Best Public Golf Courses in Rhode Island
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Bordered by Connecticut to the west and Massachusetts to the north and east, Rhode Island is the maritime southeastern state of New England, bounded by the Atlantic Ocean (via the straits of Rhode Island Sound and Block Island Sound) to the right.
Nicknamed “Little Rhody” for being the smallest state by area in the United States, Rhode Island is a humble 1,545 square miles in total with a population of 1.06 million, making it among the least populous states but also the 2nd most densely populated, second only to New Jersey. Majority of its residents live in the state capital Providence, which is also the largest city of Rhode Island. Other major cities include Warwick, Cranston, Pawtucket, East Providence, and Woonsocket.
Officially known as the “Ocean State” for its vast, expansive bays and numerous inlets, Rhode Island is comprised of 36 surrounding islands and a 1,214 square-mile mainland. Topographically speaking, the mainland is comprised of three distinct topographical regions: the coastal plains, lagoons, and salt marshes of the southern shores, marked by the Narragansett Bay; the forested, low-lying hills of the north and east; and the mountainous uplands of the western corner which feature an impressive elevation change of up to 800 feet above sea level.
With a humid continental climate, the weather in Rhode Island is generally chilly (an average of 50°F) with long winters near freezing-temperature and brief summers. Despite this, it remains a popular vacation destination for tourists everywhere due to its secluded location and breathtaking scenery, making it an ideal destination for travelling golfers. In fact, many of New England’s top-rated, nationally recognized golf courses can be found among its diverse selection of nearly 60 different facilities scattered all throughout the state.
Listed below is our ranking of Rhode Island's Top Ten Best Public Golf Courses open to the general public, including several semi-private country clubs that allow non-members playing privileges for a daily fee rate, among other charges.
Best Golf Courses in Rhode Island
Location: Middletown, Rhode Island
Holes: 18Par: 72Length: 7,244 yards
By far the best public golf course in the entire state is Newport Country Club's Orchard Course. First opened in 2002, this semi-private links-style course is consistently recognized as the No. 1 "Public Access Course in New England" by Golf Monthly.
Sculpted atop what was once an operating nursery farm, the wonderful scenery at the Orchard Course flaunts picture-perfect vistas overlooking the Atlantic Ocean with the Sakonnet Passage serving as a backdrop all throughout the 200-acre property.
Equipped with four different tee boxes, the course caters to all golfers of varying skill levels. Be careful when choosing your tees, however, as this par-72 layout’s back tees round out to a whopping 7,244 yards while the forward tees are better suited for novices and high-handicappers, having taken out some of the forced carries and leaving a more manageable distance to deal with.
This 18-hole championship layout can best be described as a hybrid between a target golf and a links-style course. The starting hole immediately gives you a taste of how challenging this course can be. The 522-yard, par-5 first hole features a forced carry off the tee over natural vegetation leading to a 90-degree angled fairway which tapers as you get closer to the green.
A few other track highlights include: the 170-yard par-3 13th hole, an excellent birdie opportunity if you can carry the ball across the vast pond fronting the green off the tee; and the finishing 18th, an uphill tee shot with another forced carry across the wetlands to avoid several fairway bunkers framing the landing area, a strategic finishing hole that leaves you wanting more.
Location: Wyoming, Rhode Island
Holes: 18Par: 72Length: 7,468 yards
Strategically located only 30 minutes away from the state capital of Providence and several other major tourist destinations such as the South County beaches and the Mohegan Sun Casino and Resort in Connecticut is the Meadowbrook Golf Club which dates all the way back to 1929. Originally a Roy Rawling showpiece, this 18-hole public golf course was recently renovated and redesigned by Roger Rulewich and David Fleury in 2010.
Measuring over 7,400 yards from the tips, Meadow Brook Golf Club is the longest public course in Rhode Island. Featuring wide greens and several notable water hazards that accent the beautiful natural scenery, this hidden gem of Southern New England offers a challenging layout with its expansive length, large contoured greens, and subtle elevation changes while remaining playable for a wide variety of golfers.
Each hole along the par-72 track is completely unique in its design. The standout, however, is the par-3 10th, Meadow Brook's signature hole, which plays over a water hazard with an elevated tee surrounded by natural rock outcroppings and a stunning view overlooking the Rhode Island landscape.
