The Carnegie Abbey Club was formed at the start of the new millennium and the club’s golf course is laid out on property leased from Portsmouth Abbey School, a Benedictine Boarding Prep School established back in 1926. The new ownership changed the club's name to The Aquidneck Club in 2019.
A number of fairways are said to lie on land where the Battle of Rhode Island took place in 1778 and this skirmish between opposing American and British forces is commemorated on the course with hole names such as “Bloody Run,” “Patriot’s Stand” and “Hessians' Hole”.
The course actually came to prominence the year after it opened when it featured in a “Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf” televised match, played between Sam Torrance and Curtis Strange, the non-playing Ryder Cup Captains in 2002. The American won the match by three strokes.
Toughest ranked hole on the Aquidneck Club scorecard is the 412-yard 16th (”Coal Miner’s Way”), where the fairway doglegs slightly to a tiered green that’s protected by sand to the front right hand side of the putting surface.
For some reason The Aquidneck Club -- formerly Carnie Abbey Club -- does not receive much attention and it escapes me because there's enough there to merit a visit for those inclined to see it.
The main downside of the course is the routing which Steve correctly noted. Given the wetlands on the property the holes take a circuitous tour and therefore it's not exactly finishing putting at one green and immediately jumping on board with the next tee.
The inward half is less appealing because the land is fairly ordinary and while the architecture is good -- it's not exactly edge-of-your-seat quality to merit the extraordinary shuffling of feet to get to the next hole.
Things do change when you reach the 500-yard par-4 9th. The land has sufficient character and movement and the juxtaposition of the bunkers and the shape of the greens becomes more engaging.
The meat of the layout is when you arrive at the 13th tee. From this point to the home hole at the 18th your play needs to rachet up a few notches. The routing changes constantly and thankfully the walking is within the boundaries of reasonableness between the holes.
The par-4 14th is a splendid hole. Turning slightly right in the drive zone and having a series of ponds that insert themselves on the approach shot. When the pin is cut tight to the front right and you encounter a headwind you'll need to hit a bullet iron underneath the blowing air to arrive at the target. Sounds easy -- but it's anything but.
The par-4 16th is another fine two-shot hole. Once again you head back into the prevailing wind and the premium on the drive is tested immediately as the hole slides rightward. The green is done well with sufficient movement.
Interestingly, when you leave the 16th and head to the final two holes you can sense the close proximity of Narragansett Bay. The penultimate hole is a fine test. You play across a section of wetlands and a portion of the green is protected by it. There's plenty of room to the right but when the pin is cut towards the left side -- especially in the far rear area -- the likelihood of making par becomes more problematic.
The closing hole is smartly done. You tee off alongside the Bay and see the green literally hovering by the water. At 280 yards you have to fight the inner demons in "going for it" because the penalties for failure can be rather severe. The prevailing wind during the season is usually into you. There are a series of devilish bunkers dotting left side for those who bailout. The green is done well -- big enough to have you think driving it is doable but small enough to inflict some closing pain for the impertinent golfers failing to execute.
Steve mentioned the crushed white shells used for the cart paths is an excellent choice. I wonder why more courses that are near coastlines do not do similarly.
M. James Ward