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.
I think highly of the East course at Wentworth. This Harry Colt design brings to mind the many great less than par 70 courses that are scattered around the British Isles. It is a short course at 6200 yards with a par of 68 but that is due to having only one par 5 and five par 3’s. Substitute a par 3 for a par 5 of average length and suddenly you are at par 70 and 6500+ yards. Add another par 5 and replace a short par 4 and you are likely near 6700 yards. In other words, with four of the par 3’s being long and having three long par 4’s, this course is not a pushover. It has a lot of challenge to go along with its beauty.
The routing takes one in a big counter-clockwise circle although a few holes move parallel to others. Much like Swinley Forest it takes full advantage in the changes in terrain, although there is no quite as much change as Swinley Forest, the courses at Sunningdale, or St. George’s Hill. The terrain movement reminds me more of The Berkshire Red course. The course is heavily lined by trees but they are generally cut back far enough that a wide fairway and decent sized areas for rough are available. The golf course demands an accurate tee shot in order to score but also there is a premium on approach shots. I felt the back nine to be the stronger of the two nines.
The placement of bunkers and size of the bunkers is almost perfection. Golf architects can come here to study the course for its bunkers. While they are not at the level of the very best golf courses such as in the Sandbelt of Australia or some of the best links and inland courses in the world, they are very good. I cannot think of a hole where there is an unnecessary bunker nor a hole where additional bunkers are required. The only slight critique is that some of the greenside bunkers could be a bit closer to the hole, particularly on the shorter par 4’s.
The par 3’s are very good and are the highlight of the golf course. It is difficult to pick the better one.
The East begins with a shorter par 4 teeing off with a high, long wall of hedges to one’s left that has a wide fairway but a bunker right that needs to be avoided. It has a very good green complex with bunkers left and right, a back to front sloping green with a spine in the middle, and a sharp fall-off at the rear. This hole provides a good indication of what to expect near the greens on the East.
A longer par 4 comes next from an elevated tee providing some nice views. The fairway is again wide but bunkers left and right have to be avoided. There is a bunker well short of the green in the middle of the fairway and a bunker on either side of the green. It is a flattish green but tilting left. There is a fall-off behind the green and higher grass. It is another solid golf hole.
The third is one of my favorites on the course as a dogleg right par 3 of about 330 yards. The visual from the tee is quite nice as one has to drive over fairway bunkers nearer on the left and farther on the right beautifully staggered from 180-200 yards out. The brave person challenges the right side of the wide fairway to make the second shot shorter. There are bunkers surrounding another flat hole. If one executes the drive, a par should be assured.
The fourth is the first of the par 3’s and it is a long one at just under 200 yards. There are eight bunkers surrounding the hole except for the back. The green slopes to the front and right side. It is another visually attractive hole.
Five is a short par 4 of about 330 yards hitting one’s tee shot across heather falling below the tee. The green is relatively large for the hole but shallow with bunkers front and back on the right side to a green that has a steep slope left and right and back to front. I liked the hole as it demands a premium for the approach shot for players of all abilities. It is perhaps the second best green on the course.
The sixth is another short par 4 of 350 yards slight dogleg to the right. There is a series of bunkers on the right side for the shorter hitter and one on the left for the longer hitter. The green is uphill and requires another club with the green sloped back left to front right. It is a fun golf hole.
Seven is a long par 3 of 225 yards and is a difficult one with a long ridge of primarily longer grass and heather running diagonally across the fairway continuing to the right side of the green where it is in play. The green has a slight bump in its middle. A par is a good score here.
Eight is a long par 4 at nearly 460 yards to a wide fairway with bunkers again staggered on either side. A shot hit wildly down the left will find thick trees and bushes. It is a difficult hole where the average player should be content with a bogey.
The outward nine ends in the only par five on the course. I did not think much of the hole as long as one stays out of the heather. The green has a false front and good bunkering. This is a third shot hole for the average hitter and a definite eagle/birdie chance for the longer/better player.
The backward nine kicks off with a longer par 3 with large bunkers at the green. There is a narrow entrance to this green with another spine halfway into it. I liked this as the second best par 3 on the course.
