Named after a native Indian chief of the Wampanoag tribe, Metacomet was founded in 1901 by five Rhode Island businessmen who established a golf course in Rumford, close to where the Agawam Hunt Club is now situated.
Moving to Barrington Parkway in 1919, the golf club (as it was called then; the name change to Country Club didn’t happen until the 1950s) had its new course laid out by Leonard Byles but, within seven years, it was replaced by a new Donald Ross design.
Some of the more memorable holes here include the par five 2nd, where the fairway doglegs sharply to the right, and a couple of long, testing par threes at the 228-yard 10th and 242-yard 12th.
Today’s course measures less than 6,500 yards from the back markers, thanks mainly to the confines of a very constricted 105-acre site that offers little room for expansion.Famed Ross restorer Ron Prichard has worked at Metacomet in recent years, refurbishing bunkers and reconstructing greens to the old master’s original specification.
Pound-for-pound, Providence and its home of Rhode Island stack up among some of the best cities/states for golf, especially if one loves classic designs. With moderate local economy, a population that is quickly exiting, and the high demand for real estate, it is no surprise that even some of the best New England courses have fallen on hard times.
Metacomet is one of those historic clubs that has struggled in the supersaturated Providence market. Early in 2019, though, a ray of hope shined through when former PGA professional Brad Faxon purchased the course with plans to revamp the property. With this news, and the announcement of some additional public tee times, I jumped at the opportunity to play last summer. Very sadly, this week, the course announced its likely sale after a failed experimental year. I feel compelled to write this review today so that any Ross lovers out there journey to the Ocean State to experience Metacomet before it is too late.
Looking at Metacomet from a satellite view, it is clear that the course was routed masterfully by the genius Donald Ross into this compact property. In this sense, it mirrors neighbor Wannamoissett for its ability to make the most out of a piece of land which is now cramped by housing and development on its borders. Ross more than delivered on this fabulously rolling property just a few hundred yards from the Providence River. A brisk, salty breeze and seaside views capture the players’ senses throughout the round.
Although course layout is far more important to me than immaculate conditions, Metacomet’s pristine playing surfaces from tee to green are worth noting upfront. I am a sucker for courses with true/fast greens, perfect collars, tight fairways, and lush rough, and Metacomet delivered on all accounts. Of all 210 courses I have played, Metacomet’s conditioning was the second best I have ever experienced – my praise goes out to the superintendent and their staff.
Notable holes at Metacoment for me include:
• #1: Ross’s ‘gentle handshake’ is a thrill ride at Metacomet. The tee shot plays to a downhill fairway sloping from right to left, feeding some shots back into a more preferred landing area. The handsome green has a beautiful short-grass collection area to the right and wild undulations. Ross has set the tone for an exciting day at Metacomet already.
• #2: This par five request a metal or iron off the tee, followed by a similar shot should one want to reach the massive green in two. The chocolate drop mounting in front of and behind the green can be deceptive when determining yardage. Playing alongside Metacomet Brook and Watchemoket Cove was so peaceful.
• #3: Arguably my favorite hole on the course, the third is a dogleg right par four with a green that is frighteningly perched into a steep hill. Like I am sure many others have before me, I succumbed to the massive false front by leaving my approach just a yard short, ultimately watching my ball funnel about 80 yards back into the fairway. The design is elegant, yet devilish – playable every single day without losing its charm.
• #4: Another dogleg right but with totally different challenges than the 3rd, the 4th requires the player to contend with a brook off the tee and a massive flanking bunker shy of the green. This is Ross’s first of many stout par four’s on the course.
• #5: The par three 5th presents players with a challenging uphill shot to what appears as a green in an island of rough. Ross strategically included bail out areas left and long for the smart, seasoned veteran of Metacomet.
• #7: The other front nine part three, the 7th at Metacomet may be the most photographed hole on the course. With beautiful views and an interestingly sloped green from left-to-right, it was so easy to feel ‘lost’ in nature on this hole despite being just a stone’s throw away from bustling neighborhoods.
• #8: The par four 8th has a delightfully squared off fairway, as well as a strategically placed bunker which the player must content with off the tee. Ross clearly maximized this far reaching part of the property by incorporating a ravine and forced carry. This is another hole where home knowledge would be critical in a match.
• #11: This par four is actually bisected by the entrance driveway, a feature I have rarely experienced. It also doubles as the driving range. Despite these disturbances, strategy abounds. The fairway narrows and out-of-bounds lurks left, challenging some of the better angles into this undulated, back-to-front sloping green.
• #14: Another standout hole on the property, the very long 14th’s blind tee shot maximizes the gently sloping terrain. Now contending with a downhill lie, hitting the green with deceptive bunkering short and long is no joke. Visually, this hole is a real stunner from the architecture standpoint.
In my opinion, Metacomet had just two weaknesses. The first was a lack of a large driving range. This was somewhat expected due to the lack of land. Initially, I was a bit perturbed by the 11th hole doubling as a range, but I found this practice to be in place at other local clubs, also. The second was the somewhat less compelling back nine. As you can tell by the holes which stood out to me above, the front’s variety stuck with me more than some of the back-and-forth stretches of par fours on the back nine.
The staff at Metacomet were more than welcoming during my visit last summer, presenting hospitality one would normally expect down south. From the immaculate course conditions to the amazing scenery in the midst of an urban neighborhood, Metacomet left a strong impression in my mind that will last for years to come. It is heartbreaking to see this course close, and I would urge you to stop in soon to experience this gem if at all possible.
Metacomet Country Club was founded in 1901 by local businessmen and built by Leonard Byles, Donald Ross was later hired in 1924 to redesign the course to its current standing. The name of the club came from the Chief of the Wampanoag Tribe - Metacomet a friend to the Pilgrim settlers in the 17th Century later renamed King Philip by the English after he succeeded his father as chief of the tribe. Metacomet Country Club sits on 105 acres of rolling terrain in East Providence. Metacomet Country Club is 6500 yds from the tips and plays to a par 70. It's may not seem like a long course but if your drives are wild here you are in for a long day. Your shots have to be accurate and precise, Metacomet will challenge the most skilled of players and regularly host top amateur events. The front nine is the easier of the two nines and includes the only two par 5's on the course. The back nine has two par 3's over 220 yds which play their distances and a couple of par 4's over 420 yds. There are also 5 holes at 350-360 yds giving everyone a chance at making a birdie or par. Overall the course was great and our group had a good time, its was nice to see a Donald Ross design in such fantastic shape.