The best hole I ever played: The equal opportunity par-4 1st at Misquamicut Club

The 382-yard, par-4 1st hole at the Misquamicut Club in Westerly, R.I.

The 382-yard, par-4 1st hole at the Misquamicut Club in Westerly, R.I.

Our knowledgeable crew of course raters have stuck pegs in the ground just about everywhere. But which holes stand out as the greatest they’ve ever played? We asked them, and they replied with love letters about their faves. Kye Goalby’s offering describes the 382-yard, par-4 1st hole at the Misquamicut Club in Westerly, R.I.

Every summer, some buddies and I get together for a few days of golf on this Donald Ross design for The Hemenway Bowl, an event we like to call “The Greatest Day in Sports.” The course sits along a beautiful stretch of the Atlantic, near Rhode Island’s border with Connecticut. And that annual trip is just one of many reasons I love it.

I think of Misquamicut as a great equalizer, because it narrows the gap between different abilities and different styles of play. You don’t have to be able to bomb it 300 off the tee or attack the greens with monstrous aerial assaults. If you’ve got that kind of game, more power to you. But you can also bunt the ball around here, playing the ground game and using the quirks and contours of the land, while navigating a great set of greens on a design that forces you to think on every shot.

On the back nine, you get water views on many holes. But the hole that might best capture the character of the course is the par-4 1st. No water views here. But the fairway is wild and rumpled, almost like a nor’easter blew in and created waves out of the grass in the fairway. The tee box is just steps from the clubhouse. It’s not an intimidating place like Merion, where you can hear forks clink on plates on the veranda as people set down their silverware to watch you hit. But people do watch you here.

Luckily, it’s a pretty forgiving tee shot. There’s out of bounds left, but there’s plenty of room right and there are no bunkers. There are also all kinds of ways to take on the hole. I might scuff one of the tee, and it will roll out a good ways, leaving me with a chance at the green. You might nuke one long and straight, but after about 200 yards, the fairway really starts to buckle so you might wind up in a valley or with a sidehill or downhill lie. There is so much variety. The hole never plays the same way twice.

The green is a punch bowl green, with an opening on the left side. If you favor the left side off the tee, close to the out-of-bounds, you have a better angle in, but there is usually an accident. The farther you bail to the right side, the more you have to contend with steeper, bolder terrain that shields your view of the green and creates a less receptive approach. Either way, you can’t see exactly where your ball has settled until you walk up to the green. 

That’s also part of the fun and the charm and the unpredictability of the hole. It’s very democratic in the way it welcomes all kinds of shots and all ranges of abilities. In that sense, it’s like the course itself: It brings everyone together, which is what I think golf should be about.

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