Best Overall – Newport National Golf Club (Middletown)
Forget Rhode Island, you’d have a tough time finding a better public golf course than Newport National anywhere in America. The links-style course is just a stone’s throw (or errant tee shot) from Narragansett Bay. Due to its location, you have to combat a sea breeze, bordering marshes and unforgiving fescue.
From the tips, Newport National Golf Club measures 7,200 yards. Despite opening in 2002, the 18-hole Orchard Course has already cemented itself amongst the region’s top tracks. With water coming into play on several holes and daunting hazards elsewhere, accuracy and length are essential to success.
Expected to be completed by the 2022 golf season, Newport National is adding 9 additional holes to their facility. Construction does not stop with the new Vineyard Course. They are also installing a double-ended driving range, a sizable short game practice area, and a new clubhouse. Combining their existing elite facilities and course, the new additions are bound to keep Newport National in an elite class.
Newport National Golf Club also stands out due to their environmental conservation efforts. Their focus centers around participating in the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program. They have taken significant steps to reduce their environmental footprint, going above and beyond to preserve the land their course occupies.
Best Private Course – Newport Country Club (Newport)
Newport Country Club has been among the nation’s elite private courses since its founding in 1893. It is One of the five founding clubs of the American Golf Association, known today as the USGA. A storied golf history, top of the line facilities and a refined layout elevate Newport Country Club above all other private clubs in Rhode Island.
A unique aspect of the Newport Country Club is that there is no irrigation system. Unsurprisingly, playing this course in the middle of the summer, or any other season for that matter, leaves you at the mercy of the elements. Given that it was designed (and redesigned by A. W. Tillinghast) before golf was prominent in America, the layout is reminiscent of early European links-style courses.
In 1895, Newport Country Club hosted the first ever US Open and US Amateur. A hundred years later in 1995, Tiger Woods would win his second of three straight US Amateur’s. NCC also hosted the US Women’s Open in 2006, won by Annika Sörenstam.
The clubhouse looks as if it were plucked from the nearby Newport mansions. Just as the course, it was designed at the tail end of the 1800s. Adding to NCC’s prestige, it has hosted notable figures ranging from Vanderbilt’s to Dwight Eisenhower to a bevy of the world’s top golfers.
Best Value Course – Triggs Memorial Golf Course (Providence)
It makes sense that the best value course in the state of Rhode Island is also one of the busiest. If you’re heading to Triggs Memorial Golf Course, be sure to make a tee time or aim for off-peak hours.
Triggs is located a few minutes from downtown Providence and with I-95 running right through the city, it’s easy to get to from anywhere in the Ocean State. The scenery here is vastly different from the many courses in Rhode Island. Triggs has minimal water hazards and is heavily wooded, despite being in a residential area. If you forget this, a shot even a few yards off the fairway will remind you.
Most holes are set up to reward good shots, but punish anything from the tee that’s slightly off-line. Triggs has small greens, typical of a Donald Ross design. Most greens are protected by sand traps, but allow for easy approach shots if you are coming in from the fairway.
From the back tees, Triggs measures just over 6,500 yards. From the Reds, 5,300. As a public course, it succeeds in offering a challenging, but not overwhelming layout for golfers of all skill levels. For non-golf amenities, there is a place to grab a bite and drink on the turn or after your round. Having a great putting green and a driving range to warm up (irons only) provide a value boost as well.
Most Challenging Course – Meadow Brook Golf Course (Richmond)
In recent years, Meadow Brook Golf Course has become increasingly more difficult. A 2010 redesign by Roger Rulewich and Dave Fleury put a heavy emphasis on elevation changes and lengthened the course to 7,400 yards. Despite its distance, there are no forced carries at Meadow Brook.
The greens are large and accessible, but once you get there, different challenges await on each hole. There are both obvious and subtle breaks, which are accentuated by fast speeds. It’s a rarity to have a straight putt and because of this, hitting a green in regulation hardly assures a par.
Arguably the most difficult hole at Meadow Brook is #5, a dogleg right that requires an uphill drive. Your shot from the tee requires accurate placement if you want to have a clean look at the green. Otherwise, you will be forced to shape the ball in.
These themes run rampant throughout the course, especially due to strategically placed bunkers. This calculated design will turn a nice drive and favorable outlook into you trying to stave off double bogey in the blink of an eye.
Most Scenic Course – The Misquamicut Club (Westerly)
At The Misquamicut Club, every hole is beautiful. Between its proximity to the coastline, wide sweeping fairways and just the right amount of fescue, it’s easy to step back after a bad shot and appreciate that you are playing a game of leisure.
Elevated tees and greens spread across The Misquamicut Club provide serene views of Watch Hill and the rest of the course. The clubhouse in itself is a thing of beauty and features outdoor dining space. This area continues outward and turns into a meticulously kept putting green.
The course has been redesigned several times in its 100-year history. Some of the more notable names include Willie Park Jr., Seth Raynor and Donald Ross, and elements of each of their styles are visible today. Most players will remark that the front side is as hilly and the back is flat, however they are both finely kept.
Despite the short length of Misquamicut, elevation changes and green-side sand trap protection complicate approach shots. The natural design of the course discourages running the ball up, instead making you attack from the air. Even those hitting in at steep angles will have trouble keeping it on the greens if they miss their landing spot or leave it too close to any of the sides.