Agawam Hunt Club’s golf course has changed quite a bit since Willie Park Junior pegged out a 9-holer for the members in 1895. The club’s first comprehensive 18-hole course was laid out by Donald Ross in 1920 over the top of Metacomet’s original Rumford layout.
Agawam had to give up some land to the City of East Providence in the early 1960s, resulting in the loss of three holes. To counter this, the club acquired some additional ground and sought the services of Geoff Cornish to redesign several holes and fashion new 7th and 15th holes.
At the start of the new millennium, Gil Hanse was brought in to develop a master plan ‘aimed at restoring the course to its Donald Ross roots’ though his design firm never actually carried out any work. Since 2018, Ian Andrew has been consulting at the club.
Today’s layout extends to a modest 5,959 yards on a rather constricted property that extends to no more than ninety acres. Holes 8 to 14 are actually laid out on a separate paddock, to the south of Ten Mile River, with #7 and #15 linking these seven holes to the rest of the course.
Agawam Hunt is a solid track that has a few notable holes with a couple mediocre ones. The best part of the course is across the street (8-14) which routes the holes up, down, and across a large hill. The conditions are usually pretty good with the greens running fast and true.
The phrase “old school” is used so frequently to describe many pre-1900 courses, and it is especially fitting for the Agawam Hunt Club. Throughout my round, I reflected frequently on the intricate greens complexes, simple routing over interesting landforms, and compact layout. As noted in the summary above, Agawam Hunt has been touched by numerous notable architects over time, and no one’s flavor obviously dominates.
In 2019, Agawam Hunt opened its doors to the public posting unclaimed member tee times to Golf Now. With so much competition among other excellent private clubs in Providence, it is somewhat unsurprising that Agawam is looking for additional revenue and may be struggling in a saturated market. Despite this, I found AHC to be charming throughout my round. With a prototypical restoration (improved drainage, tree removal, etc.), I believe that AHC would gain more attention in the Providence area.
The round starts with an exciting, uphill blind tee shot to a punch-bowl like green. There is more width than meets the eye, and the green is receptive – a solid gentle handshake. However, the player must immediately change their mindset after the 1st. The 2nd hole, a par three routed over a deep ravine, requires a precise mid-iron to a very fast, undulating green that slopes hard from left to right.
The 3rd hole was arguably my favorite on the course and demonstrates classic architects genius ability to route holes over the existing natural hazards. This par five required a precise tee shot which avoids streams cutting diagonally to the tee box, and also parallel to the line of play. More natural waterways bisect the hole as the golfer considers laying up or going for the handsome green complex. Holes like the 3rd made me wish I had purchased a yardage book before my round.
Rounding out the front nine was the memorable 7th hole, a short par four with many strategic options for play off the tee and scenic views of the Ten Mile River.
As noted in the review below, the golfer crosses a road to far more undulating part of the property to play holes 8 through 14. This part of the course has excellent land for golf with most holes touching a large hill through the center of course. The real star of the show was the golden fescue which came into play on a number of shots, and to a lesser degree the cross wind impacting virtually every shot. While many of these holes ran in parallel, each presented unique challenges. The most memorable to me was the 13th. The player must decide whether to push their luck playing over a creek from the tee (to leave a wedge) or laying up (to leave a mid-iron); this decision is critical as the green was very narrow and deep – pin spots could probably add or subtract 30-40 yards, depending on their location.
All in all, I left Agawam Hunt Club incredibly impressed by the tight, compact nature of the routing that never felt squished, and the architects’ ability to route holes over – not around – the most compelling features of the course in the design. A few aspects of the round held me back from offering a higher rating. These include:
• Generally modest conditioning: Rhode Island had a wet spring, and the necessity for better draining at Agawam was evident in somewhat shaggy, damp fairways. Firmer conditions would have added more strategy to the course.
• Some overgrown trees which impacted tee shots: The chutes through holes like 3, 7, 17, and others have clearly shrunk over the years, limiting some shot choices.
• A somewhat predictable, blasé finish: the final four holes were more of the same at Agawam Hunt. The 15th, previously a par five with a ‘cut-off-as-much-as-you-can’ tee shot, had been neutered to par four with a somewhat awkward blind tee shot due to maintenance issues. The 17th, despite having a great green complex tied into the 2nd tee box, was so similar to other holes. The 18th green was, in my opinion, among the lesser memorable on the course.
• Worth noting also was the very strange custom I saw at many older Rhode Island clubs of having a hole converted into a driving range. In this case, the 18th fairway was just peppered with hundreds of yellow practice balls. Having to sift through that mess, in wet conditions, to find your own ball after a blind tee shot left me with a bad taste in my mouth. As if this was not strange enough, despite paying my dues, the four driving range mats were not even open to me as a public player. This was somewhat rude and unwelcoming.
Agawam Hunt is the quintessential ‘great bones’ golf course that is ripe for basic restoration work. There are so many memorable holes on this very compelling routing. If the public-welcome policy continues, I would highly encourage you to check it out…just don’t expect to be treated like a member, or to find pristine conditions.
The most memorable feature at Agawam is the trip from the 7th green to the 8th tee. It requires the golfer to walk through the garage of a two-family house that borders the property. It turns out to be a twofer as the golfer retraces her/his steps through the garage on the way back to the 15th tee. The second most memorable feature is the huge tree that sits in the middle of the 14th fairway………..just about where a well-struck drive would land.
Unfortunately, the rest of the course is less memorable. Considering the architects who’ve worked here—Willie Park, Donald Ross, Geoffrey Cornish and Gil Hanse—one might expect more. Agawam is not at all a bad course, it’s just that there are a dozen others in Rhode Island (including three within five miles) I’d rather play.