Review: Agawam Hunt

Course Name: Agawam Hunt

Designer: Willie Park Jr. (1895, 9 Holes), Donald Ross (1920, 18 Holes), Geoffrey Cornish (1963, Redesign)

Location: Rumford, Rhode Island

History: One of the oldest golf courses in Rhode Island, Agawam was originally a 9-hole course designed by Willie Park Jr. In 1920, Donald Ross completed the design, but the course has undergone many renovations since then. Notably, in 1964, the city of East Providence purchased land from three holes at Agawam. With the money, they hired Geoffrey Cornish, who tweaked many holes and added two new designs. Agawam has hosted several RI state tournaments and even a U.S. Open Qualifier. In January 2017, the club filed for bankruptcy.

Conditions: 7/10, Always known for it’s fast greens and thick rough, Agawam’s condition has declined in recent years and is now decidedly below average amongst local private courses. The fairways and teeboxes are still well-manicured, but the rough is patchy and cart paths are in tough shape.

Value: N/A, This is a private course. However, recent financial problems and tee times on GolfNow seem to indicate that Agawam might soon become semi-private.

Scorecard:

Tee                                 Par         Yardage         Rating          Slope

Black                             69           6156               69.8               128

Middle                          69           5782               68.5               125

Yellow                           71           5223               70.4               123

Best Score: 80 (Black Tees), 8/3/2017 with Dylan

Front 9 Best: 36 (White Tees), 8/24/2011 in an Interclub Tournament with 3 others

Back 9 Best: 39 (Black Tees), 8/3/2017 with Dylan

Hole Descriptions: There are a few strong holes at Agawam – as there should be given Willie Park Jr. and Donald Ross both helped design the course. There are also some inexplicably bad holes seemingly interspersed with these good holes. Geoffrey’s Cornish is partially to blame, as he designed two of the egregiously bad ones – 7 and 15.

The first two holes are great, though. At 422 yards, the opening hole features an extremely intimidating uphill blind teeshot. Out of bounds lines the left side, and fescue and bunkers cover both sides of this narrow fairway.

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The intimidating uphill par 4 1st from the tee

The 2nd hole is a medium length 175 yard par 3 that requires all carry over a ravine. Three putting is common on this extremely sloped green, and getting up-and-down is almost unheard of. The 3rd and 4th holes are parallel holes of about the same length. Neither are great designs, but the 3rd is notable for a funky design. This fairway is divided into three pieces by a common stream that splits. It is possibly to carry the first fairway, but doing so is risky, especially the further right you go. Drives that make it onto this second fairway leave only about 200 yards into to a well-protected green with OB left. The 4th hole is a long 459 yard par 4 (used to be a par 5), and is pretty much straightaway. This large green runs hard back-to-front.

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The approach between the trees on the par 4 4th

After a short 168 yard par 3, the par 5 (used to be a par 4) 6th hole plays 545 yards. I don’t know who’s idea it was to change this hole to a par 5, but they took a good long par 4 and turned it into a unsightly dogleg par 5. Drives over 200 yards will run through this fairway unless you can hit a high left-to-right ballflight. Long iron – long iron – wedge is how I made par here. The 7th hole is the first of several that Cornish directly contributed to Agawam. At just 293 yards, this short dogleg left is reachable for long players but a large tree is immediately in the way of this green. Hitting long iron again off the tee takes out the danger of several bunkers and that tree, and leaves you just a pitch in.

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The tight short par 4 7th from the tee

After this, you have to cross a busy road to get to the “outer 7.”  I was not a big fan of the 8th hole either. At just 165 yards, this short par 3 seemed like a throwaway hole they tried to make pretty by putting a water fountain in front of the green. It honestly seems like a hole they would put on a bad executive course.

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The short par 3 8th

However, the front 9 finishes as strong as it begins with an extremely uphill par 4. At only 347 yards, this hole plays much longer and this green slopes hard from back-to-front. A bunker short left of this green is a good 10 feet below the green and can lead to some big scores.

