Try some surf and turf, South County style.
This area of Rhode Island
offers a beautiful coastline with 100 miles of beaches and some of the best public golf courses in New England. An ideal visit will combine the best of both worlds--golf in the morning followed by lounging on one of the county’s numerous beaches that line the state’s coastline from the border with Connecticut all the way to Newport and beyond.
“We have some of the finest beaches on the East Coast,” says Myrna George, president of the South County Tourism Council (www.southcountyri.com). “We are a little off the beaten path and I like to say we are Cape Cod without the traffic.”
Despite the fact that South County draws some three million visitors a year, because there are ample roadways and a wealth of quality beaches and over 8,000 parking places there is rarely a crowd, save for the busiest holiday times of the summer.
The town of Charleston has six public beaches, Westerly five and Narragansett and South Kingston four apiece. East Beach in Charlestown is an unspoiled barrier beach that some consider the most scenic in the state. Narragansett Town Beach is a mile long stretch that’s reputed to have the best surfing in New England. And East Matunuck State Beach is South Kingston is another great place for surfers to hang out to catch the waves.
Perhaps the jewel of Rhode Island beaches is Misquamicut State Beach in Westerly. It’s one of the largest in the state and there is good sand with a gradual drop off into deep water. The beach also features a recently constructed beach pavilion, and has been listed by National Geographic Magazine as one of the best beaches on the East Coast.
You can also explore the picturesque and serene countryside of South County that contains miles of hiking and biking trails, take advantage of great fresh and salt water fishing, camping, canoeing, kayaking, sailing and birding.
The county is full of history and culture with unique shops nestled in diverse and quaint villages. Museums, theatres and lighthouses are scattered throughout, offering year-round discovery and exploration. The county is also noted for its great dining with fresh seafood right off the boat a highlight.
Aunt Carrie’s in Narragansett is said to have the best clam cakes on the planet, and George’s of Galilee in Galilee has been listed as one of the top restaurants in the country.
And, South County has 17 public golf courses to choose from.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better conditioned and more visually stunning public golf course in New England than The Orchard Course at Newport National Golf Club
This a true delight, both for the senses and the avid golfer in all of us. The Orchard Course stretches to 7,200 yards from the tips and provides a stern test for even the most accomplished players. True to the links-like design of the course, the layout plays differently from day to day. When the breeze blows hard off the nearly Atlantic Ocean or Sakonnet Passage it can make course play as difficult as the legendary Scottish links on a windy day.
The Orchard Course was designed by Arthur Hills and his associate Drew Rogers. They fit the routing well into the natural environment of the Rhode Island oceanside. Fescue lines the bent grass fairways and the tee boxes, which presents the impression that the track could just as easily be sitting in Ireland or Scotland than in the Ocean State.
“The response we have had to the course has been incredible,” said Matt Adams, a Connecticut native who serves as president and general manager of Newport National Golf Club. “I don’t think there is another premium golf course that is available for play in this area. There isn’t anything that compares to the challenge, beauty and experience at Newport National.”
There are indeed no weak holes on the layout. Unlike some courses that give you a patsy to start with, The Orchard Course comes out swinging with a 522-yard, dogleg left par-five that has water guarding the left side from 150 yards away from the green to the putting surface. It’s rated as the seventh toughest hole on the course.
Number 13 is perhaps the best par-three on the course. It measures 170 yards from the tips and plays over water to a large, oblong green that has bunkers guarding each side.
And the 17th may be the toughest par-four on the course, playing almost 490 yards with a huge bunker protecting the left side of the fairway landing area.
The Orchard Course, built on a former nursery farm, has multiple teeing areas to meet the abilities of all players.
“I like to say that the land Newport National was built upon was the canvas Arthur Hills and Drew Rogers created their masterpiece on,” said Adams, who has worked as a commentator for the Golf Channel and has authored several books.
There are a number of other very good courses in what is known as the South Country region of this tiny state.Here are several other courses to visit:
Fenner Hill Country Club:
Rolling hills, water hazards and lush fairways combine to create a challenging golf course in Hope Valley. The course design and panoramic views capture the natural beauty of New England. The rolling hills, wide-open fairways and magnificent 17th century stonewalls are part of the course’s unique charm. This par 72, 18-hole layout measures 6,636 yards from the back tees. (401) 539-8000. www.fennerhill.com.Richmond Country Club:
Richmond Country Club is the only public course in Rhode Island rated “Four Stars” in Golf Digest magazine’s “Places to Play.” The 18-hole, par 71, 6,515-yard layout is sculpted out of a pine forest and gives the feeling of playing at a course in the Carolinas. The lush bent grass fairways and greens are what you would expect at a private club. The clubhouse is nestled between the fairways with panoramic views of the golf course and offers fine dining. (401) 364-9200. www.rigolf.com.Pinehurst Golf Club:
One of South County’s newest golf clubs, Pinehurst Golf Club, located appropriately enough in the town of Carolina, is a nine-hole course is set among the beautiful South County pines. There are three tee boxes on every hole, offering every caliber player a challenge on this par-35, 3,010-yard course. Pinehurst offers rolling fairways and bent grass greens as well as tough 540-yard par-five to test your skills. (401) 364-8600. www.pinehurstgolfri.com.Rose Hill Golf Club:
This 9-hole, par-three course in Richmond has multiple bent grass tee boxes for every skill-level. Bent grass greens provide the “true roll” all golfers come to expect in a quality course. Bunkers are strategically placed around the course. Rose Hill’s open vistas with rolling mounds and a scenic pond provides challenges in a “family-friendly” environment. (401) 788-1088. www.rosehillgolfclub.com.Beaver River Golf Club:
With beautiful use of the existing terrain, there are spectacular views throughout the layout. With three to four sets of tees on every hole, generous landing areas, greens that have subtle contours, fair but demanding bunker placements, and bent grass from tee to green, Beaver River offers a private atmosphere for the public golfer. This 18-hole, par-70 course plays 6,006 yards from the back tees and presents a fun test of golf that makes the golfer use a variety of shots. (401) 539-2100. www.rigolf.com/beaverriver.Laurel Lane Country Club:
Situated in the picturesque farmland of South County this course says it is “Rhode Island’s best kept secret.” Laurel Lane, located in West Kingston, offers visitors pristine golf conditions in a peaceful surrounding on a course that is challenging, forgiving and thus appealing to all skill levels. The greens and fairways are very well conditioned. This 18-hole, 6,000-yard, par-71 course features rolling terrain, lush fairways and requires skillful shot placement. (401) 783-3844. www.videttagolf.com.