There are many fine treats for visitors to Newport, R.I. to sample.
The stately mansions, the Cliff Walk, wonderful restaurants and shops, the Tennis and Americaís Cup halls of fame, scenic views of the ocean, sandy beaches and the colorful locals hanging out on their yachts at the marina.
One delight golfers simply must sample lies a few miles from downtown Newport in the small town of Middletown; Newport National Golf Club.
Newport National was routed on 200 acres of a former orchard and designed by Arthur Hills and his associate Drew Rogers. The course, which has a wonderful Irish or Scottish links flavor to it, with wide open fairways, tall fescue that grows off the short grass, lots of bunkers and greens that allow for run up shots, offers sweeping vistas of The Sakonnet Passage, the Atlantic Ocean and Narragansett Bay. When fall arrives and the trees surrounding the layout turn colors and the tall grass glistens with the slanting sunlight, Newport National stuns the senses.
The course features greens, tees and fairways consisting of 100 percent seaside bent grass. The wind often blows off the water, making Newport National play like a true seaside links course. The track plays 7,244 yards from the back markers and has a slope of 138, which tells you something about the challenge you will face here. There are four other sets of tees that make the course playable for golfers of all abilities.
Every hole is memorable. It starts right away with a 550-yard par-five that sweeps to the left around a large natural area. The third hole, a 198-yard par-three, is reminiscent of early 20th century designs, with a raised green surrounded by bunkers.
The fourth hole is the best short par-four on the layout. It plays just 327 yards from the tips and big hitters can cut off distance by taking the tee shot straight over bunkers and high grass that guard the left side of the fairway.
The eighth hole is a dogleg right, 567-yard par-five that finishes at a rectangular green that makes one think of the classic Scottish courses and their quirky shaped putting surfaces.
Number 17 is a beefy par-four, measuring 489 yards from the back markers. A long and deep snake bunker guards the left side of the fairway, and if the wind is in your face itís almost impossible to get home in two.
Matt Adams, Golf Channel commentator, noted author, contributor to Golfing Magazine and Newport Nationalís general manager, says, ďThe course continues to mature, settle and evolve, I think itís better every year. The abundance of May and June rains has made the course far lusher and as a result even more challenging. On the fairways we can control the effect, but the primary cut of rough and the framing fescue are as dense, and beautiful, as Iíve ever seen them.
He adds, ďRounds at NNGC are actually up considerably this year. We liken this to the theory that in hard times, people are choosing to spend their money on the best, likely because they reduce the total value of rounds they will play this year. So, weíve benefited.Ē
The course hosted the Rhode Island Open in mid-July.
Newport National Golf Club