Here are 5 of the best public golf courses in Rhode Island

When people talk about the great golf courses in Rhode Island, it’s usually a conversation about clubs that the state’s average golfer can't access.

Good news is, there are more than a few terrific tracks around the state to play – and as an average golfer, I’ve played them all over the years.

While I’m not afraid to accept any and all invitations to play some of the state’s finest clubs, if you’re out golfing in Rhode Island this summer, these are the five public courses I think you should play in 2024.

Golfers walk to a green Monday at Newport National Golf Club in Middletown.
Golfers walk to a green Monday at Newport National Golf Club in Middletown.

Worth Every Penny

Newport National is routinely ranked the state’s No. 1 public course and after playing it last year, it’s not hard to see why.

The place pops. After not playing it for over a decade – last time I was there, actor Patrick Warburton was in town filming ‘Underdog’ and joined myself and a friend for a twilight round – it was breathtaking to see on a perfect morning in July.

Each hole presented a different challenge. The course seemed so wide open yet so tight and you really needed to think about every shot. I put myself in a lot of bad ones and while it tanked my score, it didn’t take away from the experience.

The price tag hits hard. It’s the most expensive in the state — $150 to ride during the week, $175 on weekends — and that doesn’t get you much other than golf. At that price there should be more amenities – the range and full clubhouse will be open next year – or at least cold drinking water every four holes or so.

My pockets aren’t deep enough to play this place more than once a season, but that once a year is worth it. The greens are fantastic. The layout is a dream. If you’re serious about golf, it’s a must-play.

Just bring plenty of water.

Meadow Brook in Richmond is one of the best bargains in the state.
Meadow Brook in Richmond is one of the best bargains in the state.

Best Bang for Your Buck

When Meadow Brook re-opened in 2010, the new redesign drew rave reviews but also came with a triple-digit price tag for rounds that scared off a lot of folks in the golfing community who took their games to cheaper courses nearby.

That’s changed — and it’s made Meadow Brook the best bargain in the state.

It’s $73 during the week and $83 on weekends and for what is the No. 1 or 2 public golf course in the state, it makes me question why people play anywhere else.

The two nines are drastically different, with an open front side and a tight back that require two sets of skills. If you’re like me and have neither it’s still incredibly playable once you get a lay of the land.

When it comes to early morning golf, Meadow Brook is my favorite track in RI. Dew-sweepers know that early mornings in July are when this place pops. It’s worth the drive, worth the price, and will be a place you get to more than once a year if you’re a golfer.

The Taylor Swift of RI Golf

Connecticut National Golf Club is, as the name implies, not in Rhode Island. Because of its proximity to the RI border, it is a Rhode Island Golf Association member club, so we’re including it on this list.

People told me about the course for years, but it wasn’t until COVID that I checked it out — and I was immediately angry I hadn’t gone sooner (and not just because it’s 15 minutes from home).

There isn’t a public course in RI like CT National. It’s backroads driving until you arrive on property and for four hours, its just you, a golf course and all the other hacks trying to enjoy an afternoon.

The design is more fun than any course I’ve played in RI, with plenty of risk-reward on short par 4s and its gettable par 5s. The conditions are better than any public course – outside of Newport National – that I’ve seen in RI. It’s $75 riding during the week, $78 on weekends, and if you’re looking to save money or enjoy playing the right way, this is a very walkable course. Range balls are included in that fee, which only adds to the experience.

I know the idea of driving to Putnam is terrifying for many in our state, but trust me – Connecticut National is the must-play Rhode Island course for 2024.

Country View Golf Course in Burrillville.
Country View Golf Course in Burrillville.

Fun First Golf

In a former life, I was a snobby golf guy who would never dream of playing a course unless it had perfectly manicured fairways and greens that rolled 12 on the stimp.

Those days are over. Now, it’s all about fun.

Country View Golf Course in Harrisville has become the site of a new holiday – “Go Golfing With Your Brother-in-Law and Drink Vodka Lemonades Day.” It was created four years ago by myself and my brother-in-law — our wives are sisters and they hate it — and it’s my favorite day of the summer.

Country View is what it is. Fairways are firm, the greens are spongy and slow and while there’s plenty of green, there’s also some brown throughout the course.

But I’ve never had a bad time there. The front nine in incredibly playable, with no trouble anywhere and a chance to post a low number. The back is target-based, but with responsible play – which can vary based on your intake during the holiday – is incredibly scorable and a place both myself and my brother in law – enjoy.

If you give it a go, I promise it’ll be fun. Hope to see you this holiday season.

Valley Country Club in Warwick.
Valley Country Club in Warwick.

Go Feel Fancy

Valley Country Club went through some rough times, but in recent years it has come back and opened its doors for public play.

Last year Valley was in peak conditions, akin to what it was during its heyday in the late 90s early 2000s. The course is fair, fun and challenging, provided you can read greens. The par 3s on this course are maddening and there are so many shots out there that seem so simple – right until you hit, watch your ball and realize they’re not.

It’s a great golf course. It’s $75 to ride during the week, $85 on weekends, which puts it in line with the state’s other familiar public courses.

But as someone who grew up – and still is – outside the country club scene, having the chance to play Valley whenever I want matters a little more than playing the state’s other tracks, which is why I’ll be back this summer.

This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: Here are 5 of the best public golf courses in Rhode Island