With nearly 20 courses and 100 miles of coastline, the sun and sand is never far away.By John Torsiello | Above photo of East Beach, Charlestown by John Woodmansee
There’s nothing like dipping your toes into the sand on a beautiful beach after digging your golf shoes into too many sand bunkers earlier in the day. That’s exactly what can happen when you visit the beaches and golf courses of the South County region of Rhode Island. There are some of the finest stretches of sand in New England upon which to lay a blanket, and also top daily fee courses to test your game.
Some have called South County “The Golf Coast of New England.” With 17 public courses, that isn’t much of a stretch. There are also 100 miles of coastline that offer a variety of beaches, so South County’s ocean sand can rejuvenate the soul after a bogey-filled round. With a multitude of lodging options, from hotels to quaint, historic bed-and-breakfast establishments, along with some of the best seafood restaurants in New England, South County is a recipe for a memorable, soul-refreshing stay.
Here’s a look at a few of my favorite courses and beaches that make South County a first-class destination.
Meadow Brook Golf Course in Richmond sits on the site of a former nine-hole layout that Roger Rulewich and David Fleury turned into one of the top layouts in New England. Meadow Brook can top out at around 7,500 yards from the tips. The conditions are always top notch and the routing is definitely a test, but it’s manageable if played from the proper tees.
I also love Richmond Country Club, which is located in a pine forest. I get the feeling of being in the Carolinas when I play here because of those tall pines and the rather flat terrain over which the track is routed. The pines frame each hole and make the tee shot crucial.
West Kingston’s Beaver River Golf Club favors careful course management and a thoughtful approach to each shot. The track plays barely 6,000 yards from the tips and features an enjoyable mix of holes, with plenty of hazards and narrow, tree-lined fairways, many of which bend one way or the other.
Hope Valley’s Fenner Hill Golf Club is a fun track that has to be played more than once to fully understand what the best shot is on each occasion. It’s a shot-maker’s course, with some forced carries, and it places a premium on driving accuracy.
Laurel Lane Country Club, located in West Kingston, bills itself as “The Gem of South County,” and features nice conditions and a player-friendly routing. It’s on the short side at just 6,128 yards from the tips, but there are two par-4’s that play over 400 yards. There are a number of short par-4 holes that allow the player to use driver, a fairway wood or long iron off the tee.
When it’s time to hit the beach, here are a few of South County’s best stretches of sand.
Misquamicut State Beach in Westerly is perhaps my favorite. The sun rises to the left and sets to the right, offering stunning visuals both early and late in the day. And you can see pop star Taylor Swift’s cliffside mansion in the distance. The beach generally has modest surf and soft sand, with a gradual drop off. It gets pretty hectic during the summer months. There are some nearby funky oceanside bars and cafés.
Narragansett Town Beach is one mile long and features some of the best surfing in New England due to its smoothly curling waves. A walk north along the beach leads to the mouth of the Pettaquamscutt River. Check out the shopping boutiques in nearby Pier Marketplace. There are also several restaurants with outdoor decks overlooking the ocean.
Blue Shutters Town Beach in Charlestown is a family-friendly beach. It’s a pretty spot with views of Block Island Sound. Watch Hill Beach in Westerly is small, but lies behind the famed antique Flying Horse Carousel in the center of chic Watch Hill. Salty Brine State Beach in Narragansett is also known as Galilee Beach. Barely 100 yards long, it is set close to the busy Galilee docks and several seafood restaurants. And Scarborough State Beach in Narragansett is a beach for all ages with two pavilions, a boardwalk and an observation tower.
So, if you want to combine beach sand with sand traps, South County is a great place to visit.