Review: North Kingstown Golf Course

Course Name: North Kingstown Golf Course

Designer: Walter Johnson (1944, 1966 Renovation)

Location: North Kingstown, Rhode Island

History: Situated adjacent to a Quonset military base, NKGC was designed in 1944 by Donald Ross’s student Walter Johnson. Colloquially known as Quonset Golf Course, this course was completely renovated in 1966 by Johnson and has only improved since. In 2016, NKGC was ranked #4 public course in Rhode Island by Golfweek.

Conditions: 7/10, North Kingstown is always in solid shape. The fairways and tee boxes are especially good, while the rough is very healthy but not too penal. The greens here are smooth and roll true. The only complaints I have are that the bunkers are a bit thin and rocky, and the course doesn’t drain particularly well.

Value: 8/10, North Kingstown is one of the best values in the state. Easy to walk, this course is $41 at peak hours but offers fantastic discounts to residents, military members, seniors, and juniors. It is only $5 for juniors to walk in the summer at 6 P.M., a deal I heavily relied on while learning to play.

Scorecard:

Tee                           Par         Yardage         Rating          Slope

Blue                         70           6269               69.3              121

White                      70           5843               67.3              114

Red                          70           5227               69.1              115

Best Score: 69 (White Tees), 6/21/2016 with Dan M.

Front 9 Best: 34 (White Tees), 6/21/2016 with Dan M.

Back 9 Best: 34 (White Tees), 6/28/2016 with Mike S., and Dave L.

Hole Descriptions: Although a short course from the White Tees, North Kingstown offers pretty incredible variability; no two holes are the same and this course offers a good mix of challenging and scoring holes.

The first two holes would certainly be considered “challenging” holes, as I haven’t found a way to master them in my 100+ rounds here. At 354 yards, the starting hole is straightforward but fairly narrow. Clusters of tall trees line the left side and may obscure even the left side of the fairway. There is a dense forest on the right side that will catch deep right drives. The 1st green is one of the largest on the course and runs straight back-to-front, leading to some long, difficult putts. While there are tougher holes on the back, the number 1 handicap 2nd is clearly the most difficult on the front 9. At 392 yards, this dogleg left’s teeshot is intimidating. Anything left of the fairway will be lost in dense woods while anything too far to the right will end up on the 8th or 9th holes. The fairway gives way to rough and a creek at about 275 yards. On the other side of this creek is more fairway. This green is well-protected, with two bunkers on the left and one on the right. Chips from behind this green will be tough to stop considering this green is another that slopes heavily back-to-front. After two strong holes, the 3rd is a fantastic par 3. Ranging from 140 to 185 yards, this hole requires a carry over a swamp to a large well-bunkered green. Like the first two holes, this fast back-to-front green will lead to some three-putts.

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The 1st hole is a tight one

The par 5 4th hole is the easiest on the course at only 448 yards. What you see is what you get on this short, straightaway par 5. It is fairly open, but a highway guards the far left and trees guard the right. A recently added water hazard lines the right side of the fairway as you get closer to the green. This green is shaped like a guitar pick, with a pair of bunkers on either side. The 5th hole is one of the more interesting designs on the course. At 377 yards, this hole shares its water hazard on the right side with the 4th hole. This water loops around towards the teebox and actually requires you to carry 110 yards on your drive. The most confusing part about this hole is the trees on both sides that narrow the fairway about 215 yards off the tee. The opening between these trees is quite narrow and is actually comprised of rough. Many players choose to hit driver here, but I almost always take out long iron to stay short of these trees. However, at 377 yards, you often have to hit two long irons to hit this green. This green is probably the largest and flattest on the course. The 6th hole is another interesting hole. At only 343 yards, this hole is a slight dogleg left that requires a drive of 160 yards to carry more swampland. Once you cross the bridge to this fairway, this hole is straightforward with trees and fairway bunkers lining the right side. Fun fact: this is the only hole on the course to feature fairway bunkers. Because these trees and bunkers are so difficult to hit the green from, I just bomb my driver over these trees onto the 7th fairway because the approach is more straightforward.

Another straightaway par 5, the 7th plays 483 yards and is wide open until about 150 yards from the green. The range lines the right side of this hole at this point and a large cluster of trees makes approaches from the right rough difficult. This green is perched, with bunkers behind, left, and right. The 8th hole is the most difficult par 3 at NK at 171 yards. In addition to its length, this hole is difficult due to a large, undulating green. Not only does this green slope back-to-front hard, it also has a ridge in the middle that makes putting from the opposite side miserable. The finishing hole on the side seems easy at only 276 yards, but I’ve seen some big numbers here. This hole plays uphill, with scattered trees on the right and dense woods on the left. Driver is certainly not the play here as this green is extremely well-protected and features a brutal cross-bunker in front. The high lip of this bunker makes getting up-and-down from this bunker very difficult. This green is also notoriously firm, and getting balls to stop quickly requires a lot of spin or high ballflight.

