The original 9-hole layout at Wannamoisett Country Club was fashioned by Willie Campbell in 1899. Fifteen years later, Donald Ross remodelled and expanded the course to the 18-hole layout that's now in play. Considered to be one of Ross’s favourite designs, the par 69 layout is routed across a meagre 104 acres. With only a single par five on the card, it's by no means a modern day championship test but what the course lacks in length it more than makes up for with sheer charm and variety.
The property is blessed with stately trees and, once upon a time, the land was predominantly orchard and you might spot an ancient apple tree close to the 12th tee. If you don’t spot the apple, you can’t fail to notice the enormous bunker which dominates the front right of the green on this tough 215-yard par three. Known by the name of “Sahara Desert” the bunker looks fairly incongruous from the tee, but as you approach the bowl-shaped putting surface you will soon realise why the hole is called Sahara.
The par three 3rd is a model Donald Ross hole where the green represents an upturned saucer wrapped around with two bunkers at the front. With oaks surrounding the green and a small babbling brook to the right, this is quintessential Ross which is depicted on the Donald RossSociety logo. A three on this hole is to be savoured.
Wannamoisett is only 104 acres but has tons of character. At par 69, the par 4s still play long. The routing is great, but the highlights are the bunkering and greens. This is a fun course I'd enjoy playing every day.
At first blush, one might wonder how challenging a golf course can be that doesn’t exceed 6700 yards from the farthest tees. But ask the players in the most 2014 Northeast Amateur and you’ll get your answer. The tournament regularly attracts the world’s finest amateurs (Its past participants have won three dozen major titles.) and only one of them managed to break par in the 72 hole event.
What challenge did these players—indeed all players—find at Wannamoisett? While the rough is always thick, much of the answer lies in the approaches and green contours. The course was one of Donald Ross’s earliest and he managed to pack a lot of punch into the 104 acres he was given.Fairway bunkers abound, as do their greenside cousins and the green contours are among Ross’s most ingenious.
The other aspect of the apparently short yardage is that the course plays to a par of 69. Three more strokes of par would probably also add another 500 yards, increasing the members’ layout to 6900 yards.The first 5 holes are emblematic here: Numbers 1, 2 and 4 are sturdy par 4s (averaging 458 yards from the tournament tees). Sandwiched among them is a tiny par 3 (138 from the tournament tees). Number 5 is a short par 4 with a severely sloped green. Many a putt (including one of mine) has rolled right off the green.
Unlike many of Ross’s courses (but like many of his most arduous, e.g. Seminole), there’s not much ground game here…barely half a dozen holes where a running shot can find the green.That, however, is the only shortcoming I can cite on this, my second favorite Rhode Island golf course.