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The uphill par 4 9th is one of the strongest holes on the course

The 10th hole begins right after 9 and is a real hike from the pro-shop. Many members play holes 1-7, and then finish with 15-18. It seems like these holes should be rearranged to improve playability. However, the back 9 opener is a solid hole as a 388 yard dogleg right. Five bunkers loom on the right side starting at about 250 yards from the teebox. The par 3 152 yard 11th hole plays a lot like the 2nd, but is more uphill. Club selection is imperative here, and this green slopes hard back-to-front.

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Like the 2nd, the 11th requires a carry the entire way

The 12th hole is one of the strongest holes on the course in my opinion. At 412 yards, this hole features an elevated teebox to a fairway lined by sequential bunkers on the right and one well-placed cross bunker at 255 yards from the tee. Unfortunately, this hole is followed up by a poorly designed 379 yard par 4 that is only the number 2 handicap hole because of a creek crossing the fairway at 240 yards. Most players will be forced to hit short of the creek (if they know it’s there) and have a long approach shot in to an extremely elevated green. I’ve hit both 3 wood and driver into this creek, but am left with long iron when I layup with iron or hybrid.

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The goofy 13th hole plays straight uphill on the approach

The 14th hole is another polarizing one, but actually one I am quite fond of. A giant live oak (rare in the Northeast) occupies the center of this fairway, but isn’t really in play, as good drives should either carry or at least be equidistant to the tree’s base. To make this drive even more fun, this tee box is also elevated.

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The tree shouldn’t be there, but this is a pretty fun driving hole

If you asked a sample of golfers what the worst hole is on a private course in Rhode Island, many would respond with the 15th at Agawam. This hole (recently turned into a par 4 from a par 5 due to complaints) is as goofy as it is penalizing. At 420 yards, this long par 4 features mounds on the right and a pond that juts into the left side of the fairway. This well-guarded green is wide but shallow, and features a heavy slope back-to-front.

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The par 4* 15th is tight with water and mounds on either side

The 16th is a relatively mild medium-length 175 yard par 3 followed by another dogleg left – the 360 yard par 4 17th. Drives too far right on this hole will be blocked out by trees, and it’s very hard to go too far left, as I’ve learned with huge duck hooks that have cut the corner. A series of bunkers in front of this relatively flat green make the approach shot visually intimidating.

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The blind teeshot on the par 4 17th

The 18th is in theory a very nice finishing hole, but this 439 yard par 4 is made much more difficult by the fact that this blind downhill hole is also the makeshift driving range. Groups often spend inordinate amounts of time just trying to find their ball in the fairway.

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The downhill approach on the closing hole – note the ballpicker in the fairway

Best Par 3: 2nd hole, 175 yards, 9th handicap. One of the most memorable holes at Agawam, this intimidating par 3 features a carry over a gorge through a chute of trees. This green is well-protected by bunkers and is quite undulating, making putting the great equalizer here.

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The difficult all-carry par 3 2nd

Best Par 4: 12th hole, 412 yards, 10th handicap. Narrowly edging out the 9th hole, this pretty par 4 features an elevated teebox to a narrow fairway lined with classically designed sequential bunkers and fescue. Watch out on the tee, however – I’ve almost been hit twice by players who’ve sliced it on 10.

IMG_3911
The downhill par 4 12th is a great driving hole

Best Par 5: 3rd hole, 502 yards, 7th handicap. Many par fours and fives have switched throughout Agawam’s history but this hole is one of two poorly designed, goofy par fives currently. Although slightly better than the 6th hole, this par 5 is overly convoluted with a creek that divides this fairway into thirds. Prudent players here can hit iron-iron-wedge and leave with birdie or par.

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Your view from the 3rd teebox

General Comments: While the putting green is large, the driving range is makeshift and runs down the 18th fairway. This is annoying when you’re trying to find to ball on the 18th and have to search through 100 balls. I can’t speak to pace of play since I played in tournaments, but the parking lot never looks too full. The clubhouse is a real gem here, as are the world-class Tennis courts. Agawam certainly has more amenities than nearby courses Wannamoisett and Metacomet – which are pure golf courses, but the golf lags behind here.

Verdict: Agawam is worth the play when you get an invite and I do enjoy playing here due to prior success. I do wish, however, that I got the chance to play Ross/Park’s version of Agawam instead of Cornish’s. His holes don’t mesh well with the classic designers’.

 

 

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