Review: Exeter Country Club

Course Name: Exeter Country Club

Designer: Geoffrey Cornish (1969)

Location: Exeter, Rhode Island

History: Designed by Geoffrey Cornish, Exeter Country Club is considered one of the better public courses in Rhode Island, winning the following accolade:

  • #5 Best Public Course in Rhode Island – Golf.com (2016-2017)

Conditions: 6/10, While overall in solid shape, sometimes Exeter C.C. gets burned out and I’ve never been a fan of the greens – they are extremely large, slow, and difficult to read.

Value: 6/10, Exeter C.C. offers pretty good value at $38 to walk on weekdays and $45 to walk on weekends. The twilight rates are especially impressive at $20 to walk after 5:30 P.M.

Scorecard:

Tee                     Par         Yardage         Rating          Slope

Blue                   72          6921                72.1              126

White                72          6406                69.7              122

Red                    72          5706                71.7              119

Best Score: 74 (White Tees), 10/14/2017 with Dylan

Front 9 Best: 38 (White Tees), 10/14/2017 with Dylan

Back 9 Best: 36 (White Tees), 10/14/2017 with Dylan

Hole Descriptions: I’m not a huge fan of most Cornish designs, but Exeter C.C. is one of the few exceptions. Normally, his courses bore me with uninspired tree-lined par four after tree-lined par four. At Exeter, however, elevation changes and strong variation in hole design make for a more interesting round. The front side of the course is much more difficult than the back, mainly due to the fact that it plays over 400 yards longer. In general, Exeter is a long, fairly open course that encourages aggressive driver play.

The opening hole is a fun one. At 377 yards, you must carry your drive at least 190 yards over a ravine to reach this fairway. This landing area is quite generous, but a small tree jutting out on the right makes left the miss. From the fairway, you’re left with an uphill approach to a large back-to-front sloped green.

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The par 4 1st from the teebox

The 2nd hole is a monster par 5 at 576 yards from the Tips. Out of bounds lines the entire left side while large trees line the right. If you’re able to hit your drive straight, this becomes a straightforward hole, but anything off this fairway makes reaching in regulation exceedingly difficult. To make matters more difficult, the 2nd green is one of the most undulating on the course. The 3rd hole is the first of four very challenging long par 3’s. At 219 yards, this flat hole features a large green flanked by multiple bunkers on either side. Regrettably, this is one of the more boring holes at Exeter C.C.

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The long par 3 3rd

The 4th hole is a sharp dogleg right par 5. A straight drive under 250 yards is needed to avoid running through this fairway into the woods, and both left and right are both dead. The approach shot here runs straight downhill and reaching this large green in two is certainly a possibility for longer hitters.

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Taking out iron off the 4th is a prudent play for longer hitters

The 5th hole is a devastatingly difficult par 3 that verges on unfair from the Tips. At 219 yards, this long hole features a perched green and requires a high left-to-right ballflight because trees have overgrown the right side. Bunkers on either side of this tricky green are a popular bailout.

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Management should consider chopping down some branches on the right

The remaining holes on the front 9 are four strong par fours beginning with the 398 yard 6th. Playing from an elevated teebox, this gentle dogleg right plays shorter than its yardage. This fairway is generous but big misses left or right will be punished severely. This green is rather narrow and runs hard back-to-front.

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The par 4 6th from the tee – note the fact that there are three groups on the hole

The 7th hole is the number 1 handicap and quite possibly one of the most difficult holes in the state. At 462 yards, this uphill par 4 features trees and rocks jutting out on the left side forcing the golfer to hit a right-to-left ballflight if he or she wants to keep it in the fairway. From here, this hole runs uphill to a perched, hard back-to-sloping green. I think I’ve only made one par ever on this hole and it required a bomb to do so. The 8th hole is probably my favorite hole on the front 9 as a downhill, 403 yard tree-lined par 4. Bombs away with the driver here, as this fairway is again quite wide. The approach to this green is one of the most difficult on the course, with three large bunkers to contend with.

