9 years ago I was lucky to play the West Course the same the Club Championship Final was being held. A couple of weeks ago when confirmed my trip to NY a second visit to Winged Foot again with friend Alberto and invited by Member Ted we knew West Course was going to have 2 holes closed (10 & 15) so Ted suggested we played the East Course, which he suggested us to play someday in our visit 9 years ago.
Although you always want to play the "Famous" venues I was not at all disappointed as I had already played it and my country man Roberto De Vicenzo won the first US Senior Open back in 1980 (there is a picture of him, his scorecard, his ball and his putter in the alley inside the Club House). And I have to say that the East Course can fight against the West with no discussion, the only difference is it was not lenghtened as much as its sister. But the greens are as fast, challenging and tough as the West and there are some fantastic golf holes.
First to describe is the adrenalinic sensation of getting into a US Open Club, where you are received by the Staff for Valet Parking and Bag Drop. Then off to a nice Driving Range where every ball is a ProV1 with the Winged Foot logo, it might not be noticeable for people who play it often but for visitors like me it is a nice detail. Then the chipping green and the short practice hole can prepare you for a brutal short game test. And then off to the first tee. The walk is amazing, the caddies are great and the stories you listen are just great. It is a golf mecca, I believe only Oak Hill and Merion give that special sensation when walking the courses.
Again, as a description of every hole can be found online I will just give a deeper description on the best holes in my opinion.
Par 3 third hole is the best example that a one shooter doesn't need to be long to be tough, go miss the green and try to make a par. Par 5 fourth is great, second shot over the water and trees is a great risk/reward example. Par 3 sixth called Trouble, a 200yds uphill hole where finding the green is only for the very good ones. Par 3 thirteenth made me remember the 16th at Pasatiempo, the structure of the green and bunkering is very similar. Par 4 15th is maybe the best example on how a good two shooter doesn't need to be long: lay up before the stream and then a wedge to an elevated green where getting 2 putts is only for experts if you miss the platform. and par 3 17th has the toughest green on the course after a 230yds shot downhill: I am not a fan of long one shooters but this one is great. The walk on 18th fairway might be not as special as the West Course, but is as good as you can expect. Played some good golf, hit 12 GIRs but 5 three putt greens spoiled the scorecard. I will need to go back to break 80 for the first time!
A special paragraph for the golfers "born" at Winged Foot: we played a match against Ted (7 hcp) and Mike who had qualified for the US Mid Amateur some weeks ago. We were beaten 2&1 after an exhibition of short game and putting by Ted, making some great chips and impossible putts. If you play those greens every day, you will get your short game very sharp. 9 years ago I admired Ted for his short game, time has passed and he remains great.
If you get the chance to be invited to Winged Foot and West is not available, go play the East and you won't be disappointed. I smell Emiliano Grillo playing the Presidents Cup at Liberty National in 2017, why not go there and repeat the game at Winged Foot?
Date: October 13, 2016