The Story of Eastward Ho!
The material for the account that follows was researched, edited, and collated by Edward N. Harriman, a member of the group that formed the Eastward Ho! Country Club Corporation in 1961, and Secretary of the Club for many years. Without his dedicated efforts, much of the background data would never have been brought together, and the telling of the story would not have been possible.
In 1622, William Bradford, the leader of the Plymouth Colony, came to Cape Cod in the ship “Swan” to trade with the Indians whose settlement was in the area now occupied by the Eastward Ho! Country Club. The Plymouth Pilgrims were in dire need of food, and Governor Bradford hoped to bargain for beans and corn. Accompanying him as pilot was the Indian known as Tisquantum, or Squanto. Unfortunately, shortly after the expedition entered what is now Pleasant Bay, Squanto died. Bradford had planned a rather lengthy visit in this area, but Squanto’s death made it necessary for him to return to Plymouth since no other pilot was available to guide the “Swan” through the shoals south of the bay. Before leaving for Plymouth, the members of the expedition buried Squanto’s body, and it almost certainly rests within the bounds of today’s Country Club.
The first settlers of Chatham, the Nickersons, came here in the middle 1600’s; approximately opposite the present location of the Christopher Ryder House. The family selected a home site at the head of Ryder’s Cove. The existence of the Indian settlement between Ryder’s Cove and Crow’s Pond and along the shores of Pleasant Bay, including some of what is now the Eastward Ho! golf course, apparently influenced William Nickerson in his choice of a place to live. The peninsula on which the golf course is located became known as Nickerson’s Neck; it was here that the Nickerson family lived for several generations and operated various enterprises including a general store, a salt works, and a ship yard. The latter was located close to the present seventh tee, and its vestiges, stumps of piling, may be seen at low tide.
Around the year 1890, a group of prominent and wealthy Bostonians, including Eben Marsh of Jordan Marsh Company, launched an ambitious undertaking in the form of a huge summer hotel on Nickerson’s Neck. It was the last word of its genre at the time and had all the Victorian embellishments for the comfort and enjoyment of its guests. Access to the hotel was provided by horse-drawn coaches from the railroad which had agreed to make a special stop at West Chatham. The project was, however, not successful, and the hotel was torn down about 1910. Its location was, and is today, spectacular; it covered a large area in the vicinity of the present fourth green and fifth tee, and some visible traces of the hotel still remain for the inquisitive and observant explorer.
During World War I, a Naval Air Station was established on the land east of the present golf course, covering all of what is today Eastward Point. An interesting note of history arose from the existence of the Air Station; a seaplane from the base engaged an enemy submarine, but no record of the result of the confrontation survives. The same submarine sank a barge or two off Orleans, and tradition has it that some of the shells from the U-Boat landed on the Orleans shore. One record stands as a certainty, however; these instances were the only actual combat (if it can be called that) which took place in United States territory during that war.
Chatham Country Club
After World War I, Cape Cod began to generate a great deal of interest as a summer resort. Chatham Bars Inn had been built around 1912 and sported a nine-hole golf course. The interest in golf was also developing at this time in the United States, and a group of men, chiefly from the Boston area, decided that a links location on Cape Cod could provide the kind of challenging course with which they had become familiar in the British Isles. With a quality of foresight bordering on genius, the group purchased the major portion of Nickerson’s Neck for the counterpart of the great links of Scotland and England. Thus was born the Chatham Country Club, the predecessor of today’s great Eastward Ho! Country Club.
Mr. G. Herbert Windler, many times president of the United States Golf Association, headed the group which had selected the ideal site for the first serious attempt to establish an 18-hole championship golf links in New England. It should be noted that a sea-side location, with its concomitant heather, sand, land convolutions, and the ever-present and ever-changing sea breezes (sometimes gales) is necessary to produce real links. Inland courses are usually known as parkland and are generally conceded not to poise nearly the challenge of true sea-side links. Mr. Windler and his cohorts conferred with the best golf course designers of the time, and the final lay-out of the Chatham Course was entrusted to Mr. W. Herbert Fowler who had designed Westward Ho! and Walton Heath, two of England’s most famous courses. The construction of the new course occupied the interval between 1921 and 1924, when it was first opened for play.
