America’s Most Noteworthy “East” Courses

The game of golf traveled west to the shores of the United States centuries ago, establishing significant golf clubs and courses up and down the country’s eastern shore. Predictably, some of those courses garnered “East” monikers, but as the game ventured west, other notable East-named courses were also created.

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Baltimore Country Club (East) (photo by L.C. Lambrecht)

Here, we spotlight five bucket-list-worthy layouts that, at least in name, point to the sport’s origins.

Merion Golf Club (East)Ardmore, Pa.

Seven miles west of downtown Philadelphia, avid golfers will encounter the American course that many consider to be the poster child for the notion that good things are delivered in small packages. Expertly routed across only 160 acres, the championship layout’s 6,599 yards are awash with crooked fairways closely guarded by an assemblage of creeks, dense patches of thick rough, and white stakes, not to mention canted greens that are defended by imposing bunkers. Simply put, the classic East course—a Hugh Wilson design that is amid an ongoing renovation helmed by Gil Hanse—mitigates any advantages that big hitters might have; unless, of course, they can pair power with precision. Consider that during the U.S. Open staged there in 2013, Justin Rose claimed victory with a final score of 281—one over par—yet the course played just under 7,000 yards. Needless to say, those who are lucky enough to tee it up on Merion East will encounter an engaging layout that feels remarkably longer than its formal measurement suggests.

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Merion (East) (photo by L.C. Lambrecht)

Oak Hill Country Club (East)Rochester, N.Y.

The championship résumé belonging to Oak Hill’s East course in many ways tells you all you need to know about its significance—and the challenges that the 7,360-yard Donald Ross gem presents. The classic layout, circa 1924, has hosted three U.S. Opens, a trio of PGA Championships (including the 2023 PGA won by Brooks Koepka), a pair of Senior PGA Championships, two U.S. Amateur Championships (with a third scheduled for 2027), and a Ryder Cup. If that’s not enough proof, consider that Ernie Els, who’s played more than 150 championship courses across his PGA Tour career, alone, had this to say about Oak Hill East: “It is the best, fairest, and toughest championship golf course I’ve ever played in all my years as a tour professional.”

Over the years, modifications (most notably led by George and Tom Fazio) have somewhat altered the course’s character. For example, during the mid-1960s, decision makers at the club deemed Ross’s original par-three 6th hole to be “too squeezed in,” and thus replaced it with a flatter, less interesting hole that the Fazios subsequently destroyed and replaced in the late 1980s with a one-shotter that featured a green complex with a punchbowl-shaped front, which yielded four holes-in-one in a 90-minute stretch during the 1989 U.S. Open. More recently, Andrew Green spearheaded a massive restoration effort that not only brought back Ross’s original par three (now the course’s 5th hole) but rebuilt every bunker with a recognizable, Donald Ross aesthetic.

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Oak Hill (East) (photo by Evan Schiller)

Baltimore Country Club (East)Lutherville, Md.

Previously known as the Five Farms course—a moniker that still clings to this 7,181-yard Golden Age creation—the East course at Baltimore Country Club is an A.W. Tillinghast design that played host to the 1965 Walker Cup and the 1988 U.S. Women’s Open. After almost a century in existence, the course was in dire need of some TLC, which it received via a comprehensive restoration almost a decade ago. That project included the resuscitation of Tillinghast’s unique bunkers and the reconstruction of every green, which made the putting surfaces more manageable based on the customary green speeds of today’s game. The course presents quite a few memorable holes and individual shots, including the par-five 6th, a dogleg that brings maintenance barns into play similarly to how the railway sheds serve as a facade to tee shots on the Old Course’s Road Hole in St. Andrews. In the words of Tom Doak, who included the restored layout in the third volume of his Confidential Guide to Golf Courses, Baltimore Country Club’s East is “still a wonder.”

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Baltimore Country Club (East) (photo by L.C. Lambrecht)

The Broadmoor Golf Club (East)Colorado Springs, Colo.

When Spencer and Julie Penrose built The Broadmoor near the end of the 20th century’s second decade, they hired prominent experts to oversee different aspects of the resort. Annie Oakley, for example, was retained to run the resort’s shooting school, while Donald Ross was hired to create a championship-caliber golf course. During the late 1940s and again in the early 1950s, the resort commissioned Robert Trent Jones Sr. to construct two additional 9-hole layouts, which merged with sections of the original Ross course to create two hybrid layouts—the East and the West. The East course delivers incredible mountain views and challenging terrain from the first hole to the 18th. Its Ross-designed holes draw plenty of similarities to Pinehurst No. 2 in that they’re heavily bunkered but largely devoid of water hazards, plus they feature domed greens with run-offs that funnel into grassy swales and recessed collection areas. The Jones holes, by comparison, are positioned on a parcel of land with more elevation change, which allows for elevated tee boxes and uphill approaches to greens guarded by a slew of bunkers. As for history, the East course served as the site of Jack Nicklaus’s first national title at the U.S. Amateur Championship in 1959.

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The Broadmoor (East)

Omni PGA Frisco Resort (Fields Ranch East)Frisco, Texas

The two courses at Omni PGA Frisco share plenty of design features, the most notable of which is generously wide fairways. In spite of those welcoming landing areas, however, low scores aren’t a foregone conclusion. “The level of precision needed to play the golf course—literally to just go out and play—should be fairly low,” says Gil Hanse, who designed the resort’s Fields Ranch East course with his partner Jim Wagner. “There should be width, and you should have the ability to easily find your ball and hit it again. But the level of precision required to score should be off the charts, especially if you’re trying to challenge the best players in the world.” If players want to circle numbers on their scorecards during a round on the Hanse and Wagner layout, they’ll need to place their tee shots in specific areas of those wide fairways to open up angles into greens where they can then be aggressive with their approach shots. As for championship play, Fields Ranch East can stretch to 7,863 yards, making it a formidable counterpunch to the remarkable shot distances of today’s best professionals. “With that yardage, with the wind out there, and with hole locations and angles being relevant,” Hanse says, “we feel like we have the setup for a major championship course.” Fields Ranch East hosted the Senior PGA Championship last summer, and it will host five more championships for the PGA of America over the next decade, including the men’s 2027 PGA Championship.

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Fields Ranch East (photo by Evan Schiller)

What other “East” courses in the U.S. should be on this list? Give us your thoughts in the comment section.

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