Review: Wanumetonomy Golf and Country Club

Course Name: Wanumetonomy Golf and Country Club

Designer: Seth Raynor (1922), Ron Prichard (2000’s, Renovation), Brian Silva (Unknown, 13th hole)

Location: Middletown, Rhode Island

History: Wanumetonomy was founded in 1922 as a semi-private course designed by famed golf architect Seth Raynor. Raynor was in town to build T. Suffern Tailer’s now extinct Ocean Links in Newport, and was contractually obligated to design Wanumetonomy as well. The resultant course hasn’t changed much over the last century and at least 16 of Raynor’s original greens remain. In 1995, Wanumetonomy co-hosted the U.S. Amateur with nearby Newport Country Club and Tiger Woods shot a higher score at Wanumetonomy than Newport. Ron Prichard completed a master plan for the Club in the early 2000’s and added new teeboxes and bunkers. Wanumetonomy has earned the following award:

  • #8 Best Course in Rhode Island – Top100golfcourse.com (2018)

Conditions: 8/10, Like nearby Newport, Wanumetonomy plays firm and fast during the summer with the hot weather dictating the conditions. The greens are usually quick while the teeboxes and bunkers are in very good shape.

Value: N/A, This is a private course.

Scorecard:

Tee                           Par         Yardage         Rating          Slope

Black                       70           6309              70.7               127

Blue                         70           6036              69.4               124

White                      70           5487               67.1               118

Green                      70           4464               64.8               110

Hole Descriptions: Over the past few years, I’ve been fortunate to play a number of Seth Raynor and C.B. Macdonald courses and consider them amongst my favorite architects. Wanumetonomy is one of Seth Raynor’s least well-known surviving courses and is unique for a number of reasons. First, it’s the only 18-hole Raynor design in Rhode Island and one of very few in New England. Second, it features very few template holes despite having 16 original greens. True architecture buffs will be able to discern the four templates, but the design is a decidedly restrained one from Raynor. Lastly, Wanumetonomy features a very unique setting built into the side of a hill directly on the water. It’s the only course in the Ocean State with water views on every hole and it’s no doubt one of the prettiest in the state. While this hill is gentle and doesn’t make any single hole play severely up- or downhill, I find it makes putting quite difficult trying to reconcile the green’s predominant slope with the underlying slope of the hill.

At some point, the two nines were switched and the opening hole is now a short 318 yard par 4. This teebox was moved left to make room for the range and leaves a somewhat awkward angle to a fairway off to the right. Small trees and OB line the left the entire way and the fairway ends abruptly with a group of deep bunkers at 245 yards. This left-to-right sloped green is very much a Raynor, playing narrow and long with deep bunkers on either side.

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Aim further right than you think on the par 4 opener
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The approach at 1

There are many short par fours on the 6309 yard layout and the 2nd hole is another at just 313 yards. This sleek dogleg left turns left at about 240 yards with deep bunkers on both sides. Cutting the corner is now easier after a large willow came down in a storm recently, but you still must carry a creek and small tree to get close to the green. This small green is guarded by two deep bunkers short.

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The dogleg left 2nd
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The approach at 2

After two short holes, the 451 yard 3rd is the longest par 4 on the course and the number 1 handicap. This former par 5 plays as a dogleg right with a very generous fairway bisected by a creek at 300 yards. This approach plays uphill to a large green surrounded by bunkers left, right, and long. A difficult par but not a hard bogey.

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The lengthy par 4 3rd

At 392 yards, the 4th hole is a good but fairly straightforward straightaway par 4. This fairway is again quite generous with small trees sporadically lining both sides. An elevated, back-to-front sloped green is guarded by deep bunkers on the right and a steep drop-off left.

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The par 4 4th
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A closer look at the 4th green

The downhill 5th hole is the first par 3 at Wanumetonomy and also the first template. This is one of the more unique “Short” templates in that it features a moat-like bunker down the right and a water hazard left and short. For reference, most Shorts feature a bunker around the entire green and aerials from the 1930s show the water is indeed a new feature. This green slopes generously back-to-front with a devastating false front as well. This is one of the two non-original greens and had to be built up due to frequent flooding. While not Sleepy Hollow’s 16th, this is a very attractive hole with the water in the backdrop. Removing the trees behind this green would further enhance the aesthetic appeal.

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The downhill par 3 5th

At 416 yards, the par 4 6th is one of more difficult holes at Wanumetonomy. Playing at the bottom of the hill along the coastline, this slight dogleg right features the most difficult drive on the course due to a small forced carry and a tree down the right that forces you to hit a high fade. With a trio of bunkers down the right at 230 yards and sporadic trees left, I don’t think this tree needs to be there to give the hole teeth. This green slopes left-to-right with deep bunkers on either side.

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The tree on the right makes for an unnecessarily unfair teeshot at 6
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The approach at 6 with an eyesore of a building in the background

The 7th hole is the shortest par 4 on the course at just 301 yards but plays longer uphill. This drive is blind to a very generous fairway with little danger besides OB far right. The green here is large with deep bunkers on four corners. This is a definite birdie opportunity.

