Review: The Misquamicut Club

Course Name: The Misquamicut Club

Designer: Willie Park Jr. (1895, 9 holes), Willie Anderson (1896, Additional 9 holes), Tom Bendelow (1901, Redesign), Seth Raynor (1913, Holes 3-5, parts of 7, and 8), Donald Ross (1922, Redesign, Holes 6, 12-17), Geoffrey Cornish (1980s, Renovation), Ron Forse (1990s, Renovation), Bruce Hepner (2015, Bunker renovation)

Location: Watch Hill, Rhode Island

History: Located in idyllic seaside Watch Hill, The Misquamicut Club was founded in 1895 by prominent Cincinnatians William P. Anderson and William A. Procter (of Procter & Gamble). Scotsman Willie Park Jr. laid out the first 9-hole links in 1895, of which only one hole remains today (2nd). In 1896, the Club hired Willie Anderson as its first professional and he completed the 18 hole layout. Anderson would be gone within a year and went on to win four U.S. Opens. In 1901, Tom Bendelow completely redesigned the course and built the first holes near East Beach. Five of his holes remain on the current course (1, 9-11, 18). Seth Raynor added five new holes in 1913 that still remain (3-5, parts of 7, and 8). It was one of Raynor’s earliest works. The Club paid $500 for a Walter Travis consultation in 1916, but his layout was ultimately rejected. Finally in 1922, Donald Ross combined Bendelow’s, Raynor’s, and Park’s work and added a few new holes of his own. Today’s course is virtually identical to Ross’s 1922 design except for some small renovations by Geoffrey Cornish, Ron Force, and Bruce Hepner more recently. Accolades for The Misquamicut Club include:

  • #99 Best Classic Course in America – Golfweek (2019)
  • #4 Best Course in Rhode Island – Golf Digest (2019)

Conditions: 9/10, Misquamicut is in strong condition with thick rough and fescue lining well-maintained fairways. The greens roll true and fast and the bunkers are a joy to play from.

Value: N/A, This is a private course.

Scorecard:

Tee             Par         Yardage         Rating           Slope

Blue           69            6226              70.0                125

Combo       69            5970              68.6                123

White        69            5668               67.8                122

Red            71            5374               71.0                123

Green        71            4540               65.8                110

Hole Descriptions: With names like Raynor, Ross, and Bendelow on the scorecard, it’s difficult to fathom how such a historic oceanfront course is so often forgotten when discussing the best classic courses of the Northeast. Part of that is due to Misquamicut’s intense privacy, which has historically been difficult to crack, even for raters. While other Rhode Island gems Newport and Wannamoisett are private as well, neither are as exclusive as Misquamicut and both have gained exposure by hosting major tournaments. At just over 6200 yards from the Tips, this course is a bit too short for tournaments, and I highly doubt the membership desires that exposure anyway. Another reason Misquamicut often gets overlooked is its isolated location in the Southwest corner of Rhode Island. Well off the highway on the Block Island Sound, most people in the state have never heard of or been to Watch Hill, a wealthy summer retreat reserved more for out-of-staters including Taylor Swift, who has a house in town. Make no mistake about it, though, Misquamicut is a terrific golf course and easily top 4 in Rhode Island and top 15 in New England.

Much is made about Misquamicut’s drastically differing front and back nines, but this has more to do with topography than the mix of architects at play. Holes 1-10 and 18 feature sweeping fairways and dramatic contours inland while holes 11-17 play across the street on flat terrain basically on the beach. As much as I enjoy the oceanfront holes, I prefer the architecture and variety of the inland holes, especially Bendelow’s work on holes 1, 9-11, and 18. Raynor’s work on the front 9 is almost equally as compelling with numerous templates including an excellent Volcano par 3 8th. When the Ross originals are the lesser holes on the course, you know you have a gem and the fact that Misquamicut has reciprocals with nearby Fishers Island says all you need to know about the caliber of the Club.

The 1st hole is one of the finest openers in New England and a fitting introduction to a world-class front 9. A Bendelow original, this par 4 plays straightaway at 382 yards to one of the most undulating fairways you’ll find anywhere. With OB left and fescue right, this wavy fairway all but guarantees a blind shot from an uneven lie. This incredibly fun green sits in a natural punchbowl, yielding some equally as wild putts.

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The opening teeshot
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You can only see the tip of the flag from the right side of the fairway

The 2nd hole is the only remaining hole from the original 1895 Park Jr. design at a difficult 433 yards. This number 1 handicap features perhaps the most trying teeshot at Misquamicut with OB left and fescue right of a very narrow fairway.  At about 250 yards, this fairway turns left and plateaus with a speed slot soon following. Most golfers will be hitting long iron or wood from the top of the plateau to a subtly undulating small green. Three bunkers dot the fairway just short and a rock wall long gives off a classic New England feel.