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The par 4 8th from the elevated teebox

The 9th is another challenging par 4. At just over 430 yards, this dogleg right’s fairway narrows considerably at about 250 yards, with a rock wall encroaching on the left side. A line of trees blocks out the right, forcing many golfers to lay-up. This wide green is guarded on either side by bunkers.

The back side is much simpler, but the 10th is no joke. At 422 yards, this slight dogleg right is wide open, but leaves many golfers with long iron or more on their approach. On a course with very difficult par threes, I’d say the 183 yard 11th is by far the easiest. Playing slightly uphill, this hole features a large back-to-front green surrounded by bunkers. The 357 yard 12th is a short downhill par 4 with a narrow fairway and trees blocking the right side. Aggressive golfers can try to carry these trees, leaving only chip in. With a good drive, this is a hole where par should feel like bogey.

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View from behind the 12th green

The 324 yard 13th hole is arguably the signature hole at Exeter C.C. Your drive must carry 160 yards over a large pond to find the fairway on this dogleg left. Once you cross the gorgeous covered bridge, this fairway turns sharply left and uphill to a bowl-shaped green. Long iron is clearly the play off the tee, as drives longer than 200 yards will run through this fairway and be blocked out. However, my extremely long cousin drove this green with 3-wood so take my advice with a grain of salt…

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The beautiful view afforded to you on the 13th tee
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Looking back on the 13th fairway from the green

At only 497 yards, the 14th is a straightforward, reachable par 5. The biggest danger on this hole comes on the drive, as tall trees line both sides of this tight fairway. In particular, drives that go right carom down a steep embankment, leaving a very difficult punch out. In typical Cornish fashion, this large green runs back-to-front.

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The tight 14th teeshot – one I’ve admittedly struggled with over the years

The 15th is a cute little 370 yard par 4. Although the fairway is generous initially, it pinches in on the left side as you get closer to the green. A pond lines the left side of this green, causing many golfers to hit their approach shots right. The 16th is undoubtedly the toughest hole on the back 9. At 396 yards and uphill, your drive must travel at least 220 yards to clear the pond. Accuracy is also needed here, as trees line both sides of this fairway. A par requires two well-struck shots.

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The par 4 16th is the most intimidating drive of the day

The 17th is the longest par 3 at 231 yards. It does, however, play straight downhill and much shorter. Three bunkers guard this green, including one short that prevents golfers from running their ball up. The finishing hole is a bit of a letdown as a straightforward 511 yard par 5. Aside from spotty trees on either side, this hole essentially has no defense, and is a great opportunity for a closing birdie (or eagle).

Best Par 3: 17th Hole, 231 yards, 14th handicap. Yes, the par threes at Exeter C.C. are difficult, but are they good designs? Debatable, but my favorite is the 231 yard 17th, which plays straight downhill to a skinny green. Club selection is difficult here, as many golfers will be between clubs.

Best Par 4: 16th Hole, 396 yards, 2nd handicap. Although not the longest par 4, this is easily the most intimidating, as you must carry a pond for the first 220 yards. From here, this fairway runs uphill to a large, back-to-front sloped green. Many a good round has been foiled on this strong hole.

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Looking back towards the tee on the difficult par 4 16th

Best Par 5: 2nd Hole, 576 yards, 3rd handicap. I’m not the biggest fan of the par fives at Exeter C.C., which I feel are a pretty bland bunch. The most difficult one is the best, however, in the long 2nd. While the 1st hole is a bit of a warm-up, golfers are immediately put to the test on this hole, which seems interminably long if you miss the fairway. An uncharacteristic undulating green makes this hole a very difficult birdie.

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From the start of the 2nd fairway, the green looks light years away

General Comments: One of the biggest complaints about Exeter C.C. is slow pace of play, as overbooking and league play invariably creates five hour rounds. The range also only stretches about 175 yards with a busy road and no net behind to catch drives. I wonder how many cars have been hit over the years. The workers in the proshop are usually very friendly.

Verdict: While conditioning and pace of play leave a lot to be desired, Exeter Country Club is an enjoyable course and one of Geoffrey Cornish’s better designs. This is an above average public course for the area and one I would recommend for its value and layout.

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