Review: Fenner Hill Golf Club

Course Name: Fenner Hill Golf Club

Designer: Ron Levesque/Dennis Levesque (1999)

Location: Hope Valley, Rhode Island

History: N/A

Conditions: 6/10, Fenner Hill was in decent shape both times I played. The greens are on the slower side and the rough is a bit patchy but the teeboxes and fairways are very good.

Value: 7/10, Fenner Hill offers good value, especially at only $30 to walk after 1 PM. Even with a cart, you won’t pay more than $50 unless you play at peak hours.

Scorecard:

Tee                     Par         Yardage         Rating          Slope

Blue                   72           6636                71.8              134

White                72           6262                70.1              125

Gold                   72          5893                68.4              124

Red                     72          5112                68.8              117

Best Score: 85 (Blue Tees), 8/15/2013 with Evan S.

Front 9 Best: 42 (Blue Tees), 8/15/2013 with Evan S.

Back 9 Best: 43 (Blue Tees), 8/15/2013 with Evan S.

Hole Descriptions: With sweeping elevation changes and a wide variety of holes, Fenner Hill is a challenging course made much more difficult due to heavily sloped greens.  At 380 yards, the opening hole plays straight downhill. The left side of this hole is wide open, but a wasteland awaits you on the right. This green is well-protected and quite undulating. Another straightforward hole, the wide open 357 yard 2nd features a blind teeshot and plays straight uphill to another undulating green. This shallow green is guarded in the front by a trio of deep bunkers. While the first two holes offer good scoring opportunities, the 3rd is much more intimidating. This 520 yard dogleg right is guarded on the left by out of bounds the entire way. If your drive is lucky enough to avoid two large bunkers flanking the fairways, going for the green in two is a risky endeavor as the hole narrows considerably by the green. For the final 100 yards, this par 5 runs straight downhill and there is really nowhere to hit your lay-up. This is honestly a weakly designed par 5, as many players will hit driver-wedge-wedge in order to hit the green in regulation.

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The tight downhill approach on the par 5 3rd

The 4th hole is the first par 3 on the course and the worst one undoubtedly. At just 162 yards, this hole is pretty unappealing visually and features a ridiculously sloped green guarded by two deep bunkers. Unfortunately, this par 3 is followed by another silly design – a 371 yard par 4. This hole plays relatively level until the approach shot, which runs straight uphill. A large pond and narrow fairway at about 230 yards from the tee require players to take less than driver. The green itself is extremely sloped back-to-front, almost to the point of being unfair. One of my favorite holes on the course, the 6th is an aesthetically pleasing 181 yard par 3. While the green is large and receptive, a large pond and massive bunker guard the left side.

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View of the long par 3 6th

The difficult par 4 7th plays uphill and to the right at 429 yards. This hole is pretty much blind completely until 100 yards to the green, further demonstrating how local knowledge helps at Fenner Hill. The 8th hole is a long par 5 playing 579 yards. The blue tees are quite a ways back here, and you’ll need an uphill drive of at least 220 yards to reach this blind fairway. From here, the hole is relatively flat and unremarkable. I wasn’t really a big fan of this number 1 handicapped hole particularly because I-95 runs along the lefthand side of this hole, making it one of the loudest on the course.  The 9th hole is another challenging uphill par 4 that plays much longer than the 370 yards the scorecard indicates. This two-tiered green is easily a full 50 feet above the teebox, and slopes hard back-to-front.

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The uphill par 4 9th with the clubhouse in the background

Another blind teeshot greets you on the extreme dogleg right par 5 10th. After a successful drive, this hole turns sharp right and uphill. After a mediocre 180 yard par 3 surrounded by condominiums, the 12th hole is another monster at 452 yards. The only easy thing about this long par 4 is the fact that there is nothing in front of this relatively flat green, allowing runners with long clubs to reach the green in two. The 13th was another really goofy hole. At 352 yards, a creek runs across this fairway at about 200 yards. A wood is required to carry it, but the prudent play might honestly be to lay up with long iron and have another iron into this green. At 548 yards, the long winding par 5 14th features a forced carry with a severely sloped green. A colonial rock-wall guards the right-hand side of this hole, and provides a charming reminder of the fact that the course was built on old farming land. The 15th is one of their signature holes but I wasn’t really a fan. At 325 yards, this hole plays extremely downhill and is reachable for big hitters. The only danger is a pond in front of this green. Unfortunately, this green is at the same time incredibly shallow and sloped from back-to-front. Iron off the tee is probably the prudent play here, as evidenced by the fact that 6 iron only left me a pitch.

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The approach on the risk/reward par 4 15th

I think the par 3 16th is the hardest par 3 on the course. At 180 yards, this uphill shot to a perched green is fairly intimidating. Another silly hole, the par 4 17th is a short sharp dogleg left with another blind tee shot. Drives anywhere in the fairway here will yield a wedge approach shot. The finishing hole is another monster. The number 2 handicap, this uphill 455 yard par 4 features a vast waste area about 310 yards off the tee. Although it really isn’t in play on the drive, this waste area must be crossed with a long club on the uphill approach to another extremely undulating green.

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The uphill par 3 16th
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View of the dogleg left 17th

Best Par 3: 6th hole, 181 yards, 17th handicap. The best of a relatively strong set of par threes, this challenging hole requires a well-struck long iron to reach this huge, undulating green. A large bunker guards the left side of this green, but might actually save players from going even further left into a pond. Although it is one of the relatively few flat holes at Fenner Hill, wind plays a huge factor with club selection here.

Best Par 4: 7th hole, 429 yards, 5th handicap. The best of a relatively weak set of par fours, this long uphill dogleg is more or less blind until you reach the green. You actually have a lot of room here off the tee, and bailing out right is not going to hurt (although the left side gives you a much better angle). I thought the old cemetery on the left side of the fairway was a cool feature.

Best Par 5: 14th hole, 548 yards, 4th handicap. I wasn’t really a fan of the other par fives, which I felt were rather gimmicky. This hole is nothing special, but it requires three accurate shots to reach a heavily sloped green. True for many holes at Fenner Hill, this hole is more intimidating to the eye than it actually plays.

General Comments: While there is no range at Fenner Hill, there is a large putting green that is indicative of the greens on the course. When I played the first time, pace of play was horrid, and the back 9 took well over 3 hours. The course was empty the second time I played, and pace of play was excellent. The cart paths and rough here are bumpy to say the least – those in fragile health might want to be aware of this.

Verdict: A funky design full of blind shots, doglegs, and crazy green complexes have the local golfing community divided. However, Fenner Hill offers great value and is always in decent shape. I recommend you try it if you want a challenge.

 

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