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 just a throw back of grandeur. The conditioning is excellent. Donald Ross created a superb layout which pretty much remains intact as original. This is a players course requiring both accuracy as well as long game. On paper you see 6500 yards at the tips and scratch your head. But par is 69 and the elimination of those easy birdie par 5's makes this a test for all. So often you step on the tee of a par 4 and see 450 yards in front of you. The par 4's are superb. They tend to punish you with straying shots as well. The rough is normally very thick. This course was the first time I played what I had thought was a top 100 course which had a par less than 70. My expectations were not high. My experience was quite the opposite. Get an invite drop everything and go. This along with Newport, Misquamicut and Shelter Harbor are stellar and a coin toss for best in state.
Wannamoisett is a fantastic throwback course. Purists may look down at the yardage and par of 69, in my opinion an under-appreciated course.
The first hole is not welcoming a long par four. In the landing area fairway bunkers right and another one further out on the left with deep lips. There are two greenside bunkers front right and left that are very small. The 2nd is an even longer par 4 that leans a bit to the right. Favor left of center, there is a creek about 75 yards short of the green. There is also OB left starting about 175 yards out and the green is protected by 4 bunkers. You can finally exhale on the short par 3 third. This raised green has jagged wraparound bunker left and front. The right side has a sharp dropoff with a creek further right. If you hit the green it is a good birdie oppty, you miss the green and par will be a challenge. This green is the image for The Donald Ross Society. The 4th is a left leaning long par four. Off the tee a high draw is optimal, however, there is OB right and a trench bunker. There are also fairway bunkers left. You can drive thru the fairway. Take an extra club on the uphill approach to a green with a lot undulation. The 5th is a good birdie oppty. Dogleg right with 3 bunkers on the inside elbow. My caddy told me to aim at the boobs on the right side. Decent drive should leave you with an attack iron to a raised green that is surrounded by bunkers has a false front and has a strong right to left slope. The 6th is a long par four that leans a wee bit left with OB left. The short 7th is a birdie oppty if you are in the fairway off the tee. Favor left of center as the fairway is contoured left to right. The 7th also has a false front and the green slopes hard to the left. The 8th is a mid-length par 3 that is slightly downhill and features a two-tiered green. The 9th is tough. A long par four with fairway bunkers on both sides a water carry to a green with another false front. When we played the pin was int the front, having paid the price for being above the hole, we now paid the price for not quite getting our approach to the green.
The back starts with a par four with 12 bunkers, fairway bunkers right and left and a crossbunker about 125 yards out. The approach is blind to a punchbowl green. The 11th has one of the widest fairways is straight and relatively short. The green has three bunkers and is three-tiered. The 12th is a long slightly uphill par 3 with a punchbowl green. There are three bunkers left and a BAB right called Sahara. The 13th is downhill and a decent birdie hole if you find the fairway. Fairway bunkers right and for hookers like me the thicket left is nicknamed the “Enchanted Forest”. The 14th can be a fun hole, of course it can also be hell. A dogleg right with a water hazard in the elbow and fairway bunker on the outside. Greedy gofers can cut the corner, not sure it makes sense. A decent drive down the right hand side of the hazard will leave about 100 yards in. The water hazard has a small island in it. I was told that in tournament play golfers have swam out to it to play an errant ball. The green is surrounded by moat bunkers. The 15th is a slightly uphill par three that is rated the easiest on the course. The 16th is a long dogleg left. A high draw off the tee is the ticket. The 17th is the only par 5 at Wannamoisett. Reachable in two, but there is OB all the way down the left and the green is protected by four bunkers. Having said that the layup is not a piece of cake either as there are two cross bunkers left. The 18th is a strong finishing hole. Dogleg left, however there is a bunker on the inside elbow as well as two on the outside. A high draw is ideal. There is a cross bunker about 80 yards out and two greenside.
A fantastic course. When we got to 18 my caddy said. “Last birdie chance.” I replied, “What are you talking about?” He looked at me quizzically and said, “This is 18.” I looked like an idiot, but I was having such a great time and trying to focus on the shot at hand. If you can get on, you gotta go.
Donald Ross made use of every square foot when establishing the routing for Wannamoisett. Built on only 100 acres it plays to a par of 69, however, the club has branded themselves with that number. It is after the round that you realize Wannamoisett could easily play to a par of 70 due to the extensive number of long par 4s but chooses to remain par 69.
