Review: Newport National Golf Club – The Orchard Course

Course Name: Newport National Golf Club – The Orchard Course

Designer: Arthur Hills/Drew Rogers (2002)

Location: Middletown, Rhode Island

History: The original plan for Newport National was two championship golf courses, but a down economy in the early 2000’s only allowed for one course and a makeshift clubhouse. Despite this speedbump, Newport National’s Orchard (East) Course has received rave reviews and was ranked the #1 public golf course in Rhode Island by Golf.com in 2014 and Golfweek in 2015. It is the only public course to crack GolfDigest’s Top 10 Rhode Island courses at #8 in 2016. In addition to this local love, Newport National also was ranked the #1 public course in all of New England by New England Golf Monthly in 2015.

Conditions: 8/10, Newport National is one of the best conditioned courses in the state, with flowing dunes, thick rough, and fast, smooth greens.

Value: 3/10, a day at Newport National will not be cheap, with weekday prices during the summer at $125.

Scorecard:

Tee                           Par         Yardage         Rating          Slope

Black                       72           7244               74.1              139

Gold                        72           6553                71.6              132

Green                      72          6017                68.3              127

Red                           71          5217                69.5              123

Best Score: 91 (Gold Tees), 8/12/2012 with Dad

Front 9 Best: 46 (Gold Tees), 8/12/2012 with Dad

Back 9 Best: 45 (Gold Tees), 8/12/2012 with Dad

Hole Highlights: Depending on which tees you use, Newport National can be a very demanding course, especially when the wind starts howling. Precision is often required, and a good example of this is the 1st, a quirky dogleg left par 5 that immediately grabs your attention. From the Gold Tees, your first drive of the day must carry marshland for about 170 yards and stay short of the dogleg at 250 yards. Trees line both sides of the drive and make this drive even more intimidating. While this par 5 is short and reachable, I find the approach shot almost unfair, as the fairway narrows significantly and marshland lines the left side of the fairway all the way to the green. A deep bunker 70 yards from the green catches balls sprayed right by golfers afraid of marshland on the left. The 2nd hole is the 3rd handicap and plays uphill at 400 yards. The teeshot appears more narrow than it actually is but bunkers strategically placed on both sides of this snaking fairway will make going for the green almost impossible. Interestingly, holes 3 and 4 are parallel par threes that run in opposite directions. They both play about 160 yards and have bunkers short left of the green. Neither hole is bad, but having them back to back seems a bit cheap.

The 5th hole is one of the best short par 4’s I’ve played. Officially 296 yards on the scorecard, the dogleg left’s green is really only about 250 yards from the tee box if you cut the corner. To do so successfully requires precision and length to avoid dunes left of the hole and a series of bunkers. Two kidney-shaped bunkers lie deep just short of this elevated green and make getting up and down very difficult. At 449 yards from the Gold Tees, the number 1 handicap 6th hole is only difficult for its length. As long as you avoid a large bunker on the right side of the fairway, this hole plays easy as you can run up your approach shot to an unprotected green. The 7th hole is another fantastic par 4 at 444 yards. This downhill dogleg left is a beautiful driving hole and is fairly open, with everything visible in front of you. Club selection on the downhill approach is difficult and a large bunker lines the left side of this sloping green. The 8th hole is another very quirky short par 5. This hole is a sharp dogleg right that requires either a big slice or iron off the tee to avoid going through this fairway. It is not possible to aim straight at the hole off the tee due to tall trees that block a view of the green from the teebox. This is perhaps the only hole I know with a square green complex, and several tiny bunkers surround this strange green. The finishing hole on the front 9 is fairly short, but plays uphill and requires a drive of over 190 yards to carry a wetland. Once you’re on the other side of the wetland, most players only need a wedge to this tiny green.

The opener on the back is one of the toughest holes on the course. The drive is wide open on this 383 yarder, but most players will have to hit less than driver to stay short of marshland 240 yards from the tee. The marshland spans over 100 yards and this approach shot to a well-bunkered elevated green is undoubtedly one of the hardest on the course. The 11th hole is the most conventional par 5 yet and plays downhill at 505 yards. The danger on this hole comes from the drive – the more distance you achieve, the tighter this fairway gets as thick trees line the left and a series of 6 bunkers line the right fairway. Bunkers start up again short of this green and laying up to about 80 yards is probably the move here. Relative to par, the 12th hole is perhaps the easiest on the course. This straightaway 326 yard hole is simple and pretty, as a pond lines the right hand side of the hole near the teebox. The 13th is a fantastic short 140 yard par 3 with a pond on the right side of this green. To the left of this green is a tiny bunker and a fairway full of awkward tight lies, both of which create difficult up-and-downs.

The 14th is my favorite par 5 on the course. At 523 yards, this slight dogleg right is an extremely solid hole. This fairway is cut in three by cartpaths and the green is heavily sloped from back to front. The 15th is another great long par 4 at 396 yards. This slight dogleg left is lined by thin trees on the left side and features two absolutely devastating bunkers – one on the left side of the fairway 220 yards out and one 50 yards short of this green. The 15th green is tiny, and tight fairway slopes behind the green, making long approach shots dead. The most difficult of the par threes, the 212 yard 16th requires a wood from most players. This green is two-tiered and two bunkers and three grass bunkers flank the fairway short of this green. The hardest hole on the difficult back 9 is the 439 yard monstrous par 4 17th. A dogleg left, this hole features a 100 yard long bunker that lines the left side of the fairway. Another large bunker lies just short of this tiny green. The finishing 18th is a similar hole to the 9th as an uphill dogleg left that requires a drive over marshland. This hole is a bit stronger however, due to it’s distance at 381 yards.

General Comments: In addition to the price, one of the biggest complaints about Newport National is the fact that there is no range, and that the clubhouse is a trailer. The golf course itself is the priority clearly, but this is not the type of course you can share a drink on the patio afterwards at. Newport National gets saturated quickly in the summer when tourists flock to Newport, making pace of play somewhat languid.

Verdict: Newport National is clearly the best public golf course in Rhode Island and makes a strong case for one of the finest in New England. It is by no means the best value, however, and its practice facilities are lacking. A perfect summer day is going to the range at Green Valley, golf at Newport National, and drinks overlooking the ocean in Newport.

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