Eleven is another long par 4 at 460 yards playing longer as it is uphill. Again, Mr. Colt utilized cross bunkers that need to be carried on this dogleg right yet the fairway tilts to the right. This is the best hole on the golf course as the challenge continues to the raised green once again expertly defended by greenside bunkers. The tee shot reminded me of the sixth hole at Pine Valley, although that hole is much more difficult than the one on the East course.
The twelfth is the shortest par 3 at 160 yards with a green surrounded by bunkers. The green is sloped right to left and is undulated. I think this par 3 the best on the course as it is the most visually attractive.
Thirteen is a mid-length par 4 but plays longer as it rises from tee to green. Three bunkers pinch in on the right on this dogleg right so the left side must be fairway. The green is two-tiered with only one bunker and does not require another due to the severe slope back to front. It is a very good golf hole.
The fourteenth is a short par 4 and I felt the most beautiful hole on the course with so much heather in view. The fairway slopes to the right and the bunkering at the green is superb to tempt one to hit deeper into a green that slopes away from you. It is a very good short hole.
Fifteen is another short par 4 at 340 yards but again plays uphill on this dogleg to the left. There is a wide fairway and only a single fairway bunker and heather to avoid. It is another visually beautiful hole. The green is uphill with a big fall-off to the right and a slope back to front. The bunker on the right is deep and is to be avoided.
The sixteenth is another long par 4 of nearly 460 yards. The big hitters have to avoid the cross bunkers or go through a short gap. The bunkers are expertly placed near and at the green. The green is elevated and tiered. It is a difficult, but fair hole.
Seventeen is the last par 3 and another long one at 215 yards playing a bit shorter as it is slightly downhill. A shot can land short and run onto the front of the large green. The green is steeply sloped right to left. It is a fine golf hole.
The finishing hole is another longer par 4 and completes an excellent back nine. You tee off from an elevated tee over a valley of heather to a fairway sloped to the right. It is likely the most difficult drive on the golf course. As you near the green, there is a long section of cross bunkers that continue on the right side to the green. The left side also has three bunkers at the green and one bunker is behind. It is one of the better finishing holes one will play and I felt it to be the second best hole on the course.
This is a visually attractive golf course with superb bunkering and excellent shaping to the greens. T/he green shape has a lot of variety unlike the Edinburgh course. Whether one is an average player or a good player they will enjoy their golf here due to the mixture and options presented on the golf course. It requires precise approach shots to the greens. The longer hitters have to consider the placement of fairway bunkers and the appropriate side of the fairway to the greens. It almost seems as though Mr. Colt anticipated that some players would hit the ball farther as many of his fairway bunkers are placed exactly where longer hitters have to consider them. Or perhaps they have been moved during the years? If the East course was 6600 yards or longer, it would be the best course at Wentworth. I said in my review of the Edinburgh course that it would be an interesting debate for the East course to be in the top 100 in the England. I probably would put it just outside the top 100 in the British Isles, but it would likely be in my top 100 in England should I play more than the current number of 60 courses (I intend to do so).
The East at Wentworth is almost certainly the most fun and scoreable of the three on the estate. Many also argue it is the architecturally superior of the trio.
It is a Harry Colt creation from the 1920s and is a par 68 layout with a top yardage of just 6,201. As you would expect plenty of shotmaking is required and although placement from the tee is often essential there is usually a choice to be made on most shots in how they can be played, be it conservatively or with a more aggressive nature.
There are a string of shortish and enjoyable two-shotters, a good balance of sterner holes and a thrilling collection of five par-threes with just the lone par-five.
My personal favourite holes are the heroic 3rd, where you must carry four diagonal bunkers with your drive on a hole that shapes to the right, the cool fifth where the raised green has a huge dip in the middle of it, the 11th and 13th – two tenacious par-fours where a fade from the tee is required before the holes turn back to the left and the mighty 18th which sits proudly under the iconic Wentworth clubhouse and has a series of bunkers that must be carried on the approach.
Make no mistake, there is lots of very good golf to be played on the East course.
The turf is excellent and whilst for the most part there is a wooded-parkland feel to the course there are more heathland moments too, especially towards the end of the round. The 14th tee is a lovely spot to appreciate the immense beauty of the property which for the most part is played through corridors of seclusion.
The East is a course that will not beat you up (too much!) and allows for a quick 18. Although it may stay out of the spotlight to a certain there is no denying this is a fine golf course and if an opportunity arises to play here it should be grasped with both hands.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
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.