Wannamoisett starts out strong with three long par 4s (1,2,4). The average hitter will be reaching for a headcover on each of the approaches. These holes are contrasted with an ideal short par 3 of the third, which requires a precise short iron to hit the small green guarded by run-off areas, fescue, and a menacing front bunker. The front nine continues on by wrapping along the outside of the property. Birdie opportunities are presented at both the third and seventh hole, however, double bogeys can be made just as frequently due to severe undulations of their tabletop greens. The outward nine finishes with a well-bunkered, mid-length par 3 with a spine that runs through the middle of the green, and a brute of a par 4 that forces the average golfer to lay up if they miss the fairway due to a pond 40 yards short.
The back nine starts with two mid-length par 4s that traverse up and down the hill at the center of the property. The twelfth is the longest par 3 (uphill), but the punch bowl green rewards well-placed shots by funneling them towards the flagstick. The thirteenth then descends back down the hill rewarding a drive in the fairway with a short iron to the relatively flat green. The fourteenth is a great short par 4, which gives you multiple options off the tee to attack the green which is covered on 3 sides by bunkers. The finishing stretch at Wannamoisett starts with a long uphill par 3 and then heads right back down the hill for the 16th, which is the only hole on the course with no fairway bunkers. The 17th may be the best birdie option on the course as it is the only par 5. The long hitter will be able to reach in two. A poor played shot from the rough will most certainly find one of the well-place fairway bunkers. Wannamoisett finishes with a dogleg left that rewards tee-shots that challenge the fairway bunker on the inside of the dogleg.
-It is one of the best-conditioned courses in all of New England and has some of the best putting surfaces I have ever seen. (Rough is very thick)
-If played at the right time of day, the first tee will have a flock of onlookers from the clubhouse patio
-It is one of the most walkable courses in the area with most tee boxes directly next to the greens
5: A short, dogleg left par 4 that requires the player to hit their tee shot over numerous bunkers on the right side. A well-placed drive will leave a wedge, but any shot left short will spin off the sever false front
12: My favorite par 3 (out of a strong set). Is a perfect example of how a long par 3 should play due to the punch bowl green that rewards any shot hit on the putting surface. The front right greenside bunker is one of the biggest in Rhode Island, but most of it is hidden from the tee.
14: Wraps right around a pond. Anywhere from a long iron (out left of the pond) or driver (over the middle of pond) can be played off the tee. Getting closer to this green does not always make an easier approach as you must have the correct angle coming into this green.
Wannamoisett is a great design that uses the land perfectly. Not once does the course feel squished or tight, but instead the course flows naturally. The bunkering, green complexes, and thick rough is able to challenge the game's best.
Zachary has provided a clear and detailed overview of the layout. It's been a joy to have played the course several times over the years.
To use a boxing analogy -- the Donald Ross layout is a top tier welterweight. The course is skillfully routed on a very tight piece of 104 acres. I can make the argument that there is no course in America that good on such a small amount of land. For those who opine Merion East -- guess again -- as the Keystone layout is located on 126 acres.
Wannamoisett annually hosts the Northeast Amateur and the layout has produced a healthy roster of top tier players that have gone on to professional golf fame.
The aspect that has always fascinated me about Wannamoisett is how the routing keeps a very active challenge. No doubt there's some parallel holes which is understandable given the limited amount of land.
Too many people when they hear the words 'par-69" are sometimes quick to scoff and ignorantly claim such a course is simplistic when candidly it's anything but.
Although they are two distinctly different courses -- I see parallels in how Wannamoisett is viewed in a similar manner to Rye in England. Yes, it's a pity that there's only one par-5 -- which, in the case of Wannamoisett comes at a good time in the round in the 17th position . At Rye the encounter comes with the opening hole.
The Ross green sites are varied in terms of configuration and internal movements. When the rough is thick and gnarly one has to always be on guard in short siding yourself. Steve in his review correctly laments about the lack of any serious ground game connection and I do agree with that missing element of note.
Wannamoisett, like Rhode Island, is small in area, but the golfing contributions are quite impactful. How this Ross layout is not seen in an even higher estimation baffles me to no end. If one loves golf design then your schooling is not complete until one visits to secure your architectural aficionado diploma.
M. James Ward
Wannamoisett Country Club is a superb club with a lively and loyal membership base. A major plus given that the golf here is splendid. Even though Wannamoisett is a par 69 and takes up just a touch over 100 acres, the course is players course, challenging holes, with delightfully placed bunkering creates a strategic golfing experience. This Donald Ross course punishes bad shots and rewards good shots, there just isn’t another way to sum it up. Deep and thick rough punish any tee shot off target, and funky flop shots caused by the thick rough are necessary if approaches miss the green. Overall, Wannamoisett is what a golf course should be, friendly members, and most importantly solid golf, with no tee times.