Location: Providence, Rhode Island
Holes: 18Par: 72Length: 6,522 yards
Nestled in the western corner of Providence is the Triggs Memorial Golf Course, one of the state's best public golf facilities. The handiwork of legendary architect Donald Ross, the course first opened in 1932 and was recently recognized as one of Rhode Island's "Best Golf Courses" by Golf Magazine in 2016 and Golfweek in 2018.
In true Donald Ross fashion, Triggs Memorial features relatively smaller, sloping greens and strategically positioned sand bunkers, as well as generous fairways that demand accuracy in drives and well-angled approach shots. There are 68 sand traps and 8 water hazards strewn across the par-72 layout.
The starting hole is a difficult stretch of a par 4, rounding out to 402 yards, with a pair of sand bunkers guarding the fairway and another located greenside. Aside from that, the uncharacteristically large green is also fortified by tall fescue to the right and a steep falloff. Right from the very beginning, the course demonstrates the level of difficulty and other challenges awaiting golfers as they make their rounds here. A particularly memorable hole is the 13th, a 462-yard par 5 with a severely sloping green flanked by a deep bunker to the left.
Location: Portsmouth, Rhode Island
Holes: 18Par: 71Length: 6,321 yards
Montaup Country Club was first established in 1923 as a simple 3-hole course that later expanded into a full-fledged 18-hole layout. However, it was forced to close during World War II due to severe damage sustained on the back nine, but was subsequently rebuilt in 1965 and reopened soon thereafter.
This golf club is said to be the envy of others in the region due to the management, location, conditions and the staff's commitment to excellence. It has received several prestigious accolades such as ranking 4th in Golf Magazine's "Best Public Golf Courses in Rhode Island" list in 2016 and 5th in Golfweek's same list of 2018.
Famous for four of the most difficult starting holes in the state, Montaup Country Club lives up to its reputation with a harrowing 1st hole that features a narrow green surrounded by ponds to the right and front. You are in for even more challenging holes to come, as the ones ahead also require strategic planning to come out with a decent score on every hole. The 4th is among the easiest of the starting holes, a slight dogleg left guarded by swathes of trees and several bunkers.
Location: Exeter, Rhode Island
Holes: 18Par: 72Length: 6,921 yards
Considered one of Rhode Island's finest championship golf courses, Exeter Country Club provides patrons with a unique golf experience set in the idyllic countryside setting. First opened in 1964, this 18-hole public facility is also among the state's oldest, and was designed by award-winning architect Geoffrey Cornish, who boasts nearly 200 golf courses to his name.
Kept in pristine condition by the dedicated staff, the layout at Exeter Country Club provides players with an enjoyable challenge no matter their skill level or proficiency, with native Poa Ann grass greens and Kentucky bluegrass fairways. There are three different sets of tees for golfers to choose from.
Location: West Kingston, Rhode Island
Holes: 18Par: 71Length: 6,177 yards
Landing sixth place on our list is the "gem of South County": Laurel Lane Country Club. An ever-popular 18-hole public golf facility that's been a long-time local favorite ever since it debuted in 1961, Laurel Lane Country Club stretches to an impressive 6,177 yards carpeted in lush bluegrass fairways and fast-putting bentgrass greens.
Situated only half an hour south of the state capital of Providence, the course is carefully sculpted from the gently rolling land of a densely wooded forest lying along the eastern banks of the Usquepaug River. Designed by Richard Holley, Laurel Lane Country Club sports a distinctly classical architecture that traditionally-inclined golfers will appreciate. It features expansive fairways that taper off into tighter spaces and are bordered by rows of towering trees with a fair share of water features (particularly, two large ponds by the 6th and 18th holes).
The par-71 parkland layout offers a fascinating round of golf to all players regardless of skill level. With four sets of tee boxes to choose from and a diverse assortment of 18 holes dotted along the track, the course at Laurel Lane is a fair test of skill with 30 or so sand bunkers often found along the landing areas of fairways or guarding the mid-sized greens, with water hazards and forced carries also dipping into the action to make for some of the most memorable holes. The starting nine plays fairly open, with its generous fairways and level terrain creating some good scoring opportunities and confidence-boosting holes; while the finishing nine is mostly comprised of narrow, tree-lined fairways with distinct elevation changes to keep you on top of your game.
Some off-course amenities at Laurel Lane Country Club include a driving range, a short game practice area with putting greens, a teaching pro, club and carts for rent, private lessons, a golf shop, a clubhouse, and an on-site bar & grille called "Rudy's" that serve some fantastic food. Overall, the friendly staff, reasonable green fees, complete amenities and services offered, and well-designed course layout are what truly make Laurel Lane Country Club one of the best public golf courses in all of Rhode Island.
