Driving Range (not that we'd waste any swings there): There's a Big Rock sitting out there. Not just big, Monumental; large enough that the druids who built Stonehenge might have said, "...nah, let's relocate this thing, I don't feel like dealing with that rock." Some takeaways here, as Golfer Number Two was getting his bearings prior to the round: 1) some say that this course is "undermaintained," but the landscaping around that mammoth rock is spotless, 2) a range without a net: kind of smallish, but uphill, which makes sense, 3) FORE! is a term that no one ever expects to need to use on the range. Welcome to Winnapaug.
We checked some brief reviews on yelp and similar outlets to see what cheap shots disgruntled hackers might take at Winnapaug, not that we'd be swayed by that sort of thing, but Winny overwhelmingly received favorable reviews from folks whom we'd assumed would rip a similar course to shreds. You just can't discount the fact that Winny could be on fire and it would still receive solid support from its fans. There's something to be said for that. It is, after all, a Donald Ross course, in the Donald Ross Geographical Wheelhouse (eastern Mass. and R.I.). Check for yourself. Ten (at least that's what we came up with in our limited research) Donald Ross designed courses in Rhode Island, which, on a per square foot basis in this tiny Ocean State, is truly dominant. The list of Ross-designed courses in the land o'chowdah pretty much matches the list of courses built in North Carolina. Enough of that.
Onto the Winnapaug Layout
Layout minutiae, front 9: The first hole is an uphill funnel; no way to get into trouble, unless you bang it hard left or hard right past 250 yards from the tee into the non-funnel-friendly trees. Of course, on the first hole, it's too early to be thinking about shot placement, but you may want to consider it later.
The Turn: Mr. Ross designed this course back when golf was pure and no consideration was given to playing 9 or grabbing a dog and a beer at the turn. There was something amusing about seeing signage behind the 9th green pointing in opposite directions to the 10th and the clubhouse.
Layout minutiae, back 9: Winny gets all "links style" on 10 through 13. If you're agoraphobic, this is not a good place to be. These holes are completely wide open, near the ocean. Paraphrasing an old line from Blazing Saddles, "We don't need no stinking trees." Use your late summer Airways Track Acumen or your links style course management skills here. Either way, the approach should be the same, "Keep it low and let it go!" We don't like to gush about design stuff, but this was truly brilliant and a lot of fun. No need for trees. Even on a calm day, you're up against it with the wind blowing off the ocean. It's too much fun to pass up.
19th: The bar at the Winnapaug watering hole is below an elevated floor, which is unusual, kind of awkward, actually; probably not where you want to spend time anyway. You also have an outdoor option and why wouldn't you take advantage of that? Sure, it faces the parking lot, but it's all about looking further out, so you get the ocean view beyond that and it's all good.
Wrapping it up: Don't expect to show up at Winnapaug and jump out on the back for a quick 9 on a weekday afternoon; it's not laid out for that, but If you have enough time/inclination to play 18, Winny is a blast. Sure, the oceanside novelty may wear off eventually, but the layout is great and it's a shot-making paradise. You just don't know where your next brilliant shot will come from; you may even surprise yourself. Despite, or because of, its Trackish conditions, Winnapaug CC is definitely worth a rating of...
...out of 4 GT logos
(a nearly pic-free review... until the next trip)
Winnapuaug is the second Donald Ross layout in the redheaded stepchild/chowdah state of Rhode Island that we've played/reviewed. Consider us fortunate. It's a pretty enjoyable trek, heading out towards Misquamicut, unless you get stuck in beach traffic.