The links are in the form of an hourglass, with the Clubhouse located at the waist. The first nine holes stretch away to the east toward the Atlantic, which is visible from almost any point; the second nine lie to the west and, for the most part, are closely tied in with the shores of magnificent Pleasant Bay. Present-day golfers will agree after playing the course in various weather conditions (of which there is no lack) that the designer has provided a real test for the skilled who possess the treasured low handicap as well as the weekend duffer. All of the shots of golf are present; the lies, while at times exasperating, must be acknowledged as demanding great technique, and the effect of the almost ever-present wind can change club selection for the same shot from one day to the next—from an easy eight iron to a difficult three or four. Herbert Fowler, in his final report, upon completion of the construction of the links, says, “I am quite certain that this course will compare favorably with the leading courses in the United Kingdom and will be second to none of them.” Brave words, perhaps, but who among those who have been privileged to see and play the great links of Great Britain and Ireland or those marvels of the Monterey Peninsula, Cypress Point, Pebble Beach, and Spyglass Hill will not concede that for a setting of beauty and sheer golfing delight Eastward Ho! stands with the others? The club has been known by several names:
- Great Point Golf Club
- The Chatham Golf Club
- The Chatham Country Club
- Eastward Ho! Golf Links
- Eastward Ho! Country Club
- Eastward Ho Country Club
The installation of a course-wide watering system was completed in 1964. It is interesting to note that this was accomplished over the vigorous opposition of some of the members at the time whose position was that the course should be kept in its natural state. The lush quality of today’s turf would seem to endorse the wisdom of those who backed the improvement.
Evolution of the Clubhouse
The development of the clubhouse was the result of imaginative effort by those concerned and presents an interesting story. One of the Nickerson family houses was located approximately where the Caddy camp building now sits. It was decided by the group which developed the links that the Ensign Nickerson house should be purchased from Aunt Becky, Ensign’s widow, who ran a grocery store there for many years. It was refurbished by a well-known Boston firm, Little and Russell, which specialized in making over old houses. It was the wish of the committee in charge that the house should retain its charm but still be renovated to fill the new purpose as a club. The main body of the Nickerson homestead was moved to the site between the ninth and eighteenth greens, a location providing a breathtaking view of all of Pleasant Bay. The present bar and the men’s locker room facilities were once the old Nye cottage in Acushnet, Massachusetts, where it had stood since its construction in the early 18th century. It was moved from Acushnet to Eastward Ho!, and the old, hand-hewn beams, the pine paneling, and the wide floor boards were preserved just as they were when the original owner, Nye, put them in place. The other rooms of the original clubhouse and one of the fireplaces were brought to Chatham from an old house in Walpole built about 1710; the old cupboards and some of the old furniture were collected from various places by an energetic and resourceful committee of women who assisted in preserving the charm and atmosphere of the old houses. Formal opening of the “new” clubhouse took place on July 5, 1930. Many changes and improvements have been added; in recent years the new dining room—the area to the north of the present dance floor—was built in 1968, and the beautiful terrace beyond was added soon thereafter. New locker room facilities have been provided for both men and women, and the present Pro Shop is of fairly recent vintage.
Securing the Club's Future
As was true of almost all Clubs, this one went through some difficult times between 1924 and 1961, when the present Corporation was brought into existence by an Agreement of Association. Several times the financial situation was precarious at best. There were two or three occasions when the demise of the club was seemingly unavoidable, but there was always a rescue squad found with the willingness and resource necessary to keep the ship afloat. At one time, the mortgagee announced that it would have to bring foreclosure proceedings against the club.
At this point, a loyal supporter-member, Roy Tomlinson (at that time, President of the National Biscuit Company) bought the entire property for $75,000. He then announced to the members that he would hold the property until the members could re-finance, and at that time he would sell the property back to the members for the same $75,000—an act of generosity and loyalty difficult to equal.
It would be remiss not to mention the invaluable assistance of men like G.H. Windler, Charles Hardy, Oscar Nickerson, Wallace Donham, and others to whom the present membership may look as the foresighted preservers of the beautiful Eastward Ho! of today.
Many people and many sources have contributed to this story of the development of the Eastward Ho! Country Club. Particular thanks are due to Joshua Nickerson, Jonathan Eldridge, Roger Damon, John T. Manson III, and Edward N. Harriman. Printed in booklet form by IBF Printing Co. IM 8/78