Providence, Rhode Island looks good for its age. It’s one of the oldest cities in the nation, founded back in 1636 and now more than 380 years old. New England’s third largest city (behind Boston and Worcester, Massachusetts) has undergone a renaissance of sorts since its decades-ago heyday as a textile and manufacturing capital.
Home to Brown University, Rhode Island School of Design and the well-regarded culinary school Johnson & Wales (whose influence on the area’s restaurant scene is undeniable – more on that later), Providence is, like many towns and cities in New England, an educational hotbed.
Visiting golfers can get an education also, as there are several worthy venues that are readily accessible from the airport. (It helps that Rhode Island is so tiny – the nation’s smallest state could fit comfortably within the borders of Texas 220 times. It would fit within Alaska 425 times!). Grab a National Rental Car at Boston’s Logan Airport and you’ll be in Providence in an hour or so. If circumstances allow you to fly into Rhode Island’s T.F. Green Airport in the neighboring town of Warwick, you’ll be in the city center in about fifteen minutes.
One of the least-accessible courses in New England is Newport Country Club. Site of both the first U.S. Open and U.S Amateur in 1895, it is one of the original member clubs of the United States Golf Association. However the similarly-named Newport National Golf Club does welcome visitors – no need to show direct lineage from the Mayflower for a tee time. Located some thirty-five miles south of the capital city of Providence in Middletown, Newport National is considered one of the finest public tracks in southern New England.
Renowned architect Arthur Hills along with associate Drew Rogers transformed this former nursery farm and orchard into a beguiling 200-acre playing field featuring beautiful vistas of the Atlantic Ocean and the Sakonnet Passage. It has a bit of an Irish flair, with fescue-lined fairways and bent-grass tees and greens.
Highlights of this Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary include the back-to-back one-shot holes just as the round commences, the third hole heading north, the fourth in the opposite direction. The ninth and tenth holes are par-4s plagued by wetlands, the former causing consternation from the tee, the latter on the approach shot. The most notable water views come early in the inward nine, but the mesmerizing vistas aside, careful attention must be paid throughout. The combination of winds whipping across the mostly treeless expanse and the ball-eating fescue, flora and fauna framing the short grass mean that most players will exit the property with a lighter golf bag – at least in the golf-ball department.
Highly acclaimed dining about twenty minutes from Newport National and heading back towards the capital city is The Boat House Restaurant in Tiverton. Putting a polished spin on the New England staple of the seafood shack, and hard by the water with lovely views of Mount Hope Bay, this ‘go-to’ spot features fresh lobster, succulent seafood, local produce, and a welcoming ambience.
In the city limits of Providence and with a richer pedigree than Newport National is Triggs Memorial Golf Course. Designed by the great Donald Ross, who created some of the Ocean State’s most notable private gems like Wannamoisett, Metacomet and Rhode Island Country Club, Triggs is the state’s only Ross-designed public facility. Dating from 1932, like many Ross designs Triggs has lengthy and staunch par 4s, several par 5s that are potentially reachable in two shots, and lovely par-3 holes. There’s not much in the way of elevation change, and the opening nine is much flatter than the inward journey. The course follows the existing contours of the site from the tee, each hole concluding with smallish, strategically bunkered greens. The course commences with a trio of daunting par 4s and finishes with two more.
Providence has a vibrant Italian culture which is reflected in these restaurant choices. Pane e Vino offers celebrated, high-end Italian food with refined pastas, meats, seafood and an extensive Italian wine list, and featuring the freshest local ingredients. Calamari, mussels arrabiata and house-made meatballs are among the gustatory delights available. Cafe Nuovo has great views of the city skyline, and wonderful lamb chops, steaks, veal chops and a varied selection of seafood dishes. Finally, Joe Marzilli’s Old Canteen was founded in 1956. This popular sexagenarian is in the heart of the city’s ‘Little Italy’ section, and between the various dishes prepared Parmigiana, Funghi, Pizzaiola, Marinara and Cacciatore, (not to mention lobster Fra Diavolo – specify in or out of shell) it feels like you’ve ventured into a trattoria far across the Atlantic and into the Old Country.