Hole 1, par 4 starts out right in front of the clubhouse, if you tee off early in the morning your guaranteed a crowd looking over your tee shot, so don’t mess up! Hitting over a small creek that’s not in play, the fairway is quite wide. The difficulty starts 50 yards out from the green, A funky hill with bunker cut into the side guard the left side of the green. Better to stay below the hole, par is certainly a solid score.
Hole 2 another par 4 with a narrow fairway that opens up around at the end of the landing area. The same creek that runs past the tee box on 1 is very much in play here. The fairway Slopes downhill till the creek which is 40 yards from the green. Everything after the creek is uphill, there’s room to bailout right, but an awkward chip awaits if you do.
Hole 3 one of Donald Ross’s signature holes. A majestic par 3, that is guarded by bunkers to the front, hit left of the green and you’ve got a nasty chip in the fescue with a green that runs away from you. Right and your 7-10 feet below the hole with very little chance in making par due to the thick rough. Don’t overthink this one, a solid 110-120 shot will get you on the green.
Hole 4 is a dogleg left par 4, a draw would be an ideal shot off the tee. The second shot however will most likely see a mid-iron into the green, which makes the hole a challenge due to the slope on the green.
Hole 5 another par 4, a short hole with an 210-225-yard iron needed will leave a 125 yards max approach shot into the green, depending on how far left your initial tee shot lands. The green is another one that slopes up to the back, a massive false front guards the front of the green, with severe contouring on the green, par is a fine score here.
Hole 6, the long par 4 just left of the green on hole 5. Greens here are quite close to the tee box which creates a lot of fore yells, a challenge Donald Ross had when designing the course due to the limited space provided. Straight away hole, with an ever so slight dogleg left bend.
Hole 7 a short par 4 with hill in play if one chooses to hit an iron off the tee (290-210 yards) driver can be used here off the tee as well, though bunkers right will punish any drive hit off target. The green is another tough one, there isn’t an easy green at Wannamoisett, any hot left will roll down a hill, most likely giving a buried lie, given the thick rough its best to avoid.
Hole 8 a long par 3 that plays slightly down hill, bunkers guard the green, given the length it is difficult to land a tee shot close to the green.
Hole 9 is a long par 4 with a pond right that will catch any poorly executed approach shot. The green is a devil here with a massive false front in play. The green slopes quite severely to the right, which is the typical direction of the wind. Best to stay below the hole and make sure you have an uphill putt, not an easy task due to the false front.
Hole 10 an excellent hole to restart a round, wide fairway and relatively easy hole for Wannamoisett, the excitement is seeing the punchbowl green.
Hole 11 par 4, with bunkers guarding the right of the fairway and trees left a narrow hole, with challenging greens.
Hole 12 has broken many a round, this long par 3 is a challenge without the deep bunker short right, which will swallow any shot hit in the general direction. Most shots hit to the green will feed to the center which makes par a lovely score, considering the length.
Hole 13 par 4, the real “fun” starts on the approach to the hole with heavy bunkering, if you can avoid that a tricky putt awaits.
Hole 14 par what, guess and I’ll tell ya! Par 4, that’s right, a dogleg right with a pond that will catch any greedy shot.
Hole 15 par 3, look behind the tee box, up in the trees and you will see a massive bald eagle nest, probably the only eagle you’ll ever see here at Wannamoisett.
Hole 16 par 4. If you head to the back-tee boxes you will be greeted with a delightful view of Providence. The hole is a dogleg left, with mounds and trees right of the green. A bunker deceives and appears to be just short of the green, but don’t be fooled that bunker is 20 yards short.
Hole 17 par 5, what a par 5? Yep the only one so you better make good use of it. Pretty straightforward hole off the tee. You will be met with a bunker just in front that’s a good aiming line for your approach if you do decide to lay up. Easy green to Wannamoisett, make the most of it.
Hole 18 a strong finishing par 4, dogleg left, a good approach will be over the trees to the left, or a draw if that’s your game. Go short left or right and you’ll be on some pristine beach, par would be a solid score here.
Overall Wannamoisett can be as challenging as any course, there is a lot of penalty areas that will punish poor shots. Don’t let the par 69 make you think you’re going to walk away easy, you won’t. There’s a reason the bar is right behind the 18th green. The quality of golf is good enough that a major tournament was hosted here on back in the day.
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.