Review: Agawam Hunt

Course Name: Agawam Hunt

Designer: Willie Park Jr. (1895, 9 Holes), Donald Ross (1920, 18 Holes), Geoffrey Cornish (1963, Redesign), Gil Hanse (2007, Renovation)

Location: Rumford, Rhode Island

History: One of the oldest golf courses in America, Agawam was originally founded as a hunting and social club in 1874. In 1895, the first golf course came to the property with a 9-hole design from Willie Park Jr. In 1920, Donald Ross completed a full 18-hole design, but the course has undergone many renovations since then. Notably, in 1964, the city of East Providence purchased land from three holes at Agawam. With the money, they hired Geoffrey Cornish, who tweaked many holes and added two new designs. In 2007, Gil Hanse renovated the course. Agawam has hosted several state tournaments and even a U.S. Open Qualifier. In January 2017, the club filed for bankruptcy. Agawam Hunt has been awarded the following accolades:

  • #10 Best Course in Rhode Island – Golf Digest (2017-2018)

Conditions: 7/10, Always known for fast greens and thick rough, Agawam’s condition has declined in recent years and is now decidedly average amongst local private courses. The fairways and teeboxes are still well-manicured, but the rough is patchy and the cart paths are in tough shape.

Value: N/A, This is a private course. However, recent financial problems and tee times on seem to indicate that Agawam might soon become semi-private.


Tee                                 Par         Yardage         Rating          Slope

Black                             69           6156               69.8               128

Middle                          69           5782               68.5               125

Yellow                           71           5223               70.4               123

Best Score: 80 (Black Tees), 8/3/2017 with Dylan

Front 9 Best: 36 (White Tees), 8/24/2011 in an Interclub Tournament with 3 others

Back 9 Best: 39 (Black Tees), 8/3/2017 with Dylan

Hole Descriptions: I’m of the belief that most Donald Ross courses are close to perfection upon their completion. Unfortunately, I’m not sure Agawam’s Board shares this viewpoint, as his 1920 design has been tinkered with constantly to the point where it’s almost unrecognizable. The big blow to Agawam came in the 1960’s when eminent domain took three holes away, which were replaced by one of my least favorite architects, Geoff Cornish. Unsurprisingly, he promptly introduced two of the worst designs in the state (7th and 15th). More recently, Agawam has changed the course in other ways, on three separate occasions switching par fours and par fives. I understand modern length changes the way holes can be played, but the more Agawam alters the course, the further it deviates from Ross’s original design.

The first two holes are fantastic, though. At 422 yards, the opening hole features an extremely intimidating uphill blind teeshot. Out of bounds lines the left side, and fescue and bunkers cover both sides of this narrow fairway.

The intimidating uphill par 4 1st from the teebox

The 2nd hole is a medium-length 175 yard par 3 that requires all-carry over a ravine. Three putting is common on this extremely undulating green, and getting up-and-down is almost unheard of. Three bunkers guard this green on the right while one guards the left.

The 3rd and 4th holes are parallel holes of about the same length. Neither are great designs, but the 502 yard 3rd is notable for a funky design. This fairway is divided into three pieces by a common stream that splits. It’s possible to carry the first fairway, but doing so is risky, especially the further right you go. Drives that make it onto this second fairway leave only about 200 yards in to to a well-protected green with OB left and bunkers right. The 4th hole is a long 459 yard par 4 (used to be a par 5), that is pretty straightforward. This large green runs hard back-to-front and is guarded by bunkers on either side. Unlike some others, this is probably a good change making this a par 4.

The approach between the trees on the par 4 4th

The 5th is another medium-length par 3 at 168 yards. Playing slightly downhill, this entire green slopes right-to-left, with a steep embankment and bunker on the left. The par 5 (used to be a par 4) 6th hole plays 545 yards. I don’t know whose idea it was to change this hole to a par 5, but they took a good long par 4 and turned it into a unsightly dogleg right par 5. Drives over 200 yards will run through this fairway unless you can hit a high left-to-right ballflight. Long iron – long iron – wedge is how I made par here.

The 7th hole is the first of two holes Cornish directly contributed to Agawam. At just 293 yards, this short dogleg left is reachable for longer hitters but a large tree is immediately in the way of this green. Hitting long iron again off the tee takes out the danger of several bunkers and the tree, and leaves you just a pitch in.

The tight short par 4 7th from the tee

After this, you have to drive through somebody’s garage (quirky!) and cross a busy road to get to the “outer 7.”  I’m not a fan of the 8th hole, either. At just 165 yards, this medium-length par 3 seems like a throwaway hole they tried to make pretty by putting a water fountain in front of the green. This green slopes hard back-to-front so be careful with your spin here.

The short par 3 8th is flat and boring

Fortunately, the front 9 finishes as strong as it begins with a great uphill par 4. At only 347 yards, this hole plays much longer with a green that slopes hard back-to-front. A bunker short left of this green is a good 10 feet below the surface and can lead to some big scores.

