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  • Neil White

Wentworth East

"There used to be a couple more bunkers which were inserted because it was feared enemy gliders could land troops during the Second World War.”

I through my very informative host had slipped into the realms of fantasy as we stood on the tee of the imperious 16that Wentworth’s East course.

But later I learned that tunnels built under the course really were used by Field Marshal Montgomery and that Wentworth was a potential second seat of government during the war.

It is easy to be distracted by glorious tales of history, old and more recent, around this place.

I was lucky to be invited by a fellow golf travel enthusiast who has been a member for more than 30 years and has survived its recent transition to the habitat for the rich and famous.

Thus, he regaled me with tales of past and present as we played our way around this Colt classic which, despite being his first course on the site, is now in the shadow of the much-trumpeted West.

Intriguingly, I was told that at least one illustrious member prefers the East so much over the West that he will only ever play the former or the even less-heralded Edinburgh course.

Certainly, the East requires a full bag because it demands the entire gamut of golf shots rather than just driver and wedge.

Early on, it lured me into thinking that it was going to present a fairly easy round.

After the grandeur of the clubhouse and a professional practice range, the first hole seems a straightforward par-four with a sprinkling of bunkers but a wide fairway and moderate uphill approach

However, the first warning came with the slickness of the greens – very slippery for mid-April.

Nevertheless, I was feeling super-excited after a birdie at the third, a signature hole of designer Harry Colt with his bunkers lying horizontal across a dogleg to the right.

Fortunately, I eluded them, hit a crisp approach and nailed a 15-footer.

Sadly, however, my tee shots were more wayward than usual and my close-green chipping was below standard. They needed to be at their best for the perils which were in store.

The par-threes are part of the East’s charm and, boy, are they tricky with elevation and sand traps key features.

The stand-out is the 7th (226 yards off the whites) with the remarkable horizontal heather bush which was the official Surrey/Berkshire border.

It is a heck of a hole and both reaching and keeping the ball on the green from the tee would be a considerable achievement.

In common with The East’s greens, there are undulations that deflect from the putting surface if a shot is not ultra-precise.

The eighth is a devilish par-four and I soon discovered that a fading tee shot can find a path snaking down its right-hand side.

But, I agree with Peter Alliss who reckoned that the second nine on the East is more difficult than the first.

It opens with a par-three which is dominated by huge bunkers to the front and the side.

That is a mere aperitif for the much-acclaimed 11th, a Colt classic which, I have to admit, was too tough for me.

It demands a 200-yard carry to clear the bunkers which are in a line across the fairway.

Even then, there are another 252 yards to go before a green which has the familiar false front.

My playing partner has played 1,200 golf courses in the UK and Ireland but reckons the 16th, 17th and 18th on the East course are the best closing three holes anywhere.

I was more than pleased to wrestle a five out of the par-four 16th which is 456 yards off the yellows. Keeping as straight as an aforementioned glider is imperative to avoid sand and trees.

The 17th is a gorgeous downhill par-three, demanding astute club selection.

And then there is the drama of the final hole with swans nesting on the pond to its right and the sumptuous clubhouse to its left.

I could not play the East without referring to the incredible properties which border it.

Discretion forbids me to repeat the stories of excess which had gone on behind these doors, according to my guide, but if I were a TV series writer, I would be reaching for my pen to make a pitch.

You simply cannot visit Wentworth without enjoying a relaxing jar afterwards and taking a chance to admire the beautifully presented weapons of the greats in their glass cases.

Palmer, Nicklaus, and Ballesteros were just three of my heroes whose clubs hang with pride.

Meanwhile, the history of Wentworth is admirably told with illustrations in the corridor which leads to the bar.

It is a great place and you cannot help but feel a tinge of sadness that it has become much less accessible than it once was.

In common with the Open venues, this is a place where everyone should have a chance to play.

I cannot wait to tackle the West if I am lucky enough to be invited again.

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