Steve MacQuarrie, our New England Correspondent, nominated Wanumetonomy Golf & Country Club in 2015 and his case for Wanumetonomy “is like Gaul… divided into three parts.”
“First, it’s the Seth Raynor ancestry. He didn't do many mediocre ones. It's not a place with a lot of money to spend so most of Raynor's work (including 16 of his greens) remain.”
“Second, the USGA selected it as the other medal play course when the Amateur was held at Newport in 1995. They could have picked half of the courses on your list, but didn't. Tiger scored higher there than at Newport so it was not a cakewalk.”
“Third, the scenery. It’s one of four courses in the US with a view of the ocean from every hole. George Peper wrote an article in Links magazine last year in which he devised a "charm" score based on views. His theoretical maximum was 100. Wanumetonomy scored 101.”Given Steve’s trio of reasons, how could we not include Wanu in our Rhode Island Best in State rankings?
Since the club was selected as the "other" course during the 1995 US Amateur on-site qualifying with the match play portion at nearby Newport CC I had always had the club on my bucket list.
After my time there I can say without reservation the experience was one to savor.
The land is a big part of the story -- you commence from the high point by the clubhouse with the holes playing away and then returning -- from each side.
The views are striking but the routing by Raynor makes the day noteworthy.
The opening hole is temptation personified. You have a 318-yard par-4 playing downhill and on first appearance seems to be easy pickings. Guess again. A series of center-placed bunkers is set at roughly 260 yards off the tee and out of bounds to the right. The green is perched slightly so any approach shot must be gauged properly.
The Raynor routing is smartly done -- always moving around the property so that any wind direction is not repetitive. The terrain also has its own movements so shaping shots and being able to marry distance and trajectory is always front and center.
Of the two sides - I see the inward half having the richer mixture of holes.
The par-4 10th is a delicious hole. The fairway has a bit of tilt and the green is set above the fairway and has an array of difficult to discern internal movements. The mid-length par-4 is a difficult type of hole to design given today's equipment technology.
The uphill par-3 12th is also a dynamic hole. The green is well defended by flanking bunkers but it's the contours that have an assortment of riddles to answer.
Wanumetonomy plays as a par-70 and has only one par-5 -- at the 15th -- which is rather ordinary. Balancing that with just three par-3 holes with the aforementioned 12th being the main standout.
The strength of the course rests with the range of par-4 holes and how the constant movement of the terrain adds to the shotmaking challenges.
Wanumetonomy is not a long course -- just under 6,400 yards -- but hardly a day passes without the wind making its presence known and with the land going up and down and at times sideways -- you have to make constant adjustments.
Too much of modern design rests on the assumption of bigger and longer. If there's anything I'd like to see happen is the repositioning of some of the fairway bunkers given how modern equipment technology has advanced since the time of Raynor. You can see this quite notably at the par-4 11th with its flanking fairway bunkers that are set at a 250-yard carry. Adding a fairway bunker or two at the 7th and repositioning the cluster of bunkers at the 8th would bolster both holes. The same can be said for the par-5 15th,
Minus the small quibbles -- Wanumetonomy is a personification of fun golf based on a setting that clearly pushes aside the mental and physical cobwebs when you finally get on the property. One can only wonder why more such courses were not built during the mad rush of course development in the 90s. From all the talk about where the game is headed it can payoff sometimes for golf to look backward in order to go forward to the kind of courses the sport truly needs.
M. James Ward
11 bunkers are not original to the Raynor design suprisingly!
Many thanks for the info -- I would personally like to see the fairway bunkers on the 11th located more down the fairway and not placed opposite one another. Wanumetonomy is a wonderful layout but a nip and tuck here and there would only add to its overall stature in my mind.
Are you member of the club?
“Why did you want to play here?” asked my host with great interest as we walked towards the first tee. “Because I love Seth Raynor” I responded cheerfully while pulling a club from my bag.
Thousands of tourists flock to bustling Newport, RI every summer passing by a hidden away golf course down a non-descript roadway behind a car dealership. Little do they realise that 20 minutes north of the mansions on Ocean Drive sits a golf course largely untouched since 1926 created by none other than Mr. Raynor. He was contractually obliged to build Wanumetonomy as part of another project ongoing near Newport. The USGA gave it appropriate limelight in 1995 as part of the US Amateur, and it offered the perfect complement to the historic Newport Country Club.
There are only about four template holes on display (the holes don’t have names, so you have to be able to recognise them). Furthermore, it isn’t the most exclusive club or difficult course by any means, but for those of us that can celebrate Raynor’s work and talents, it’s certainly a thrill to see the square greens, iconic bunkers and a routing that takes advantage of splendid views over Rhode Island's Narragansett Bay. There are many beautiful trees mostly in all the right places, and with 16 of the original 18 Raynor greens still in play today, it’s a pleasant walk you won’t forget anytime soon at this relatively short golf course approaching its centenary.
I drove home thinking that Raynor is so much more than the household names of Fisher’s Island, Camargo, Piping Rock and Yeamans Hall – as he also left us with dozens of unheralded gems including Blue Mound, Lookout Mountain and Southampton. Broaden your perspective to appreciate the depth of the portfolio.
Wanumetonomy Golf and CC is located in Middletown Rhode Island 5 mile away from Newport. The course was established in 1922 and Seth Raynor is the architect on record as designing the course. Wanumetonomy has recently undergone a renovation to bring back many of the Raynor features lost over time. The course has wonderful views of Narragansett Bay on several holes and the wind often plays a factor here. Wanumetonomy is a 6400 yds in length par 70 course. From a golf perspective Wanumetonomy is a challenging course especially if your approach shots are off target as deep bunkers await you at a good portion of the greens. There are five holes under 350 yds which makes for a very enjoyable round as as you'll have lots of birdie chances if you can keep your drives out of trouble. Another unique feature about Wanumetonomy is that it only has one par 5 and its only reachable for the longest of hitters. You'll have a enjoyable round if you ever play here.
When T. Suffern Tailer hired Seth Raynor to build the now extinct Ocean Links course adjacent to Newport Country Club, Tailer donated Raynor’s design services to a group of local businesspeople seeking to build another course in the area. The result was Wanumetonomy, a lovely layout featuring ocean views from every tee and every green. Raynor built a number of his renowned template holes here—including a Short, an Eden, a Maiden and a Redan.
His work has been well-preserved, with 16 greens untouched since the course’s opening in 1922. Raynor’s routing falls naturally on the land and almost every tee is in close proximity to the prior green. Raynor’s signature angular greens and steep, grass-faced bunkers are everywhere.
Ron Prichard made renovations to the course in the early years of this century, but wisely limited his changes to adding tees and fairway bunkers. His new bunkers are indistinguishable from Raynor's. Wanu, as the locals call it, was the companion course to Newport for the 1995 U.S. Amateur. USGA Executive Director David Fay could have chosen most any one of this site’s more highly ranked Rhode Island courses, but was happy with his choice.
At 6309 yards, the course is not long, but it presented plenty of challenge to the best amateur golfers in the world as their scores at Newport were lower that at Wanumetonomy. In the interests of full disclosure, I acknowledge that I am a member at Wanumetonomy. But it was already one of a handful of my Rhode Island favorites when I joined. Years of playing it regularly have done nothing to alter my view.