The uphill par 4 9th is one of the strongest holes on the course

The 10th hole begins directly after 9 and is a real hike from the pro-shop. Many members play holes 1-7, and then finish with 15-18. It seems like these holes should be rearranged to improve playability. That being said, the back 9 opener is a solid hole as a 388 yard dogleg right. Five bunkers loom on the right side starting at about 250 yards from the teebox. This two-tiered green slopes hard back-to-front with a swoon in the middle.

The par 3 152 yard 11th hole plays a lot like a shorter, more uphill version of the 2nd. Proper club selection is imperative here, and once again this green slopes hard back-to-front. Bunkers guard this green behind and on the right but the worst miss is arguably on the left, as your ball will trundle down a steep hill.

Like the 2nd, the 11th requires a carry the entire way

The 12th hole is one of the strongest holes on the course in my opinion. At 412 yards, this hole features an elevated teebox to a fairway lined by sequential bunkers on the right and one well-placed cross bunker at 255 yards. Additionally, OB lines the entire left side, making this one of the more intimidating teeshots at Agawam.

The downhill teeshot on the par 4 12th

Unfortunately, this hole is followed up by a poorly designed 379 yard par 4 that’s only the number 2 handicap because of a creek crossing the fairway at 240 yards. Most golfers will be forced to lay-up short of the creek (if they even know it’s there) and be faced with a long approach shot in to an extremely elevated green. I’ve hit both 3 wood and driver into this creek, but am left with long iron when I lay-up with iron or hybrid. A little too tricked up for my liking…

The goofy 13th hole plays straight uphill on the approach

The 355 yard 14th hole is another polarizing one, but actually one I am quite fond of. A giant live oak (rare in the Northeast) occupies the center of this fairway, but isn’t really in play, as good drives should either carry or at least be equidistant to the tree’s base. To make this drive even more fun, this teebox is elevated. From the fairway, this hole turns left, with a large back-to-front sloped green.

The tree shouldn’t be there, but it frames the hole nicely

If you asked a sample of local golfers what the worst hole is on a private course in Rhode Island, many would respond with the 15th at Agawam. This hole (recently turned into a par 4 from a par 5 due to complaints) is as goofy as it is penal. At 420 yards, this long par 4 features mounds on the right and a pond that juts into the left side of the fairway. There’s no real landing area unless you’re able to carry this pond. This well-bunkered green is protected in front by two bunkers and behind with water. The green itself is wide but shallow, and features a heavy slope back-to-front.

The par 4* 15th is tight with water and mounds

The 16th is a relatively mild medium-length 175 yard par 3. If I had another criticism of Agawam, it’s that all five one-shotters play between 152 and 175 yards. Great designs usually have at least one short or long par 3, but you’ll have a mid-iron into all of the par threes at Agawam. The green on this hole is arguably the most difficult on the course, with a giant hump on the back-middle dividing the green in two.

At 360 yards, the par 4 17th is another dogleg left. Drives too far right on this hole will be blocked out by trees, but it’s difficult to go too far left, as I’ve learned with my huge duck hooks have cut the corner. A series of bunkers in front of this relatively flat green make the approach shot visually intimidating.

The blind teeshot on the par 4 17th

The 18th is in theory a very nice finishing hole, but this 439 yard par 4 is soured by the fact that this blind downhill hole doubles as the driving range. Groups often spend inordinate amounts of time just trying to find their ball in the fairway. The left side of this hole is fairly open, but a creek comes into play down the right. This back-to-front sloped green is guarded by bunkers on either side.

The downhill approach on the closing hole – note the ballpicker in the fairway

Best Par 3: 2nd hole, 175 yards, 9th handicap. One of the most memorable holes at Agawam, this intimidating par 3 features a carry over a gorge through a chute of trees. This green is well-protected by bunkers and is quite undulating, making putting a great challenge.

The difficult all-carry par 3 2nd

Best Par 4: 12th hole, 412 yards, 10th handicap. Narrowly edging out the 9th hole, this pretty par 4 features an elevated teebox to a narrow fairway lined with classically designed serial bunkering and fescue. Watch out on the tee, however – I’ve almost been decapitated twice by players who’ve sliced it on 10.

Best Par 5: 3rd hole, 502 yards, 7th handicap. Many par fours and fives have switched over the past several years but this hole is one of two poorly designed, goofy par fives currently. Although slightly better than the 6th hole, this par 5 is overly convoluted with a creek that divides this fairway into thirds. Prudent golfers can go hit iron-iron-wedge and leave with birdie or par.

Your view from the 3rd teebox

General Comments: While the practice green is large, the driving range is makeshift and runs down the 18th fairway. This creates problems when you’re trying to find to ball on the blind 18th and have to search through 100 balls. Pace of play is generally strong at Agawam, and the course is never usually too busy. The clubhouse is a real gem here, as are the world-class grass tennis courts. Agawam certainly has more amenities than nearby courses Wannamoisett and Metacomet, but the golf lags behind here.

Verdict: Agawam is a prime example of how too much change is a bad thing when it comes to golf course design. Once one of the most exclusive and best Donald Ross designs in Rhode Island, Agawam has had more plastic surgery than any other course in the state and feels disjointed for this reason. Despite several good holes, don’t be surprised if you leave here feeling underwhelmed.

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