Review: Montaup Country Club

Course Name: Montaup Country Club

Designer: Unknown (1923, 3 holes)(1920s, 18 holes), Frank Tew (1968, Back 9)

Location: Portsmouth, Rhode Island

History: Built as a 3-hole course on Chase Peach Orchard in 1923, Montaup soon became a regulation 18-hole course. The U.S. military used the back 9 for gravel to construct a Navy Base during World War II, but in 1965 the back 9 was rebuilt by Frank Tew. Members reportedly would mow the greens themselves and pick rocks out of the fairway to accelerate the back nine’s opening. Montaup has received the following accolades:

  • #4 Best Public Course in Rhode Island – Golf Magazine (2016)
  • #5 Best Public Course in Rhode Island – Golfweek (2018)

Conditions: 8/10, Montaup is always in good shape with well-maintained fairways and teeboxes, thick rough, and very quick and true greens.

Value: 8/10, Although semi-private, public golfers can play Montaup at fairly competitive rates. Easily walkable, Montaup is $47 to walk at peak hours with great discounts for twilight and military members. Open year-round, the rates also get cheaper in the winter.

Scorecard:

Tee                           Par         Yardage         Rating          Slope

Blue                        71            6375               70.9             125

White                      71           5809               68.1              122

Red                          73          5338                71.6               122

Gold                        73           4724               67.2              118

Hole Descriptions: For some reason Montaup doesn’t get the recognition of the other top public courses in Rhode Island (Newport NationalTriggs), but it is equally deserving in my mind. The views of Mount Hope Bay are stunning and the routing is memorable and shares many features of classic architecture like small raised greens and strategic bunkering. While neither the longest nor most difficult course at only 6375 yards from the Blue Tees, a constant seaside breeze and brutal opening stretch make it a good test. One of the major flaws I have with Montaup is that the design gets a bit repetitive, as left is dead on almost every hole, and most of the greens run back-to-front with bunkers on either side.

Many in Rhode Island believe Montaup has the four most difficult starting holes in the state. I tend to agree with this statement if you limit this to only public courses, as I think Wannamoisett takes the title. At 414 yards, the opening hole is incredibly narrow and anything a tad bit left will be lost onto a road. Further compounding the difficulty, this back-to-front sloped green is narrow and surrounded by ponds short and to the right. A par here sets you up for a strong round. The 2nd hole is another narrow long par 4 at 405 yards. While more open than the 1st, OB once again lines the left side while trees run down the right. This green is relatively flat and guarded by bunkers on either side. After two difficult par fours, the 3rd hole is a brutally long 221-yard par 3 that usually plays into the wind. OB lines the left here again, and the green slopes hard back-to-front with deep bunkers on either side. The 4th hole is the “easiest” of the brutal starting stretch as a 386 yard dogleg left. Despite this, I still managed to make an 11 here in a tournament after hitting 3 balls OB left into high dunes. The miss on this hole is clearly right, but trees line this side as does a bunker at 230 yards. This green slopes generously back-to-front and is guarded by bunkers on either side.

The 533 yard par 5 5th is the number 1 handicap hole at Montaup, but I consider it the easiest hole on a tough front 9. This dogleg left plays shorter than its length and is fairly open. The main danger here is a long pond which hugs the dogleg 290 yards from the teebox. The approach shot runs straight uphill to a large back-to-front sloped green guarded by a severe false front and bunkers on the other three sides. I believe this green is the course’s highest point and the views afforded of the Bay are terrific. At 351 yards, the downhill dogleg left 6th hole features a tight fairway and small pond 225 yards down the left. This green is flanked on both sides by bunkers and slopes hard back-to-front. The 7th hole is a 521 yard par 5 that plays narrow the entire way. Three bunkers line the fairway on either side at about 220 yards and a devastating bunker can be found in the middle of the fairway about 100 yards short of the green. This is the largest green on the course and features three tiers, leaving some brutal putts. The 8th hole offers probably the best scoring opportunity on the front as a short 145 yard par 3 over a small pond. Bunkers line both sides of this green. At 332 yards, the short par 4 9th is a quirky hole that features a huge plateau in the fairway. Drives short of the plateau leave blind approaches while drives just past will have a severe downhill lie to an elevated green.

Playing almost 300 yards shorter, the back 9 is considerably easier than the front. The 10th is a short 159 yard par 3 adjacent to the parking lot. Accuracy is a must, as three large bunkers surround this heavily back-to-front sloped green. Although an easy walking course, the walk from 10-11 is fairly long and awkward and is likely the result of the nines being built at different times. The 11th, however, is worth the walk and is one of my favorite holes at Montaup. This 398 yard sharp dogleg left is lined by thick dunes and water down the left and sparse trees down the right. A speed slot exists just beyond the dogleg at about 240 yards and makes this hole much easier if you can catch it. Bunkers line both sides of a hard back-to-front sloping green that’s bordered by a literal beach on the left. The 12th hole is another par 3 at 184 yards with bunkers lining both sides. This is a relatively flat and forgettable hole, but still requires a well-struck iron. At 514 yards, the par 5 13th is reachable for longer hitters but is lined with thick trees and OB down the entire left side. Bunkers line both sides of the fairway for much of the landing area on both the drive and lay-up. A large tree about 50 yards from the green in the right rough occludes many golfers approaching from the right. The 170 yard 14th hole is the last par 3 on the course and probably the best one-shotter of the group. This hole plays uphill over a pond adorned by a water fountain with a green that slopes hard back right-to-front-left with bunkers short on either side.

At 424 yards, the straightaway par 4 15th is the number 2 handicap mostly due to its length as the longest par 4. There are plenty of singular trees on both sides of the fairway, but this hole is overall fairly open. Bunkers dot both sides of the fairway between 160 and 230 yards and two well-positioned bunkers guard this elevated green short and left. Montaup’s signature hole is arguably the par 5 16th. At 519 yards, this hole is also reachable with a good drive, but usually plays into the wind. An abandoned railroad track designates OB left, but the main danger here is a tiny pond in front of this green that’s tough to carry in two. This multi-tiered green provides tremendous views of the Mount Hope Bridge.

IMG_1647
The beautiful view from the 16th green

The most difficult hole on the back is the 17th, a strong 399 yard par 4. This slight dogleg left features a tight fairway lined with railroad tracks left and trees down the right. Your drive must carry a pretty decent way to reach a plateau on the fairway, leaving a very delicate approach to a narrow back-to-front sloped green lined by OB left and a giant slope and bunker right. The closing hole is a fun match play design as a drivable 300 yard par 4. While this hole plays uphill and most golfers elect to layup, reaching this green is not unheard of, as I remember a recent story of someone making albatross here in a tournament. Five bunkers surround left, long, and right of this green, but the front is receptive to drives.

General Comments: There never used to be a range at Montaup, but apparently there is one now. There’s a fairly large practice green next to the clubhouse. Pace of play has been pretty fantastic when I’ve played.

Verdict: Montaup is one of the most underrated golf courses in Rhode Island, offering strong conditions and the best views of any public course in the state. I highly recommend this course to all in the area.


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