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The uphill par 4 7th

The 8th hole is a beautiful straightaway 389 yard par 4 with a slightly downhill teeshot. Trees and OB run down the entire right side while the left side is completely open except for a trio of bunkers at 240 yards. This approach plays slightly back uphill to a narrow, severely back-to-front sloped green guarded by numerous deep bunkers on either side.

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The par 4 8th is my favorite hole on the front 9
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Long shadows on the approach at 8

At 369 yards, the front 9 closes with an uphill dogleg left. Once again, trees down the left force you to hit a draw and take away options for the golfer. These trees should be thinned out or cut down in my opinion. A hidden crossbunker down the left at 230 yards is really the only danger on this teeshot. This approach plays at least one club extra to a large, back-to-front sloped green lined by bunkers on either side.

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Trees down the left are out of place and likely not in line with Raynor’s original design
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The uphill approach at 9 finishes right next to the clubhouse

The back 9 is the tougher of the two sides and provides a lot more character. The 10th hole is an excellent uphill par 4 at 392 yards. This drive feels a bit claustrophobic with a large net and OB right and large bunkers down the left at 215 and 260 yards. An elevated, Redan-like green awaits with bunkers right and a steep bunker left.

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The intimidating drive at 10
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The approach at 10

The 404 yard 11th hole is the most photogenic hole at Wanumetonomy with insane water views dominating the backdrop. Although the crossbunkers at 245 yards on both sides are not original Raynors, they certainly fit nicely and frame the fairway well. This large green appears to slope back-to-front but the underlying slope of the ground causes it to play flatter than you’d expect.

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The signature downhill par 4 11th

The par 3 12th hole is another template hole as a nice 173 yard Eden. I’ve never found the Eden to be a particularly standout template on any MacRaynor course, but this is a great hole with a large back-to-front sloped green lined by deep bunkers on either side. A central spine running through the green makes putting even more perilous.

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The par 3 12th

The 13th hole is the only hole that’s not an original Raynor as Brian Silva came in recently and completely rebuilt it. Despite this, I quite enjoy this hole and think it’s one of the better ones on the course. At 347 yards, this short par 4 plays as a downhill dogleg right with the dogleg occurring at about 250 yards. A pair of bunkers lines the fairway on both sides of the dogleg but can be carried by aggressive golfers. This large green slopes generously back-to-front with deep bunkers on either side.

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The dogleg right par 4 13th
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The approach at 13
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A closer look at the 13th green – definitely Raynor-inspired

At 334 yards, the 14th hole is yet another short par 4 with a semi-blind uphill teeshot. A pair of hidden bunkers almost completely occludes the fairway at around 235 yards so the golfer will have to decide whether to try to carry them or lay up off the tee. This punchbowl-inspired square green is raised on its corners and is one of my favorites on the course.

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The par 4 14th
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The square green at 14

My favorite hole at Wanumetonomy is the 15th, a strong 408 yard par 4. For starters, this hole contains two separate teeboxes that provide variety and different angles for the golfer. The hole plays as a dogleg left regardless but the left teebox creates a more pronounced dogleg. Crossbunkers on either side loom at about 290 yards but shouldn’t be a worry for anyone but the longest hitters. This approach plays uphill to a memorable Maiden template green surrounded by bunkers left, long, and right. The Maiden is a somewhat unique template and is basically a green with multiple plateaus and a sideways Biarritz in the back. This difficult green easily brings three- or four-putt into play.

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The par 4 15th would fit well on any MacRaynor course

Like nearby Wannamoisett, Wanumetonomy makes you wait until the end of the round before you reach the lone par 5. At 556 yards, the 16th is a long hole that plays slightly shorter from an elevated teebox. A crossbunker down the left at 255 yards is the only danger on this generous teeshot. From the fairway, this hole is relatively straightforward with a progressively narrowing fairway due to water down the right for the final 145 yards. Five bunkers surround this undulating green on all sides except the front.

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The par 5 16th

At 206 yards, the 17th hole is the longest par 3 on the course and the final template hole. Although a par 3, this hole features a Road hole green complex with a deep bunker guarding the left side of a shallow green. This is a difficult hole with an immediate forced carry over water to a slightly back-to-front sloped green. Any pin behind the Road hole bunker is extremely difficult to access.

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The beautiful par 3 17th

The closing hole at Wanumetonomy is a strong uphill 391 yard par 4 playing back towards the clubhouse. This hole plays longer than its distance and features a left-to-right sloping fairway yielding some interesting lies. A pair of bunkers down the left at 220 yards is to be avoided and anything wayward might be blocked out by trees lining the fairway. This green is relatively small and well-guarded by bunkers short, left, and long.

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The uphill par 4 18th
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The approach at 18 from just short of the bunkers

General Comments: For practice facilities, Wanumetonomy features a small practice green and range near the 1st hole. Like most great seaside courses, the clubhouse is positioned at the top of the hill for maximum viewing pleasure. Pace of play was strong on a summer afternoon.

Verdict: Wanumetonomy sees a somewhat restrained Seth Raynor with only a couple of templates, but a lovely seaside location and many strong holes make it a must play for fans of MacRaynor. With additional tree-removal and a commitment to Raynor’s original bunkering hopefully coming in the next few years, Wanumetonomy could become one of the elite private courses in Rhode Island.


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