Location: North Kingstown, Rhode Island
Holes: 18Par: 70Length: 6,161 yards
Next up is the city-owned 18-hole public golf course situated in the eastern corner of Rhode Island: North Kingstown Municipal Golf Club. Only a stone's throw away from Newport and half an hour from Providence, North Kingstown Municipal Golf Course is a hidden gem that boasts great course conditions, an excellent layout, and exceptional value for your money.
First launched in 1946 as a simple 9-hole executive course, North Kingstown was later upgraded to a full, championship-standard layout with 9 new holes fashioned by Donald Ross associate Walter Johnson. Design-wise, Johnson took inspiration from many of Ross' signature trademarks, such as the elevated greens and subtle but strategically laid out sand bunkers, to craft an elegant, classical layout adorned with bentgrass greens and ryegrass fairways that are kept in impeccable condition all-year round.
Widely recognized as one of the state's best-value golf facilities, North Kingstown Golf Course is pleasantly challenging for a wide variety of golfers. The par-70 parkland layout is comprised of a starting nine set atop fairly level terrain enclosed by a grove of Pine trees and accented by a handful of ponds. It eventually winds its way through several wetlands and downhill by the 13th hole to wild-growing fescue meadows, rugged topography, and sloping fairways characteristic of the more challenging but also more scenic back nine. With a fine assortment of treacherous holes (like the 2nd, 7th, and 8th) and fun, short treats (such as the 9th and 17th), playing at North Kingstown is equal parts enjoyment and exciting challenge as the constant winds off the Narragansett Bay nearby come into play as well on the back nine.
Off-course, they have a driving range, a practice range with putting greens and practice bunkers, a teaching pro, a golf school, a pro shop, and a clubhouse. From beginners to professionals, North Kingstown Golf Course is a fine choice to unwind with a few rounds to satisfy your golfing fix.
Location: Harrisville, Rhode Island
Holes: 18Par: 70Length: 6,067 yards
Strategically located near a number of major highways in the Blackstone Valley, only 20 minutes north of Providence and about five minutes south of the Massachusetts boundary, Country View Golf Club is our No. 8 pick, representing the quaint village of Harrisville in central Rhode Island.
First established in 1965, this 18-hole public golf course is molded from 6,067 yards of rolling hills adorned with undulating bentgrass greens and fairways lined with beautiful Willow trees. Though the setting is deep in the heart of a rural community, the lush, vividly green surroundings and scenic vistas are sure to transport you to the idyllic countryside. They also have carts and clubs for rent, a teaching pro, a pro shop, a clubhouse, and an on-site restaurant for you to enjoy.
Though the par-72 layout is friendly and fairly approachable with relatively few sand bunkers and water hazards, the uneven lies, pronounced elevation changes, strategic bunkering patterns, and rows of trees bordering the fairways are still there to keep players honest. There are three sets of tee boxes for players to choose from, depending on your desired length and handicap.
The back nine is particularly more challenging to play than the front, partly due to the strong, unrelenting winds present there. The 18th hole is undoubtedly the most harrowing of the entire track, an uphill par-4 flanked by out-of-bounds to the left and trees to the right that descends only to climb uphill once more to meet a small-lipped, sloping green.
Owned and operated by Videtta Golf Management (who also manages the Laurel Lane Country Club), Country View Golf Club is on par with its sister course in terms of fine playing conditions, accommodating staff and service, and well-designed layout, all for a very affordable daily fee rate. With that said, there should be no doubt as to why Country View Golf Club deserves to be recognized as one of the best public golf courses in Rhode Island.
Location: Harmony, Rhode Island
Holes: 18Par: 70Length: 6,004 yards
Another prominent contender for the title of Rhode Island’s best public golf course, Melody Hill Golf Course is an 18-hole regulation facility open to the general public from March until Thanksgiving weekend hailing from the quaint little village of Harmony.
Similar to the other entries on this list, Melody Hill Golf Course first began as a 9-hole layout by Delfino Corporation in 1967 but was later redesigned to a championship-standard 18 holes in 1976. Presently, the course sprawls across 6,004 yards of rolling terrain carpeted with domed bentgrass greens that putt fair and true with every stroke and a medley of Kentucky bluegrass and fine fescue on the fairways.