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The approach on the 9th, with clubhouse in the background

The back 9 is only a par 34, but offers more opportunities for blow-up holes. The 10th is not one of these holes as a medium-length downhill par 3. Outside of three greenside bunkers, this hole is fairly simple, with the hardest part choosing the right club.

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The downhill par 3 10th

The 11th hole is a mammoth par 5. At just over 550 yards from the White Tees, this straightaway par 5 requires three accurate shots. There is dense forest on the left side along the entire way and groups of trees along the right side. On your lay-up shot, the fairway slopes hard left-to-right and pushes many good shots into the rough. Par is always a solid score here.

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My approach on the long par 5 11th

The 12th is an uphill 321 yarder that almost always plays into the wind. High dunes and a pond are right in front of this teebox rendering anything low or topped dead. The hardest part about this hole is the approach shot to a tiny, sloped green. Four bunkers surround this perched green on three sides and putts here will break considerably. The 13th is one of the best holes at NKGC. At 392 yards, this downhill blind teeshot features a vast wasteland on the right hand side. You can play balls from down there, but your lies can be horrendous. This is the tiniest green on the course and anything that comes in hot will run through. The backdrop of this hole is Quonset Airport, and planes routinely land behind you while you play.

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The military base by the 13th green

The 14th is the hardest par 3 on the back at 188 yards. The wind usually plays a big role on this hole, pushing many well-struck balls into the numerous greenside bunkers. The 15th is another fantastic hole and probably the hardest hole for the majority of golfers that play this course. At 403 yards, this sharp dogleg right requires a carry of 125 yards over Fry’s Pond to an elevated fairway. Drives that fade too far right will be in a valley of trees and will necessitate a punch-out. This green slopes hard back-to-front and left-to-right, and many players will have long irons or woods into this hole.

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Your view from the 15th tee

In my opinion, the hardest hole on the course is the 16th. A slender dogleg left, this hole is intimidating off the tee, as trees line the right side and the military base juts out on the left. The approach shot on this difficult par 4 is straight downhill to a huge green that slopes severely back-to-front. Some of the back pins on this hole are brutal.

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The downhill approach on 16

The 17th hole is a quirky one, and undeniably one of my least favorites on the course. At only 304 yards, this slight dogleg left features a claustrophobic teeshot that necessitates a right-to-left ballflight. Small trees line the right side while dense trees jut out on the left side right off the tee. Your approach shot on this hole will be short, but this two-tiered green is difficult to hit and well-guarded. My biggest complaint with this hole is a large dead tree that overhangs the left side of this fairway near the green. It has overgrown so much that it blocks out some of the left side of the fairway. Oddly enough, the finishing hole is another par 3 running parallel to the 10th. At 139 yards, this short hole features three bunkers, including a deep one in front of this green.

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My final tee shot on 18 when I shot 69

Best Par 3: 3rd hole, 154 yards, 15th handicap. With five par threes to choose from, this was a tight race but ultimately the 3rd hole is the most memorable par 3 at NKGC. This hole requires a forced carry of 100 yards over swampland to a large back-to-front sloped green flanked by bunkers on both sides.

Best Par 4: 13th hole, 392 yards, 8th handicap. This downhill, challenging par 4 is a picturesque (next to the military airport), fantastically designed hole. Lined by trees on the left and a massive waste area on the right, this teeshot is pretty claustrophobic. The real danger, however, is on the approach shot to a tiny green. The wind coming off the bay usually plays a big factor.

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The approach to the 13th, with the base on the right

Best Par 5: 7th hole, 483 yards, 3rd handicap. Holes 4 and 11 are pretty straightforward, but 7 has a lot going on. Its length makes it a fun risk/reward short par 5 for longer players to go for the green in two. Trees interfere on the right with your layup, and this elevated green design makes any approach shot difficult.

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The approach on the par 5 7th

General Comments: The practice facilities are pretty standard at North Kingstown with a large practice green and 220 yard driving range. You aren’t supposed to hit driver on the range, but that doesn’t stop most people. Pace of play at North Kingstown is one of the main detractors, especially during summer afternoons as there are leagues every day of the week. With that being said, sometimes the course is empty so it’s a good idea to call the proshop to ask ahead of time. Pro-tip: Try to play during the air show – the Back 9 is on Quonset’s Military Base and the views you get are pretty amazing.

Verdict: Supremely fun, affordable, and well-conditioned, North Kingstown holds a special place in my heart. In addition to being the place where I learned how to golf, my first (and only ATM) hole-in-one occurred here, my first sub-80 and sub-70 rounds occurred here, and my first under par round occurred here. If you’re looking for an underrated course accessible from anywhere in Rhode Island, NKGC is your place.

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My hole in one on 8

 

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