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Summer in Rhode Island

Rob Howard Summer in Rhode Island

Photo: Rob Howard

Ross’s Finest—and Toughest

Few first tees anywhere are more intimidating than this one. Wannamoisett Country Club has no driving range, just a spare fairway in which to hit a few irons before the round, so golfers must step up cold and tee off from a launching pad that is just paces from the pro shop and practically an extension of the clubhouse patio. Knowing that everyone is watching, you must find the wherewithal to launch a drive over a pond to a distant-seeming uphill fairway on the 428-yard par four.

From there, this Donald Ross layout—a par sixty-nine whose course rating is 72.1—hardly lets up. The second hole is almost a reverse image of the first but nearly fifty yards longer and requiring a heroic blind second shot over a creek to reach the green. At 138 yards, the third is the shortest hole on the course, but its small push-up green is guarded by bunkers short and left and an embankment on the right. The fourth is a 445-yard two-shotter that bends left, demanding a draw off the tee. “Get through the first four holes at Wannamoisett at even par,” says Dana Quigley, “and you may well have a round of golf working.”

Ranked perennially as the best course in the state, Wanna-​moisett is one of Ross’s most resourceful designs, with eighteen strong and distinctive holes squeezed into just over a hundred acres. Solve its tricky doglegs and crowned greens and you’ve accomplished a great deal. Just ask anyone who’s tried to hold his game together in the Northeast Amateur (whose past champions include Ben Crenshaw, Hal Sutton, David Duval, Luke Donald and local boy Brett Quigley, Dana’s nephew).

Wannamoisett is a suburban country club, its members drawn from the Providence area and the corridor stretching toward Boston, an hour away. But golf remains its heart: Of the club’s 420 golf members, some 130 play off a single digit.

96 Hoyt Avenue, Rumford. Architect: Donald Ross, 1914, 1926. Yardage: 6,688. Par: 69. Slope: 133.

The Hills of East Providence

As the home of yet another fine Ross design, Metacomet Country Club is located rather incongruously in industrial East Providence. Lest you forget the gritty surroundings, trash occasionally washes ashore in the tidal inlet of the Providence River, which borders the par-five second hole. Metacomet traditionally has been more of a men’s club than a family-oriented one. Several of its members have had well-publicized trouble with the law: One, a chief of staff to former Providence mayor Buddy Cianci, was video​taped accepting a cash bribe and convicted in 2002 on federal corruption charges; another, since resigned, a former president of Roger Williams Medical Center, has been charged with paying a state senator to advocate for the hospital’s interests.

As a golf course, Metacomet is atypical for Rhode Island: a fun house of rising and plunging hills. Two ridges run through the property, creating an assortment of blind shots and forced carries that come together with dazzling effect on the long par-four fourteenth. The club is also admired for its greens—fast, well groomed and full of slope. Brad Faxon, one of the Tour’s best putters, has been known to sharpen his stroke here.

But what distinguishes Metacomet most is that it’s an unpretentious place where members can show up and find a competitive game and afterward have a drink in heavily male company. Which is not to say Metacomet discriminates, at least not anymore. The club is recruiting women members in an attempt to break down old barriers. But there is history to overcome. After the death of Glenna Collett Vare, club officials in the early 1990s asked her family for a memento. When her son and daughter arrived with a trophy, her son was invited into what was at the time the men-only grill; her daughter wasn’t. The family later wrote to the club seeking a change in policy or return of the cup. The trophy was sent back by registered mail.

500 Veterans Memorial Parkway, East Providence. Architect: Donald Ross, 1925. Yardage: 6,464. Par: 70. Slope: 125.

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