You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better conditioned and more visually stunning public golf course in southern New England than The Orchard Course at Newport National Golf Club in Middleton, R.I.
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 the 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 course opened as private facility, but ownership and management decided to make the change to semi-private several years ago.
I’ve had the opportunity to play Newport National a number of times and fall more in love with the course each time. True to a links layout, the above-mentioned wind can have a most dramatic effect on the ease (maybe “ease” is the wrong word) or difficulty of each hole. If it’s blowing 15 to 20 miles an hour you will be hard pressed to break 90, even if you are a low handicapper.
The beauty of the layout is quite simply…stunning. When the summer reaches its zenith, the fescue grows tall and wispy off the lush fairways. Playing during the late afternoon or early evening this time of the year, the sun begins to set into the surrounding island hillsides and creates magical colorations in the tall grasses. I’m left gawking at the beauty of the layout rather than the shot at hand. One more good excuse for a weak stroke.
Matt Adams, a Connecticut native, serves as president and general manager of Newport National.
“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.”
You might also know Matt from his work with the Golf Channel and from the several books he has written on the game of golf.
We aren’t going to argue Matt’s point about the lack of competition to Newport National in the immediate areas save, of course for the very private Newport and Metacomet country clubs and the relatively new, and also very private, Carnegie Abbey Club.
The holes at The Orchard Course offer a pleasing blend, ranging from the long and difficult to the short and sublime. The fairways are ample and the greens on the large side with some undulation.
There are 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 wetlands 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 eight is a slight dogleg right par-four that demands a tee shot over a waste area, as does the relatively short, 391-yard par-four ninth where birdie awaits two good shots.
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.
Adams has said that “Newport National was built upon was the canvas Arthur Hills and Drew Rogers created their masterpiece on.” Again, while Matt was being perhaps a tad dramatic, I’m not going to argue. It’s just that pretty a golf course and solid a routing.
For après golf, the nearby restaurants, shops and historic sights of Newport beckon, and the beaches are close by. There are plenty of great hotels and bed and breakfast establishments in the area.
Got to check this one out.