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by John Cardullo, sportswriter
For 60 years Midville Golf Course has been a Rhode Island 9-hole treasure that gets better with time.
Built on a dairy farm and opened in 1961, Midville was not going to be just your average run of the mill 9-hole golf course. It was going to challenge you on every hole, it was going to make you think for the best places to land your ball so you can set up for the next shot, and if going from tee to green wasn’t enough, then the greens themselves were prepared to give any golfer “fits” as they putt.
On most golf courses, especially a 9-hole course you are able to see the flag that is planted on the green that you are shooting at, but at Midville you’re able to see the flag from only three of the nine holes. Every one of Midville’s nine can be your own chamber of horrors at any given time. This course has a rating of 34.2, a slope of 115, and is bent grass. It is a 2,920-yard par-35 that seems innocent enough, but has plenty of turns, twists and secrets that greet each golfer who wants to think of their next shot and figure out how to beat the course. Having played Midville since I began playing about 25 years ago, I could never quite figure out why this course did not like me. Remembering my first round which happened to be my worst round ever, shooting a 60, but improving to a career low of 40 (could not hole one more shot) a handful of times. Today, however, was going to be different for me and my golfing partner of the day. I knew this course and what it can do to a round, and I determined that it was not going to get the best of me like it has done so many times before.
Hole #1 is a straight out 345-yard par-4 that has a slight decline to the green. Trees line both sides of the fairway but it’s spacious toward the right side; on the left side the trees protect the street that runs to the course’s clubhouse and parking lot. About 145 yards in the center of the fairway is a sprawling tree that makes you choose where you want to take your opening drive. If you go left you may end up in one of two fairway sand traps, go right and you can go out at an angle which brings a bunker that protects the green or straight which you have to clear that tree that seems a lot bigger than it is. I went at the tree and was able to clear over the top but sliced my drive to the right off the fairway. Being 150 yards out my next shot ended up pin high off the green. A pitch and two putts later, a bogey 5 I recorded on my card.
Onto hole #2, another par-4 305-yard that has the irrigation feeding pond along the right side of the fairway; on the left was another fairway bunker about 165 yards from the tee. The fairway has a slight bend to the right where an elevated green that has three more fairway bunkers. The green, itself, pitches down back to the front and a shot can trickle back down the foot of the hill that leads up to the green, and even the best shots can run in every which direction before settling in position. My tee shot leaked again to the right but ended up along the side of the pond with space to spare. My approach shot landed on the hill and stayed to my amazement. My chip shot didn’t make it to the flat of the green and trickled back to where I was, my next pitch was hit a little stronger and ended up feet from the hole; two putts later I walked away with a double bogey, and did I mention that the greens at Midville can go in different directions so a mis-read can cost you dearly?
Hole #3 is a 335-yard par-4, the tee box is elevated, and the pond extends along the right side before the fairway area. If you pull your drive too much, there is the pump house for the courses irrigation system and beyond that is a cluster of pine trees that protect the corner of the left fairway. There is a slight dogleg left of the corner, about 150 yards to the green which is an elevated “bowl” of a surface, known to those who frequently play the course as the “Teflon hole” because nothing ever sticks to the surface. Trying to cut the corner (and expecting my slight slice) I was shocked when I hit my drive to where I was aiming. My second shot went left again hole high but on the low side of the green making my pitch to the green concerning, my pitch made it onto the green barely, two putts later I had another bogey 5.
Hole # 4 is another par-4, 345 yards from tee to green. Trees to both right and left sides of the fairway and 245 yards out a fairway trap on the left and two mini hills puts you 100 yards out to an incline where the green veers to the left with two bunkers protecting the green to the front. Pull your drive to far left and you’re in “tree jail”, which I did. Fortunate for me I landed between two trees that allowed me to poke back onto the fairway; my 3rd shot ended in one of the sand traps, getting out and on to the green I again two putted and had my second double bogey of the day. Frustrated I tee my ball at the first of two par 3 holes on the course. This hole is a 145-yard that plays longer, and the green is elevated and inclines uphill from the fairway. The surface goes every which way, depending where on the putting surface that you end up. Duffing my tee shot my ball carried to the base of the green, chipping up short, it took 3 attempts with my putter before putting out with a double bogey 5, and talking to myself as I headed to the next hole.
