Review: Metacomet Country Club

Course Name: Metacomet Country Club

Designer: Leonard Byles (1901), Donald Ross (1924, Redesign)

Location: East Providence, Rhode Island

History: Established in 1901 by five businessmen, Metacomet was one of the first golf courses in Rhode Island. In 1924, Donald Ross redesigned the course, and it has stood the test of time since. After years of declining membership, a group led by Brad Faxon purchased the course in 2019 and hoped to enlist Gil Hanse to retouch the design. The course also opened to the public that year. The result was nothing short of an unmitigated disaster and Faxon and others pulled out in 2020, selling the property for development. Metacomet closed permanently on September 30, 2020 despite several last ditch efforts to save it.

Conditions: 8/10, Well-known for it’s blazing fast greens, Metacomet was always in solid shape. The conditioning of the rough and surrounding areas worsened in later years, however, as the course’s membership declined.

Value: 8/10, Historically private, Metacomet first opened tee times to the public in 2019 and remained that way until it closed. At $75 with a cart, this was hands down the best bang for your buck in Rhode Island.

Scorecard:

Tee                           Par         Yardage         Rating          Slope

Black                       70          6464                71.7              126

Blue                         70          6214                 71.0             125

White                      70          5664                67.8             121

Red                           72          5438                72.1             128

Hole Highlights: I cannot stress how good of a design this was. A true Donald Ross classic, there was a not a single bad hole at Metacomet. The 1st hole plays downhill at 386 yards and was one of the best scoring opportunities on an otherwise very challenging course.

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The blind, downhill 1st
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The downhill approach at 1
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Looking back at the 1st

The 2nd hole was one of the coolest in the state and the first of two short par 5’s at Metacomet. Water lined the entire right hand side of the fairway on this dogleg right, and there was plenty of room to the left, giving players an option of whether they want to try to go for the green in the two and risk the water.

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The risk/reward Cape-style par 5 2nd
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The approach at 2

The 3rd started a very challenging series of holes as a 359 yarder straight up a steep hill. The teebox set you up to pull the ball, and many golfers did to avoid the thick woods on the right. In addition to playing much longer than its distance, the green was highly sloped and on a pedestal. Anything short or on the front of the green with backspin came back a good 20 yards thanks to a shaved embankment.

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The par 4 3rd set up for a fade
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The difficult approach to the elevated 3rd green

The 4th hole was one of the most challenging in the state as an amazing 446 yard dogleg right. The downhill teeshot was actually fairly straightforward on this pretty open par 4, but the approach shot ran straight back uphill and was usually a wood or long iron for most golfers. Anything short left a difficult chip or bunker shot on this very complex green.

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Aim over the right bushes to cut the corner at 4
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Looking back at the 4th as a storm comes in

I was a huge fan of the first par 3 on the course, the 5th. At 180 yards, this hole played straight uphill and featured a tiny, sloping green defended by a bunker short.

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The fantastic par 3 5th

Out of all of the difficult holes on the front 9, I found 6 to be the most difficult. A brutally long uphill par 4 that played over 440 yards, this hole featured a blind teeshot with trees lining both sides of the fairway. Players lucky enough to have a shot in were intimidated by a narrow green surrounded by danger on 3 sides.

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The semi-blind teeshot at the 6th
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The undulating fairway at 6

At 160 yards, the par 3 7th was the shortest and easiest at Metacomet. Straight downhill, this hole offered a beautiful view behind a very sloped green complex. This hole is famous in my family, as my Great-Grandfather made two holes-in-ones here 10 years apart on 7/7 with a 7-iron.

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The beautiful par 3 7th through a chute of trees
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The 3rd and 7th greens in tandem

My least favorite hole on the course, the 8th was a sharp dogleg left that required a drive less than 220 yards to avoid running through this fairway. A large crossbunker across the fairway at about 170 yards was the only real trouble on the drive, but a waste gulley separating the fairway and a tiny green made the approach shot very difficult.

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The short dogleg par 4 8th
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Don’t be short and find the pit of misery at 8

The 9th hole was the final par 5 on the course, and one of the better designed short par fives I’ve played. At only 463 yards, this hole was readily reachable in two but accuracy was at a premium here, as this narrow fairway was tree-lined. After a good drive in the fairway, players had plenty of options and those who decided to go for the green in two faced some serious dangers left of this narrow green. The left side dropped off abruptly and getting up and down from these dunes was more or less impossible.

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The 9th green provided one of the best views at Metacomet

The 10th hole was one of the finest long par 3’s I’ve played. At 228 yards, this mammoth of a hole offered no outs short, as thick rough runs up to the green. This green was sloped hard back to front, leaving some brutal putts.

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The long, all-carry 10th

The 11th was a straightforward 378 yard par 4 notable for doubling as the driving range and having the Club’s driveway bisect it.

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The straightaway par 4 11th

At 242 yards, the par 3 12th was another beast although this hole allows layups unlike 10. This green also sloped hard back-to-front with bunkers on either side.

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The beastly par 3 12th

After a long 423 yard par 4, the 14th is the best hole at Metacomet. Included in Jeff Barr’s 1001 Golf Holes You Must Play Before You Die, this monstrous par 4 played downhill at 448 yards. While fairly open, the key to this hole was hitting the fairway about 260 yards out to catch a steep power-chute down to the 150-yard marker. From there, you were left a blind approach to an undulating green.

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Powerlines distracted what’s an otherwise fantastic hole in the 13th
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The well-bunkered 13th green complex
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The approach at 14

At 384 yards, the 15th played as a shorter version of the 6th with a blind, uphill teeshot. In addition to playing longer than it’s distance, this hole featured one of the tiniest greens on the course and was well-protected by bunkers.

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The uphill par 4 15th

I would venture to say that 16 was one of the best chances at birdie at Metacomet. As a straightaway 347 yarder, drives that avoided numerous fairway bunkers will have wedge at this green. The view of the clubhouse is best on this hole. Although 14 gets most of the publicity, I find 17 to be another excellent one. At 402 yards, this hole was a perfect complement to the great 4th hole. Your drive ran downhill and must stay to the right on this dogleg left to avoid being blocked out. The approach shot here was again straight up a steep hill, and many golfers were unable to reach this difficult green in two.

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The beastly par 4 17th
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The uphill approach at 17

The 18th was a fun finishing hole slightly diminished by power lines that ran over your head on the tee box. Downhill, your drives had to stay left of the clubhouse which juts out on the right side of this hole. This green complex was very impressive, with a set of bunkers guarding the front of this green. While the back of this green features no bunkers, the grass surrounding the greens was very tight and shaved down, leading to tough chip shots.

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The downhill closer

General Comments: Like many old courses, the practice facilities at Metacomet were pretty scanty. The range was makeshift on the 11th fairway but there were two nice practice greens. Pace of play was generally very good, and everyone I met there was extremely friendly.

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Metacomet’s practice green

Verdict: Metacomet was a fantastic Donald Ross layout with excellent greens and strong conditions that unfortunately fell victim to the changing times and closed permanently in 2020 amidst much controversy. This was a top 10 course in Rhode Island.


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