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The blind teeshot at 2
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Approach from the 2nd plateau
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A look back from the 2nd green

At 228 yards, the 3rd hole is the longest of a relatively lengthy set of one-shotters. This is an interesting hole that plays semi-blind over mounding to a large reverse redan green that slopes left-to-right. A small bunker guards just short right and a larger one guards well-short left. A good hole, but one of the weaker holes on the course.

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The semi-blind par 3 3rd

The 4th hole is one of the coolest short par fours I’ve played at just 272 yards. Reachable for many, this hole provides many different options, each with their pros and cons. Four deep bunkers guard just short of a large green and the majority of golfers going for the green wind up here. While the fairway is extremely wide, its wild undulations make laying up an equally difficult alternative. Hitting a good drive 200 yards leaves a blind approach from an uneven lie, which might be an even tougher shot than the greenside bunker. This green is one of the most severe on the course, sloping hard back-to-front with multiple plateaus. With not much room to work with, Raynor sculpted an incredible hole with so much strategy.

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The blind par 4 4th
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Laying up leaves another blind shot
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Tremendous greenside bunkering on the 4th

Another strong hole, the 424 yard 5th plays straightaway over a brief forced carry to a relatively wide fairway lined by trees left. This hole is most notable for the church-pew like bunkers and mounds that run down the right beginning at 275 yards running all the way to the green. This green is large and runs front-to-back with bunkers on either side of a back portion.

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The elevated 5th teebox provides scenic views of holes 2-4
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The par 4 5th

The first Ross hole at Misquamicut is the 6th, an excellent 194 yard par 3. This long, narrow green sits on a pedestal and demands a high, accurate teeshot to avoid steep drop-offs short and right. Bunkers guard long and left and numerous swales on this green run away from the golfer chipping from down below. To me, this hole felt like a Raynor with such dramatic contours and it does for good reason – this was originally a teebox for the 7th on Raynor’s design.

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The beautiful par 3 6th
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Missing right on the 6th leaves a near impossible up-and-down; This hole reminds me of Yale

At 522 yards, the 7th hole is one of only two par fives at Misquamicut. As the only hybrid hole on the course (Raynor/Ross), this is a good hole, but it’s definitely a bit awkward due to two different architects. From an elevated teebox, this hole plays as a slight dogleg left with OB down the entire left side and plenty of room to the right. Bunkers line either side of the fairway at 230 yards and are the work of Ross. From here, this hole runs parallel to the 5th with the church-pew bunkers and mounds down the right courtesy of Raynor. While these hazards are aesthetically delightful, they’re more than 300 yards off the tee and work much better on the 5th. This large circular green runs back-to-front surrounded on three sides by bunkers and a collection area right.

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The par 5 7th – notice how much room you have to the right
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The church-pew bunkers and chocolate drops from the approach

The 8th is a world-class “Volcano” template hole with an all-carry teeshot to a circular green that seems to rise out of the ground like a volcano. Missing this back-to-front sloped green leaves a near impossible up-and-down.

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The par 3 8th is one of the signature holes at Misquamicut

At only 359 yards, the 9th hole is another brilliantly quirky hole that makes incredible use of the land. With OB running down the left and a steep fescue hill right, this hole features an initially wide fairway that narrows to almost nothing at 230 yards. From here, the hole turns slightly right with more wild fairway undulations to a shallow green that sits above a 20 foot cliff at the edge of the fairway. Just like the 6th and 8th, an aerial attack is necessary to score well here.

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The par 4 9th
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The perched green looms above the rumpled fairway
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A look back from the 10th teebox at the excellent 9th

My favorite hole at Misquamicut is the 10th because it marries the beautiful Ocean views of the back 9 with the dramatic undulations of the front. At 381 yards, this majestic hole is relatively blind from the teebox, but you have much more room to the right than you think. Lined by OB left, this wild fairway is split in two with a patch of rough down the middle at 250 yards. The left side of the fairway remains elevated with a plateau, while the right dips down into a speed slot. Playing down the right is the preferred line because you’ll likely have a blind approach behind the left plateau. This two-tiered back-to-front sloped green sits in a natural hollow and is guarded by bunkers left and short.

