Review: Potowomut Golf Club

Course Name: Potowomut Golf Club

Designer: Unknown (1927, 9 holes), Walter Johnson (1947, Redesign)

Location: Warwick, Rhode Island

History: Established in 1927, the fledgling club expanded to an 18 hole championship course by 1947 with the help of Donald Ross’s associate Walter Johnson. The word “Potowomut” is Native American for “land of fires”.

Conditions: 7/10, In stark contrast to neighboring Goddard Park, Potowomut is always in solid shape with quick greens, thick rough, and well-manicured teeboxes and fairways.

Value: N/A, This is a private course.

Scorecard:

Tee                           Par         Yardage         Rating          Slope

Blue                         71           6380               70.6              128

White                       71           6020               68.8              124

Red                           73           5649               73.3              126

Hole Descriptions: When I think of Potowomut, I think family. My grandparents live down the road from the course and I fondly remember driving by every Thanksgiving wishing I could play it. My dad and uncle grew up caddying here and attribute their early interest in golf to this experience. I finally got the opportunity to play here with my dad, uncle, and cousin, and the day meant so much more than just golf. Nobody would mistake Potowomut for the best course in Rhode Island, but it’s certainly one of numerous classic private courses that are an absolute joy to play and unfortunately don’t get the love they deserve. Designed by Ross’s apprentice Walter Johnson, Potowomut features many Ross characteristics like tiny, elevated greens surrounded by deep bunkers.

The par 4 opening hole is a great introduction at a strong 429 yards. This teeshot runs downhill from an elevated teebox, and danger looms on both sides of a narrow fairway. You must carry your drive at least 175 yards to avoid a small pond on the left, and 240 yards to carry a devastating fairway bunker on the left. In addition to these hazards, a line of tall trees down the left creates some awkward shots. The right side is lined with thick rough, leaving some gnarly lies for a long iron or hybrid approach. The only benign feature to this long hole is the fact that you can run the ball onto this receptive green, lined on either side by a bunker.

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The opening teeshot from an elevated teebox

The par 4 2nd hole plays as a 362 yard dogleg left aptly named “Little Bend”. This hole features a generous fairway lined by sporadic trees and a trio of bunkers on the left at 180 yards. Longer hitters need to beware of a creek that cuts this fairway off around 280 yards. This heavily back-to-front sloped green is the largest on the course with bunkers on either side.

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The approach on the 2nd

Although short, the 163 yard 3rd is a difficult hole and a fantastic par 3. This hole is completely exposed to the wind and plays at least 1 club downhill, making club selection very difficult. This elevated back-to-front sloped green is surrounded by bunkers and is one of the smallest on the course.

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The downhill 3rd

At 370 yards, the straightaway par 4 4th features a teebox lined by a canopy of trees. This is a fairly open teeshot, but the hole narrows as you near the green with bunkers constricting the fairway about 50 yards short and an undulating green surrounded by bunkers. The difficult par 4 5th is deserving of its number 1 handicap due to its length (429 yards), and intimidating teeshot. This claustrophobic teeshot features OB left the entire way and a prominent bunker and trees on the right at 300 yards.  Those who don’t find this narrow fairway will have very little chance of hitting this elevated green in regulation. Beware of the bunker on the left 50 yards short of this green, leaving a very difficult up-and-down.

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The uphill par 4 5th

At 199 yards, the long par 3 6th features a long but narrow green with two deep bunkers on either side. OB on the left looms in many golfer’s minds, and forces many bailouts right. The 7th is an interesting hole and my least favorite on a very strong outward 9. At 352 yards, this dogleg left is fairly tight with trees that line almost the entire way to the green on the left. The perfect drive here leaves only a wedge in, but drives too short might be blocked out by these trees. A fairway bunker 250 yards on the right disincentivizes you from hitting driver. This circular green is protected short and right by large bunkers. The straightaway 406 yard par 4 8th is a fun driving hole with a semi-blind teeshot over a plateau. Lined by trees the entire way, there’s not much danger here besides a left bunker at 285 yards. This green is guarded by a bunker on the right.

