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by John Cardullo, sportswriter
The Jamestown Golf Couse is a little slice of heaven located on the beautiful island of Jamestown. It is a MUST play course for every weekend golfer.
This is the 3rd part of a multi-part series on the local golf courses in the state of Rhode Island by a self-admitted weekend golfer who is more of a hacker and duffer. The courses are selected randomly and played without prior knowledge of the owners and staff, so to get the experience of every golfer who plays the course.
The Jamestown Golf Course is located on the far eastern side on the island of Jamestown, Rhode Island at the foot of the Newport Bridge that looms over the course like a lurking giant looking down at the play on the course. Located at 245 Cononicus Avenue the course is located right off the last exit into Jamestown before you get on the Newport Bridge.
Pulling into the tiny parking lot you can’t help but notice the construction of what is going to be the newest addition to the course, the new clubhouse, expected to be in full use by the end of the summer. The golf course is a par 36, 3,058 yards, built in the links style tradition. A 110-slope and a 69.7 rating. The course was built in 1895 and is one of the country’s oldest courses, built in what was a cow pasture, originally called the Conanicut Golf Club.
In 1951 the course was re-laid out to its present form and has remained the same to this day. Most visitors who came to play Jamestown originally were either wealthy locals or vacationers who traveled to Newport and could not get on the slightly older (by five years) and more prestigious, Newport Country Club. As was the case with most golf courses in the early 1900s, Jamestown was laid out on a former farm, at a time where farming and dairy businesses were going out of business as larger farms and dairies where serving the masses with a larger distribution network. This forced the owners of large parcels of land to sell off the land or get creative and build a golf course.
After paying a very reasonable greens fee, with a cart, my group headed to the first tee. Being a weekday morning there was no waiting and we were able to tee up and play away. The first hole was a par 4, 300-yard straight hole with a large green with 4 sand traps on the right side. As with most first holes on any golf course, there are no real hazards as you approach the green. I’ve come to the conclusion that the designers like to get you into a false sense of security with the first hole. After holing out with a bogey, we were on to hole #2 where things were going to get interesting very quickly!
The second hole at Jamestown is the longest hole on the course. A 541-yard par 5 with a water hazard that runs along the right side of the fairway, the fairway itself slants to the right, making the straightest drive into the middle, end up dangerously near the water. If you try to stay to the left and on top of the slant, you find that a fairway bunker may be a problem for you off the tee. My drive followed the script but ended up right on the edge before the water, and two shots later I turned a par putt into another bogey.
The course itself was in great shape and with beautiful scenery all around, it’s easy to get caught up with sightseeing, and you can’t help notice the Pell/Newport bridge in the backdrop. Moving onto hole #4, a 293 short par 4. Running in the same direction as hole #2 but with no water hazard to worry about, the openness that you have enjoyed to this point disappears, and a stray shot to the right can find its way out of bounds quickly. Three sand traps protect the front of the green with another along the back left makes you think of your landing spot on your 2nd shot. The green slopes to the right and depending on the pin location this simple “short” par four can become a nightmare. Fortunately for me I navigated the hole and recorded my 3rd bogey of the round. So far, so good.
Hole #5 is the first par 3 on the course that at 130 yards is also the shortest hole on the course. Surrounded with four large bunkers and crosswinds that can blow even the best shots off the tee to anywhere and knock down even the best of the tee efforts, which is just what happened to my tee shot. Landing to the left in front of a sand trap on the left, a pitch and a single putt later, and I recorded my first par of the day and I was onto hole #6, the second par 5 on the course. As has been the case all year there has been that ONE hole that gives me fits, and hole #6 which is a 450 par-5 where the fairway is elevated, trees and high grass run along both sides was it. In the style of all European link style courses, the grass is left to grow waist high, so if your ball ends up in any of these many spots on the course, it will be tough to find, as was the case for me and a groupmate. If you do happen to find your ball, a shot out of that area is almost impossible. Going in to find my ball, I was lucky because the ball was close to the edge, but I took a stroke and dropped out of the hazard, but in locating my friend’s ball I found 4 balls as a bonus. Struggling to finish the hole with an 8, there is always that one hole! We were onto the final 3 holes on the course.
Hole #7 is a 161-yard par 3 that has 5 sand traps surrounding the green. If you go to far right you can easily get yourself into trouble. If you cannot find the middle of the fairway, then off to the left will not hurt you. Crosswinds do make you think about your club selection, and I decided to club up and found my ball on the back of the green which I two-putted for my second par of the day.
The par 4, 405-yard 8th hole is rated the hardest hole on the course. A slight dogleg left, there are two fairway bunkers that make you think of your landing spot for your 2nd shot. Pushing too far right before the corner can get you into trap #1 and make the 2nd shot very difficult, or if you decide to “cut the corner” you can find the second fairway trap just over the trees. My tee shot made the fairway, running past the first trap and giving me a nice straight second shot to the green, which has an additional 3 sand traps around it. Pulling my next shot to the left of the green, my ball landed in front of the far left trap, mis-hitting the pitch I ended up on the lip of the trap, a bump and run and a putt that managed to find the hole, I recorded another bogey and we were off to the final hole.
At the tee of hole #9, you cannot help yourself to stop and take in the view. The Newport/Pell bridge peeks down at you from directly over the green. The view is truly majestic, and you cannot help from admiring it as you tee up your ball.
The hole itself is a par 4, 375-yard perfect finishing hole. It has out of bounds to the right and a line of tress along the left. Staying near the fairway is where you want to be. As it is with every hole on the course and in the link style tradition, sand traps are located in front and on each side of the green, and I landed my drive (my longest of the day) in the middle of the fairway, and a second shot landed on the green in front of the pin, but rolled behind the hole. A two putt later and a par gave me a 44 on my score card and by far my best round of the 2020 season.
During the late Spring and throughout the mid Fall season, play at Jamestown is constant and busy. Tee times are encouraged for weekend play; however, they do not take tee times during the week; it is kept as 1st come 1st served tee times. They do take weekend tee time reservations as far as a week in advance. To call or to make tee times the phone number is 401-423-9930.
The staff was friendly and accommodating and in this covid-19 era, as with the courses that we have played to this point, safety measures are in place and enforced. The clubhouse served the basics – hot dogs, chips, candy and snacks, soft drinks, and alcoholic beverages. We were unable to eat in the clubhouse, which has been the case in the courses that we have played this season.
I will give Jamestown Golf Couse an A+ rating, it is a well maintained, links style course with enough dangers that make you think about how to play your next shot. The course has amazing scenic views and the staff was friendly and informative. I highly recommend a round at Jamestown. Be sure to check yourself for ticks when you finish your round, though.