The West is the course that everybody rushes to play when visiting the Wentworth Club, but the East is more enjoyable for the average player. It is also more sandy, intimate and charming. This was the first course Harry Colt built at Wentworth and it was born in 1924, two years earlier than its bigger and brasher younger brother.
The second unofficial match between the American and British professionals, "which was the begetter of the Ryder Cup," wrote Bernard Darwin in Golf Between Two Wars, took place on the East course in 1926, one year prior to the inauguration of the Ryder Cup. The match heralded a landslide victory for Great Britain (GB 13½, USA 1½). In the foursomes, Abe Mitchell and George Duncan beat Walter Hagen and Jim Barnes 9 and 8. The first unofficial match took place in 1921 on the King's course at Gleneagles. The East was also the venue for the inaugural 1932 Curtis Cup which the USA team won 5½ points to 3½.
In terms of length, the East is relatively short, measuring 6,200 yards from the back tees, but it’s an exceedingly pleasant walk on the springy turf and the lowly par of 68 will make playing to handicap a serious challenge. There’s only one par five, but there are five par fours measuring in excess of 400 yards. It’s the East’s collection of five short holes that stand out, they are simply outstanding par threes. Only the delightful West Sussex course at Pulborough can perhaps claim to have a finer assemblage of short holes.
The East course occupies the central area of the Wentworth estate with the newer Edinburgh course now sitting on the eastern side. It is a very special and intimate experience playing golf on the East, as many people will already know. The enclosed woodland setting confuses your sense of direction – where only one hole is generally in view and they seem to zigzag all over the place. It always comes as a pleasant surprise when we reach the halfway house where we can have a drink and draw a deep breath before we take on the 7th, an appealing, but challenging, long par three.
It’s a shame the West overshadows the East but it’s understandable that golfers want to play the championship course. There is obviously only one thing to do – get here early and play them both.
This was the first of the 18-hole courses that I played at Wentworth last week and, for me, it was my favourite layout. The East was the inaugural Colt course to be laid out on the property in the 1920s and it captivated me right from the start.
I didn’t expect to find such a rise and fall in the landscape during the round and I also wasn’t prepared for the seclusion of each hole, with nearly every tree-lined fairway (holes 10 and 14-16 apart) only revealed upon arrival at the next tee box.
Special holes include the two par threes on the front nine (the 4th with its six intimidating bunkers running down the left side of the hole, the 7th with a diagonal dyke cutting across the fairway), whilst the eight cross bunkers built into a ridge at an angle to the home green provide a very intimidating hazard at the 18th.
I liken the East course to the Queen’s at the 54-hole Gleneagles Resort as, for me, it’s a more club golfer-orientated layout to savour whilst the big boys go bashing about on the other courses next door.