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Playing the blind teeshot on the par 4 8th

The fantastic par 5 9th is the first of back-to-back short par fives that offer a great chance at birdie. While 445 yards seems short on the scorecard, this hole plays both dead uphill and into the wind, making it a three shot hole for most. This fairway is treelined the entire way with bunkers on the left at 220 yards and 350 yards. The difficulty on this hole comes on the approach to a narrow green perched on a steep cliff on the right. A cavernous bunker on the right is a devastating spot.

Although longer at 497 yards, the par 5 10th is in many ways easier than the preceding hole playing downhill and downwind. This dogleg left contains the most bunkers (10) of any hole at Potowomut including a prominent one 240 yards on the left side of the dogleg. The ideal drive carries this bunker, leaving only a long to mid-iron into this large green. This back-to-front sloped green is guarded on either side and long by bunkers, but you can run this ball onto the green. The par 4 11th is my least favorite hole at Potowomut as a straightaway bland 354 yard par 4. Out of bounds guards the left side, while the right side is fairly open outside of one tree at 200 yards. This severe green is two-tiered and felt a bit out of place.

The 12th is the longest par 3 on the course at 207 yards. Out of bounds guards the left and behind this green while hidden water guards the right. This hazard is certainly in play but not overwhelmingly daunting as there is plenty of room between it and the green. The 13th is one of the more interesting holes at Potowomut and one that is tricky the first time you play it. This tight 323 yard par 4 demands a straight teeshot with less than a driver, leaving a blind approach shot straight uphill to a tiny green. Bunkers on the right at 200 yards and tall trees down the left leave for an almost impossible approach. Nicknamed “Panorama,” the 379 yard par 4 14th offers a scenic view of the course from its elevated teebox over the Club’s driveway. This hole plays downhill and slightly to the left to a generous fairway. Bunkers litter this fairway at 285 and 310 yards but aren’t in play for most golfers. The most notable feature of this hole is an interesting rock structure in the left rough that appears to predate the course.

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The view from the elevated 14th teebox

The 527 yard 15th is easily the hardest par 5 at Potowomut as a semi-blind dogleg left bending the entire way. This hole is a true marathon, requiring three strong shots to hit this green in regulation. Trees line the left side for its entire length, but you’re thankful they’re there because hooked drives would find a busy road otherwise. This road isn’t the only time cars come into play on this hole, as this fairway is bisected by the Club’s driveway about 320 yards off the tee. Once you cross this road, the hole is fairly straightforward for the remainder, with two bunkers on the right about 100 yards short of the green. Continuing a trend of great holes, the par 3 16th is my favorite par 3 at Potowomut and also the shortest at 159 yards. This hole plays uphill over a deadly bunker short to a shallow green that slopes back left-to-front right. Proper club selection is the key here.

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The par 3 16th on a beautiful Autumn day

The 17th is another strong par 4 at 391 yards. This hole plays downhill from an elevated teebox and is lined by trees on both sides and a bunker on the right at 260 yards. Water also looms just to the right of these trees around 220 yards and is certainly in play for a slice. This relatively flat green is guarded by bunkers on either side. After several extremely good holes, I thought the closing hole was a bit of a letdown. This dogleg right officially plays 387 yards on the scorecard but is incredibly confusing the first time you play it. This fairway ends with water about 240 yards off the tee but drives under 200 yards are blocked out/leave too long of an approach shot. This approach requires at least 150 yards over water to a severely undulating green with a steep false front.

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The approach on 18 – note the range balls

General Comments: The putting and chipping greens are tiny, but the driving range is over 300 yards and one of the better ones in the state. Pace of play has been very good both times I’ve played.

Verdict: Similar but superior to Walter Johnson’s only other design North Kingstown Golf Course, Potowomut GC is a fun course that offers a classic design, solid conditioning, and plenty of risk/reward holes. This course is definitely worth a play if you get the chance.


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