Review: Swansea Country Club

Course Name: Swansea Country Club

Designer: Geoffrey Cornish (1962)

Location: Swansea, Massachusetts

History: Built on a former hunting and fishing preserve, Swansea Country Club was built on the RI-MA border by the prolific Geoffrey Cornish in 1963. In 2001, a par 3 course opened next door. Like Ledgemont, Swansea is a member of the RIGA due to its proximity to Providence.

Conditions: 7/10, The bunkers are in good shape, as are most of the teeboxes and fairways. There are definitely some rough spots on the course, but you probably shouldn’t be in those places anyway. It’s tough to evaluate the greens due to Cornish’s severe back-to-front on every hole – uphill putts are extremely slow while downhill putts are almost impossible to stop.

Value: 7/10, I’ve always taken a cart and played on a holiday for about $60 so I was surprised when I saw such good rates online. Swansea is particularly good with twilight rates, offering discounts at different intervals starting at 2 P.M.

Scorecard:

Tee                     Par         Yardage         Rating          Slope

Gold                   72           6847               73.5              128

Blue                   72           6415               71.5              125

Blue/White       72           6021               70.1              123

White                72           5714               68.2              121

White/Red        72           5469               71.9              122

Red                    72           5261               70.8              118

Best Score: 74 (White Tees), 7/4/2017 with Dad, Dylan, and Uncle Brendan

Front 9 Best: 35 (White Tees), 7/4/2017 with Dad, Dylan, and Uncle Brendan

Back 9 Best: 36 (White Tees), 7/4/2015 with Dad, Sam B., and Uncle Jared’s neighbor

Hole Descriptions: Before I begin, I think it’s important to disclose that Swansea is the perfect epitomization of a Geoffrey Cornish course – a well-conditioned, poorly designed New England course with characteristically silly back-to-front sloped green complexes. These greens are evident on almost every hole here and it truly feels monotonous.

The 1st hole is a fairly simple opening hole playing just 340 yards from the Blue Tees. While the fairway is generous for most of the hole, it narrows considerably at about 260 yards, making less than driver the play for advanced players.

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View of the par 4 1st

The 2nd hole is a medium length 522 yard par 5 that plays straightforward and uphill. The right side of this hole is fairly tight due to trees and the driving range net (which is shockingly ineffective at keeping balls off the 2nd hole). At about 100 yards from the green, the left side narrows with trees and a bunker, making the lay-up a bit more challenging. The 3rd hole is one of the more difficult on the course due to its length (415 yards) and poor design. The right side of the fairway is blocked out by branches and there is an inexplicable giant tree about 250 yards in the middle of the fairway. The first par 3 on the course, the 203 yard 4th is rather boring and straightforward. One complaint I have about the hole is that it’s the 7th handicap hole; par 3’s shouldn’t be getting that many strokes.

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The par 4 3rd – Note the tree in the middle of the fairway

At 350 yards, the par 4 5th is the first of several confusing holes the first time you play Swansea. This hole requires a drive of only about 230 yards to stay short of the Palmer River. From the edge of the fairway, you must carry this river to an elevated, well-protected green. I know I said I wouldn’t mention the greens again, but the 5th green is egregiously bad and possibly the most severely sloped on the course.

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Approach to the par 4 5th

The 6th hole is their “signature hole” and only plays 115 yards. A carry over the Palmer River is required to reach this well-protected green. The 7th hole is a tight 355 yard par 4 that rewards accuracy, not length. The green here is extremely narrow with slopes coming off both sides. At only 476 yards, the 8th hole is a reachable par 5 with OB on the right, and a line of trees on the left side. This narrow hole gently slides left and is certainly a birdie opportunity with a good drive. At 419 yards, the uphill par 4 9th is the number 1 handicap hole for good reason. This dogleg left features a blind teeshot guarded by trees on both sides.

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The approach on the number 1 handicap 9th

Like the 1st hole, the 10th provides a decent scoring chance as a short downhill par 4. At only 335 yards, this hole features a left bunker in the fairway at 245 yards and trees on both sides. The 11th hole is a poorly constructed 168 yard par 3 that demonstrates why the front side is superior to the back – it’s one of several holes on the back obscured by power lines. These wires, which also come into play in on the 13th and 14th holes, are an abomination, and require an immediate re-tee free of penalty.

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The par 3 11th, complete with powerlines

The 12th hole is notable for a long bunker on the left side and a creek that runs along the left side as well. The 13th hole is veritable three-shot par 5 playing 596 yards. Relatively open for its entire length, this hole requires three accurate, lengthy shots to hit the green in regulation. The 14th would be the worst design on most courses, but not Swansea. At just 289 yards with no real danger besides power lines in front of the teebox, this cramped hole was the result of a lack of space. After a relatively unremarkable long par 3, the worst hole on the course looms. An extreme dogleg right, the 16th is a par 4 that requires a mid-iron off the tee, and long-iron on the approach because the dogleg is only about 170 yards from the tee. You should NEVER hit more club on the second shot than you do on the first.

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The confusing view on the 16th teebox

The 17th hole is another reachable par 5 at 470 yards, but driver is a risky play as a lily pond guards the entire right hand side of the hole. The finishing hole is the best design on the back side but feels repetitive because it is; it’s almost an exact replica of the 9th hole which runs parallel to it.

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The dogleg left finishing hole

Best Par 3: 6th hole, 115 yards, 17th handicap. Their signature hole, this short par 3 requires a carry over the Palmer River to reach this green. Bunkers on the three remaining sides catch any inaccurate strikes. Like most holes at Swansea, this green slopes hard back-to-front so controlling your spin is essential.

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The short par 3 6th

Best Par 4: 9th hole, 419 yards, 1st handicap. I guess that this hole shares honors with the parallel 18th because they are essentially the exact same hole – long, uphill dogleg lefts with bunkers at the elbows of the dogleg and two short bunkers on the sides of a hard back-to-front sloped green. The 9th hole gets the nod because of the clubhouse patio directly behind the green.

Best Par 5: 2nd hole, 522 yards, 11th handicap. Always one of the best conditioned holes on the course, the 2nd hole is a straight, uphill three-shotter with trees and a driving range on the right. Although searching for your ball amongst the driving range balls can be annoying, I like how this hole narrows on the left about 100 yards from the green. This forces the player to either lay-up short of this or attempt to go for this green. Mounding and a large right bunker surround this heavily back-to-front sloped green.

General Comments: With the largest, most popular range in the area, Swansea’s grass range is found sandwiched between the 1st and 2nd holes. The unsightly netting and hundreds of balls on these holes certainly detract from their enjoyment. The putting/chipping green is very indicative of the real greens, and gives you an early warning to stay below the hole. Swansea has a nice viewing patio above the 9th hole, and frequently offers lunch deals with golf.

Verdict: Well-conditioned, affordable, and a fair degree of hole variation make Swansea a popular choice in Southeast Mass/Providence. However, persistent power lines and classic Cornish back-to-front sloped greens on every hole render this course just mediocre.

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