into a small piece of land and the diversity of holes is limited -- especially on the par-4 side as you have six par-3s and four par-5s.
Could the layout be better? Absolutely. The key in accomplishing that would be to provide for a genuine harmony of styles so that the finished product actually demonstrates a consistency lacking today. Adding four more par-4s would likely mean the reduction of two par-5s and two par-3s. Given the dollars involved it seems unlikely this would be done so Wentworth will therefore remain caught in a time loop of trying to be different things at the same time.
The course reminds me of someone who goes to a tailor and in the attempt to fit someone properly you leave the store looking with a suit that's ill-matched to one's body type. A thorough master plan carried out by an architect capable in tying things all together and in crafting a much more connected and riveting series of holes could elevate what Wentworth lacks now.
M. James Ward