Golf Life: Seeking ‘reinvention,’ a Ross classic goes on the market

Metacomet Metacomet Country Club

Golf Life: Seeking ‘reinvention,’ a Ross classic goes on the market

Digital Edition

Golf Life: Seeking ‘reinvention,’ a Ross classic goes on the market

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Last month, social media buzzed with the news that Metacomet Country Club, a 1925 Donald Ross design on 138 waterfront acres, had been put up for sale for $3.5 million.

Given the man from Dornoch’s local ties, the idea of losing a Rhode Island Ross to condo development stoked fear in the hearts of classic course aficionados. After all, America’s smallest state is a Ross hotbed. From his summer office in Little Compton, the Scotsman designed 11 layouts in the Ocean State, from such humble munis as Triggs Memorial to exclusive private gems such as Sakonnet and Wannamoisett.

Over the course of its history, Metacomet has carved out a distinctive niche for itself. It’s Rhode Island’s preeminent “player’s club,” having produced more state amateur winners than anywhere else. Brad Faxon grew up here (and at Rhode Island CC), and while the club today is regarded as something of a male bastion, six-time U.S. Amateur champ Glenna Collett Vare honed her skills here back in the 1920s.

In paying a visit to the Ocean State to assess the club’s prospects, our first observation was that “The Met” passes the First Rule of Real Estate with flying colors; it boasts a prime location just 10 minutes from downtown Providence. Situated midway between Providence and the affluent suburbs of Barrington, Warren and Bristol, it’s easy to picture how such a club easily could make itself a part of an avid golfer’s daily life.

That said, East Providence is decidedly an urban setting. Metacomet’s waterfront neighbors at nearby Bold Point historically have been commercial and light industrial concerns, though with these sites now lying vacant, an ambitious redevelopment plan gradually has been transforming this section of Providence Harbor into a vibrant, mixed-use community.

As temperatures dipped into the 40s during our Halloween week visit, Mike Tranghese, the former commissioner of the Big East Conference and a Metacomet member since 1996, gave us a cart tour of the grounds. Tranghese, an avid and well-traveled golfer (his favorite course is Royal County Down), quickly dispelled fears that the golf course might cease to exist.

“We’re member-owned and operate as a not-for-profit,” he said. “We’re just looking to clean up the debt and make some improvements going forward.”

The phrase used by Rob Waldron, the lead advisor for the real estate firm Marcus & Millichap, which is handling the sale, is “reinvention capital.” Waldron cited a number of possible models for the club’s future, from Pasatiempo in Santa Cruz, Calif., which brings in considerable income from public tee times, to Caves Valley in Owings Mills, Md., where members must be a member of another club and overnight stays solidify the social experience.

“[Metacomet’s] members [will] make the decision,” Waldron said. “There’s no profit-taking, so they can accept the offer that’s best for the club.”

As potential suitors make site visits throughout November, it will be interesting to see which direction the club chooses. Adding fresh amenities requires land, of course, and if there’s a knock on Metacomet, it’s that it already feels a little cramped in places. The 11th fairway doubles as the practice range, and some of the clubhouse’s square footage could be reimagined and used more efficiently. A smart land plan certainly will be a top priority, and the golf course, though it was renovated by Ron Forse in 1995, could use some freshening.

Still, there’s no selling point quite like a set of Donald Ross “bones.” Tranghese enthusiastically delved into the points that make “The Met” a classic Ross design – the crowned greens, the bunkers unmoored from green complexes to play with a golfer’s depth perception, and so on. However, he also pointed out places that set it apart from the herd. Standing on the tee of the 225-yard 10th and facing into a headwind, he said, “This is an unusual way to start a nine. It starts with a long par 3, then a midlength par 4, then an even longer [243-yard] par 3.”

With merciless runs like this, it’s clear that Metacomet didn’t become a “player’s club” by accident. No matter how the club reinvents itself in the years ahead, one suspects that this basic character is likely to endure. Gwk

Latest

More Digital Edition
Home