The par-70 layout is a fairly enjoyable test of skill with nothing overly daunting, save for a few tricky doglegs here and there. Beginners will surely enjoy playing here, especially when they are looking to sharpen their drive. The best hole of the starting nine is undoubtedly the 5th, a 459-yard par-4 that dives downhill and swerves gently to the left to meet a green fortified by heavy woods to the right; whereas the back nine shines the most on the 12th, a 515-yard par-5 dogleg that's the longest of the course and will prove difficult even for low handicappers to conquer. As for the most picturesque hole, it's easily the 6th, a short par-3 with scenic vistas of the natural surroundings framing the sparkling blue pond and lush, velvety grass.
It’s also worth mentioning that ever since Melody Hill Country Club was passed onto new ownership in 2017, it has continuously been improving its facilities and services week by week. Recently joining the likes of Raceway Golf Club from Connecticut and Dudley Hill from Massachusetts to form Tri-State Golf, the course now boasts a brand-new golf shop, a bar and kitchen, an outdoor patio, and additional seating in the refurbished dining room. Other amenities include equipment rentals, a practice field with putting greens and practice bunkers, a clubhouse with a full-service restaurant, and an outdoor snack bar by the 10th tee area.
With an excellent course, great off-course amenities, and an easily accessible location, Melody Hill Country Club is well worth the quick drive for a great golfing experience that won’t burn a hole in your pocket.
Location: Richmond, Rhode Island
Holes: 18Par: 70Length: 6,006 yards
Ending our list on a high note is this hidden gem of southern Rhode Island: Beaver River Golf Club. Built in 2001, this 18-hole public golf facility is a terrific, family-friendly daily fee course that’s among the best in the state. Hailing from the humble town of Richmond, it’s less than an hour and a half south of Boston and only 40 minutes south of the state capital of Providence.
Tucked away in the forested hills of South County, Beaver River Golf Club flaunts traditionally designed New England architecture with large, undulating bentgrass greens and well-groomed fairways. The grounds are kept in pristine condition by a dedicated staff and crew to provide players with the finest playing conditions possible. Present throughout the track are more than 30 strategically laid-out sand bunkers, formidable elevation changes, and numerous doglegs sure to challenge even the most seasoned of golfers, with a fair share of water features accenting the generous fairways and challenging rough.
The par-70 parkland layout flaunts frequent elevation changes throughout the entire track and offers some truly interesting and fairly difficult holes that make creative use of the relatively short 6,006-yardage, crafting a good test of course management and approach shot accuracy, especially for scratch golfers and beginners. Players are given the choice of three different sets of tee boxes to accommodate all types of handicaps and skill levels.
The highlights of the track include: the 1st, a 410-yard par-5 that leaves a great first impression with its two large ponds, one to the front right of the fairway and another fortifying the small green along with a left-side sand bunker (a design later recreated on the finishing 18th); the par-4 4th, a sharp dogleg left with two sand bunkers guarding the green on one side and a grove of trees on the other; and the 305-yard 14th, a short, straightaway par-4 with a wide fairway that tapers off towards the green, flanked by a pair of sand bunkers on both sides of the green.
Aside from this, guests can also avail of the course’s cart and clubs for rent, the pro shop, the clubhouse, and the full-service on-site restaurant and bar named “Alaina’s Ale House”. With first-class conditioning, friendly and accommodating staff, and a beautifully designed 18-hole layout, don't pass up the opportunity to play a few rounds at the Beaver River Golf Club when visiting Rhode Island as this is one golf destination you surely won't want to miss whenever you are in the area.
Though Rhode Island is among the smallest states of the entire country and is generally subject to a chilly climate, many of New England's top-rated and nationally recognized public golf courses can be found among its wide selection of almost 60 golf courses scattered throughout the state.
Many award-winning architects such as Donald Ross have left their mark on the Ocean State to create courses that are known today as Golden Age classics. With the weather steadily improving as the golf season draws nearer, the rolling, rugged terrain of the woodlands and coastal lowlands surely make for some of the most challenging and picture-perfect countryside courses in the United States.
Though many of the names featured on this list are widely popular and often regarded as the state's bests, our rankings were also based partly on our personal preferences and experiences. If we've failed to mention any of your favorite Rhode Island courses or you disagree with the ranking of any of the entries here, feel free to let us know. We'd love to hear your thoughts.