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The 10th from the Women’s Tees
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A closer look at this supremely fun fairway
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The 10th green

The signature hole, the 335 yard 11th is one of the coolest and most unique holes you’ll play anywhere. Playing from an elevated teebox, this drive takes you over a busy road and onto the “Meadows” part of the property across the street. The hole itself is a another terrific short par 4 with a diagonal fairway and green only about 300 yards from the teebox. Playing as almost a cape hole, natural tidal pools line the entire right side and going for the green requires a significant carry. This green is protected by a bunker long and two notable mounds on either side short that obscure portions of the green.

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The world-class 11th – Make sure not to top it!

At 169 yards, the par 3 12th is another unique hole with the teebox literally on the beach playing over an 140 yard water hazard. Because it’s so flat, you don’t have a great view of the green from the teebox and you can imagine the wind on this hole. This large green is surrounded by dunes and bunkers on either side. At one point, Ross discussed flipping the green and teebox, but this never happened probably due to layout logistics. I think this indeed would be a good change as I’m envisioning it would look a bit like Maidstone #12 or Ocean Course #14.

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The par 3 12th

The 13th and 14th are two of the most difficult holes in the state as long dogleg rights. At 431 yards, the 13th is the shorter of the two and demands an immediate 150 yard forced carry over a tidal pond. Again, because the terrain is so flat, the visuals aren’t very appealing from the teebox, making an already difficult teeshot that much harder. This fairway is angled right with water lining the entire right side and bunkers down the left at 230 and 260 yards. A crossbunker at 320 yards down the left is only in play for the longest hitters or those laying up. This green is small and surrounded by bunkers long, right, and short left.

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You have less room to the right than you think on the 13th
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The 13th approach demonstrates how utterly flat the fairways are on the other side of the road

At 435 yards, the 14th is the longest par 4 at Misquamicut and another exceedingly difficult hole. Containing another forced carry of 100 yards over water, this dogleg right features a tight fairway lined by water down the right between 170 and 250 yards. This approach plays level to a back-to-front sloped green lined by bunkers on either side.

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The 14th from the teebox

The 15th is probably the least interesting hole on the course as a straightaway 363 yard par 4. Except for a bunker on the left at 240 yards, this fairway is extremely forgiving and wide. The most notable feature of this hole is the green, which contains numerous slopes and is guarded by crossbunkers short and five bunkers surrounding left, long, and right.

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Approach at 15

The 16th is the final par 4 at Misquamicut at a strong 391 yards. Featuring another intimidating teeshot, this hole has a diagonal fairway like the 11th and requires a lengthy forced carry of at least 150 yards over dunes to find the left edge of the fairway. The further right you go, the longer the carry needed, maxing out at about 200 yards. Bunkers await starting at 180 yards down the right fairway and catch many a well-struck drive. This approach plays to a classic Ross green complex slightly elevated and surrounded on all sides by four bunkers.

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The difficult teeshot at 16
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The 16th approach

At 525 yards, the par 5 17th is the last of the Meadows holes before crossing back over the road. This hole provides another terrifying teeshot to a razor-thin fairway that snakes between reeds. This fairway turns right for the final 130 yards with bunkers down the left. A large back-to-front sloped terrific green complex is lined by a giant bunker right and another short left. Being aggressive off the tee here can lead to birdie or better but doing so invokes a great risk.

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The 17th provides another intimidating teeshot
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The 17th approach

In unusual fashion, Misquamicut closes with a par 3 that marks a return to the dramatic elevation changes of the front 9. At a prodigious 215 yards, this is a tremendous hole playing straight uphill to a wide, flat green sitting on a pedestal. Deep bunkers guard short, right, and long and leave for very challenging up-and-downs.

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Playing the terrific 18th
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A glimpse back from 18; How great is that logo?

General Comments: Misquamicut’s clubhouse is majestic and stately sitting atop the hill overlooking the course. Lawn chairs abut the 18th green and provide tremendous views of the Atlantic Ocean. In addition to golf, membership confers access to tennis and a beach club.

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The classic Misquamicut clubhouse

Practice facilities are a relatively recent addition to Misquamicut and include a small grass driving range and impressive short game areas near the clubhouse. Pace of play was fantastic and the course gets very little play, even in the summer.

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The driving range
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It’s hard to imagine a more picturesque practice green setting

Verdict: An exclusive summer retreat, The Misquamicut Club is one of the best courses most people have never heard of. With architects like Ross, Raynor, and Bendelow on its pedigree, this old-school course oozes a charm more akin to the Hamptons than Southern Rhode Island. Don’t ever pass up the chance to play here if you somehow get the opportunity!


2 thoughts on “Review: The Misquamicut Club

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