Rhode Island might be best known for watersports and colonial towns, but the Ocean State has a surprisingly large golf presence, too – especially when it comes to its private clubs.
The smallest state in the nation has about 60 courses, many with historical significance, scattered across just a little more than a thousand square miles of land.
Newport Country Club is the epitome of such golf history. One of five clubs that formed the U.S. Golf Association in 1894, Newport hosted the first U.S. Open and U.S. Amateur in 1895. The club was co-founded in 1893 by Theodore A. Havemeyer, whose name was given to the trophy that goes to the U.S. Amateur winner.
The club’s course – several designers helped create the original links-style layout, which was overhauled by A.W. Tillinghast in 1923 – has stood the test of time and today is ranked No. 48 in Golfweek’s Best list for Classic Courses built before 1960. It also is the top-ranked layout in Rhode Island on Golfweek’s Best list of private courses in each state.
Newport Country Club has gone on to host many other top events, including the 1995 U.S. Amateur won by Tiger Woods and the 2006 U.S. Women’s Open won by Annika Sorenstam. It also was scheduled to host the 2020 U.S. Senior Open before the event was canceled in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Golfweek ranks courses by compiling the average ratings – on a points basis of 1 to 10 – of its more than 750 raters to create several industry-leading lists of courses, including that state-by-state list for private clubs and the popular Golfweek’s Best Courses You Can Play list for facilities that allow non-member tee times.
Still on the private side and counting Newport, Rhode Island has four courses that rank inside the top 100 of all Classic or Modern Courses in the U.S.
Wannamoisett in Rumford is the No. 2 private course in the state and No. 52 among all U.S. Classic Courses; Shelter Harbor is No. 3 in the state and No. 63 among all U.S. Modern Courses built in or after 1960; and Misquamicut in Westerly is No. 4 in the state and No. 97 Classic. Rhode Island Country Club in Barrington rounds out the strong top 5 among the state’s private courses.
On the public-access side, Newport National’s Orchard Course – designed by Arthur Hills and opened in 2002 on the former site of a nursery farm – is No. 1 on Golfweek’s Best Courses You Can Play list for Rhode Island.
Triggs Memorial is No. 2 on the state public-access list, followed by Meadow Brook in Richmond, North Kingstown Golf Course in North Kingston, and Exeter Country Club in Exeter.
Golfweek’s Best Courses You Can Play in Rhode Island
1. Newport National
2. Triggs Memorial
3. Meadow Brook
4. North Kingstown GC
North Kingston (c)
5. *Exeter CC
Golfweek’s Best Private Courses 2020 in Rhode Island
1. Newport Country Club
Newport (No. 48 c)
Rumford (No. 52 c)
3. Shelter Harbor
Westerly (No. 63 m)
Westerly (No. 97 c)
5. Rhode Island
*New to the list in 2020
(m): modern; (c): classic
Golfweek’s Best 2020
How we rate them
The members of our course-ratings panel continually evaluate courses and rate them based on our 10 criteria. They also file a single, overall rating on each course. Those overall ratings on each course are averaged together to produce a final rating for each course. Then each course is ranked against other courses in its state, or nationally, to produce the final rankings.
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