Teeing up on hole # 6 the only par-5 at Midville, is a 525 yard straight out hole. Landing your tee shot in the fairway is important because you have two fairway traps along the left and a cluster of trees on the right with another fairway bunker on the right. A “valley” runs from 250 to 200 yards from the green then another cluster of trees on the right. The green is protected with a sand trap on the left and a green that runs up hill making the hole an adventure to say the least. A good tee shot is important. I, however, pulled mine that left me barely on the far end of the fairway – not a good start! My next shot was a sweet 3 wood that made it to the upside of the “valley” and using the same club at an inclined 180 yards out, I took a blind shot toward the hole. Climbing up the hill and approaching the green I discovered my 3rd shot made it onto the green and to make the situation better it was below the hole. Two putts later I pared my first hole of the day, the hardest ranked hole at Midville.
Hitting the back 3rd of the course is hole # 7, a 150-yard par-3. The tee box is elevated the fairway runs downward into another small “valley” and comes up to a large green that has more ups and downs than a roller coaster at an amusement park. Hitting a good tee shot that fell short of the green, did I mention that the area is surrounded by trees and if your shot goes above the tree line the wind will knock it down. The greens being on the fast side all day, my pitched went past the hole more than I intended, with the pin placed in a tricky position, I took a 2 putt 4 and was happy with the bogey.
The 8th hole at Midville is a straight out, 290-yard hole that the fairway slants from right to left, you want to be on the right side. Trees are to the left and fairway bunkers to the right. From the tee you can see the top of the flag, the fairway also rises a bit before dropping off at the yard mark then rises to a green that you definitely want to stay to the front or right side, because everything falls off to the left side of the hole as you approach. Hitting my drive to the right side well short of the fairway bunker my 2nd shot hit a tree branch and fell toward the green but off to the right. Telling you by experience this is not where you want to pitch your ball from. The golf gods were looking down favorably on me because my pitch settled about 6 inches below the hole that was tapped in for my second par of the round. Feeling good with a par, bogey and par it was onto the final hole of the round, the 330-yard par 4 9th hole. From the tee box there is a slight dogleg left that opens up wide with very little of the ways of hazards if you get your tee shot aimed at the 150-yard marker. Pull the ball short too much to the left, you have a tree line to contend with, and hit too far straight through the bend and you may find yourself at or into the tree line on the right. Skulling my tee shot but making it next to the 150-yard maker, I again duffed my second shot. Now sitting 100 away from the green, I pulled my approach shot left and pin high off the left side of the green. My pitch shot ran across the green and almost went in the hole just rolling past and stopping a couple of inches from the hole for another bogey, and a respectable 10 over par 45 for the round.
Since the pandemic hit and golf courses could open with precautions, Midville Golf Course has followed the rules to a tee. Service to play is conducted from the clubhouse window, no one is allowed in the club house for any reason. As it has been with each of the golf courses that I have played, Covid-19 protocols are in place. Hole pins remain in place, golf carts are thoroughly cleaned immediately after use. The course which has always been in great shape remains so thanks to the efforts of owners Ron and Richard Lombardi and their staff, Midville has had the reputation as being one of the best 9-hole venue in Rhode Island.
I will give Midville Golf Course an A+, as it challenges the golfer on every shot and punishes players for poor decisions. There are enough hills and valleys, and twists and turns on the course that make each hole an adventure onto themselves. Midville Golf Course reads like a book with each hole its own chapter. It costs a little more to play a round at Midville but for the quality and shape the course is in makes it worth the extra couple of dollars. Midville Golf Course is a must play venue in West Warwick, even if you play it once this season you will be happy that you did.