Review: Potowomut Golf Club

Course Name: Potowomut Golf Club

Designer: Unknown (1927, 9 holes), Walter Johnson (1947, Redesign)

Location: Warwick, Rhode Island

History: Established in 1927, the fledgling club expanded to an 18 hole championship course by 1947 with the help of Donald Ross’s apprentice Walter Johnson. The word “Potowomut” is a Native American word for “land of fires.”

Conditions: 7/10, Potowomut was in very good shape with true greens, thick rough, and well-manicured fairways.

Value: N/A, this is a private course.

Scorecard:

Tee                           Par         Yardage         Rating          Slope

Blue                         71           6380                70.6              128

White                      71           6020               68.8              124

Red                           73          5649                73.3              126

Best Score: 81 (Blue Tees), 10/16/2016 with Uncle Brendan, Dad, and Dylan

Front 9 Best: 37 (Blue Tees), 12/27/2015 with Colin S. and Ryan S.

Back 9 Best: 41 (Blue Tees), 10/16/2016 with Uncle Brendan, Dad, and Dylan

Hole Highlights: Potowomut is similar to North Kingstown Golf Course, Walter Johnson’s other design, in that it offers a nice variety of scoring and challenging holes. The opener at Potowomut is certainly the latter, playing 429 yards from the tips. The teeshot is downhill from a plateau, and danger looms on both sides of this narrow fairway. You must carry your drive 175 yards to avoid a small pond on the left, and 240 yards to carry a devastating fairway bunker on the left. In addition to these hazards, a line of tall trees on the left creates many punch-outs. The right side of this hole is much more open, but some of the lies can get gnarly in this thick rough. The key to this long par 4 is the fact that you can run up the ball to the green, as the only bunkers surrounding this green are on the sides. The 2nd hole is a 362 yard dogleg left aptly named “Little Bend.” Good drives will play on this fairly open hole and leave only a wedge to an elevated green that you have to cross a pond to get to. This is the largest green on the course, and three putts are not rare. Although the “easiest” hole on the front side according to handicap, the short par 3 3rd plays difficult relative to par. At 163 yards, this green is about 20 yards below the teebox, making club selection and wind judgment very difficult. To make matters worse, this green is extremely tiny and sloped from back-to-front. I have yet to par this hole in two tries.

At 370 yards, the straightaway par 4 4th features a teebox lined by a canopy of trees. The hole is fairly open outside of this and only difficult if you mishit your approach shot, as this undulating green is well-protected by bunkers on all sides. The difficult par 4 5th is the number 1 handicap hole due to it’s length (429 yards), and tight teeshot with OB left. This claustrophobic teeshot demands a well-struck driver to have a chance at hitting this elevated green in two. At 199 yards, the long par 3 6th features a long but narrow green with two deep bunkers on either side that are popular spots. The 7th is an interesting hole; at only 352 yards, this dogleg left is fairly tight with trees that line almost the entire way to the green on the left. The perfect drive here only leaves a wedge in, but drives too short might be blocked out by the trees on the left. A fairway bunker 250 yards on the right side is a popular bailout spot for people who push their drive right. Both times I’ve played the 406 yard 8th, it has been straight downwind. This is an extremely fun driving hole due to the blind teeshot thanks to a hump in the middle of the fairway. The finishing par 5 9th is a fantastic short par 5 that offers a realistic chance at birdie. While 445 yards seems short on the scorecard, this hole plays both uphill and into the wind normally, making three shots the norm to reach this green. The difficult on this hole comes near the green which is narrow and slopes hard off the back and right. Balls not lucky enough to find the bunkers in these spots will be forced to make a very difficult up-and-downs.

After waiting 9 holes for the first par 5, you get two in a row with the opener on the back 9. At 497 yards, this downhill, downwind hole offers a realistic chance at back-to-back birdies. Drives here that carry the 240 yard bunker on the left side will tumble down the downslope and leave a long iron into this green. This green is well-protected by bunkers but good shots will be rewarded. The 11th was my least favorite hole on the course as a straightaway bland 354 yard par 4. Out of bounds guards the left side, while the right side is fairly open outside of one tree. This green is two-tiered and somewhat gimmicky. The par 3 12th is the longest on the course at 207 yards. Out of bounds guards the left and back of the green while hidden water guards the right. These hazards are certainly in play but not overwhelmingly daunting as there is plenty of room between them and the green. The 13th is one of the more interesting holes on the course and one that is tricky the first time playing it. This tight 323 yard par 4 demands a straight teeshot with less than a driver to have a blind approach shot straight uphill to a tiny green. Named “Panorama,” the fantastic 379 yard par 4 offers a great view of the course from its elevated teebox. The hole itself plays downhill and slightly to the left. There is an interesting stonewall on the left that looks like it was built before the course.

The par 5 15th is by far the hardest par 5 on the course and rated the hardest hole on the back at 527 yards. This hole is a true marathon requiring three good shots to hit the green. Trees line the entire left side of this dogleg left, but you are thankful they are there because otherwise hooked drives would be out of bounds into a busy street. This isn’t the only time cars come into play on this hole, as this fairway is bisected by the clubhouse driveway about 315 yards off the tee. Once you get past this road, the hole is fairly straightforward for about 200 yards, with bunkers on both sides. After two great holes, the par 3 16th is my favorite par 3 on the course and also the shortest at 159 yards. This hole plays severely uphill, making club selection difficult. Two deep bunkers in front and behind this green make club selection that much more important. The 17th is another strong par 4 at 391 yards. This hole plays downhill and is lined by trees on both sides. Water looms just right of the trees and is certainly in play. After four straight extremely good holes, I’d be lying if I said the finishing hole wasn’t a letdown. This hole plays 387 yards on the scorecard but is incredibly confusing when you first look at it. The fairway gives way to water about 240 yards off the tee but drives under 200 yards with irons will be blocked out/leave too long of an approach shot in. If you can get a ball to the end of the fairway, you will have to carry your approach shot to an elevated green over the water. Balls just short of this green will roll back a good 20 yards due to an extremely steep slope.

General Comments: The putting and chipping greens are tiny, but the driving range is over 300 yards and one of the better ones in the state. Pace of play has been very good here when I’ve played. Potowomut holds some sentimental value, as my dad and uncle learned the game here by caddying as teenagers.

Verdict: Similar to Walter Johnson’s only other design North Kingstown Golf Course, Potowomut is a supremely fun course that offers a good design, solid conditioning, and plenty of chances for both birdies and big scores. It is certainly worth a play if given the chance.

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