Among the five founding members of the USGA, the Newport Country Club is one of the nation’s most historic golfing institutions, having hosted both the inaugural US Amateur and US Open Championships in 1895. The club’s first nine holes were designed by head professional William Davis the previous year, and extended to eighteen holes by Donald Ross in 1915. A.W. Tillinghast then significantly remodelled the course during the 1920s.
Set partly beside the Rhode Island coastline, this is a classically rugged links-style layout that is exposed to constant sea winds and built with small, sloping greens, tight fairways, thick fescue roughs and deep bunkers. Both the long and short holes can be tricky and totally change character according to whether the winds are helping or hindering. Key front nine holes include the cross-wind par three 8th and the long, rising 9th, which features a deep cross-bunker on the right and an elevated approach into a green leaning hard to the left.
The back nine starts with a loop of holes inland of the clubhouse followed by the famous 14th, the second of consecutive par threes and supposedly the opening hole in the original 1894 routing. Falling from beneath the lavish clubhouse, the putting surface here is narrow and built on a nasty plateau that is guarded by a huge bunker on one side and a steep fall off on the other. Running along an out-of-bounds area and with a green ringed by water and sand, the 16th is another dangerous proposition.
A throwback to the golden days of early American golf, the fairways here are irrigated by Mother Nature and when dry and firm they provide modern golfers with a strict examination of their ability to control ball flight and bounce into the tight target areas. Newport isn’t as consistently outstanding as the best seaside courses in America, but its par of 70 is quite a challenge and for history buffs the experience alone makes it worthy of recommendation.