Wannamoisett
RI, USA

Seventh hole, 345 yards; Holes like this and the thirteenth at Pinehurst No. 2 prove that holes don’t have to be long to challenge the good player. Give Ross credit for capturing an interesting spine within the fairway and the skilled golfer is delighted if he can successfully stay on top of this spine and avoid the six fairway bunkers. From there, he enjoys the best look at the green which falls away both front and back. In recent times, the green was wisely extended back as close as possible to the hidden back-right bunker. Especially with short-irons, it takes more nerve to attack a hole that has danger beyond it than it does in going after a hole just over a hazard.

Ala the fifth green, Ross took advantage of the ridge line running through this portion of the property to create another doozy of a green complex, complete with a false front - and a false back! In the foreground is the spine that the golfer would dearly love for his tee ball to stay a top as it provides the perfect angle (as well as the most level stance) to approach this green.

Ninth hole, 455 yards; Several new tees (most notably at the second) have seen to it that Wannamoisett now measures almost 6,750 from its back markers. That sounds manageable until you realize that you are only given 69 strokes to cover that distance. If Wannamoisett was a traditional par 72 by having three more par fives, it would measure over 7,000. As it is, there is only one par five for the professionals/top amateurs to try and beat up on. That leaves a bunch of hard par fours and in fact, out of the first ten holes, six are par fours that measure over 420 yards.  Thus, rather than comforting the golfer, a study of the scorecard should make him realize that he is in for quite a tussle. The ninth symbolizes the courses’ demand for accurate driving (the drive must find the fairway and not one of its seven bunkers) and controlled mid-iron approach shots.

Ross put the natural water hazard directly in play when he placed the ninth green on the far bank. In 1916, it was a risk/reward par five but when the scorecard was changed from a par five to a four after World War Two, the hole became a beast.

Tenth hole, 420 yards; Given that the tenth plays up the same the general hill as the first hole, one of Ross’s challenges was to give each hole its own character. He admirably succeeded with both being among the finest on the course yet entirely different from one another. To this day, Forse marvels at how much Ross got out of this site using a light touch and the bunkerless tenth green set in a natural bowl epitomizes ‘less is more’ architecture.

Despite playing up a gradual slope, the tenth is full of visual appeal thanks to Ross's staggered bunkering scheme.

Looking back, the tenth fairway is to the left of the tall flagstick (the ninth fairway is to the right).

Twelfth hole, 210 yards; ‘The finest one-shot hole in the nation’ according to Ross and yet to start with all he had was the broad slope up a hill. From that less than promising beginning, he dug out a cavernous bunker in front and created a shelf green whose interior resembles a punchbowl. How many architects could create a long par three that is both uphill and stunning? Not many.

By digging out the crater for the Sahara bunker, Ross generated plenty of fill for the green pad. The fact that a young Ross was able to tie everything off nicely with its surrounds is but another example of the talent that he possessed early in his career.

Closer inspection shows why the twelfth is aptly named Sahara! Remember too that the sand wedge wasn't invented until this course was over ten years old. Early golfers would have been laying open their niblicks (today's nine iron equivalent) and hoping for the best.

Given the fearsome fronting hazard, Ross favors bold play at the twelfth where he built a 'backboard' around the back of the green to contain slightly long tee balls and feed them well back onto the putting surface.

Fourteenth hole, 365 yards; The gulley/creek in front of the second green, the ravine/pond in front of the ninth, the lake here: Ross placed the property’s prominent natural features directly in the line of play. Far too many architects in this age of ‘playability’ place features off to the side of the playing corridors where they lack any ability to dictate play. Such courses quickly become monotonous to play, something that Wannamoisett never has to worry about.

The game has changed since Ross's day: Some top flight golfers today take dead aim at the fourteenth green from the tee and hope to run it on!

In comparing this photograph from behind the fourteenth with the one above, Ross's knack is evident for building green pads that rise up and seamlessly appear as an extension of the fairway. Other architects in the 1910s weren't nearly as talented in making their green complexes appear as natural.

The course doesn’t end with the same bang in which it started but then again few courses could. The seventeenth is now the only par five on the course and it plays along the property’s edge with out of bounds down the left and the eighteenth occupies the least distinctive land of the par fours (no great crime this, mind you). Nonetheless, if Ross were alive, he would be pleased with the presentation of the course, which always held a special place for him. In fact, in June 1926, he wrote to McGovern that ‘this is my best course,’ which is quite the compliment indeed given that he had completed so many of his most famous courses by then (Pinehurst No.2 and Seminole excluded).

Wannamoisett is the exact type of course the author enjoys so much in England. Par is below 70, it is easy to walk, nothing is forced or contrived, and you can play in under three hours. The close proximity of the holes add to the sense that Wannamoisett is a course and not just a collection of eighteen separate holes. Throw in genuine Donald Ross greens, and you have a course of unusual charm and challenge, all in a course under 6,750 yards.

Ross described the ideal course in Golf Has Never Failed Me as ‘one that presents a test of golf for the everyday golfer and the first class player. A properly designed course can take care of every class of golfer. My aim is to bring out of the player the best golf that is in him. It will be difficult to negotiate some holes, but that is what golf is for. It is a mental test and an eye test. The hazards and bunkers are placed so as to force a man to use judgment and to exercise mental control in making the correct shot.’

Sounds like the perfect description of Wannamoisett.

The End