Golf Channel's Summer Swing is chronicling golf in all 50 states through Labor Day.
Some people have a golf course bucket list. I have a restaurant bucket list. And one of the places on that list is Nordic Lodge in Charlestown, Rhode Island.
What puts Nordic Lodge so high on my culinary wish list? Two words: lobster buffet.
I love lobster and with all due respect to the Bahamas' own species, there's no better place for it than the northern Atlantic coast - not just Maine but Connecticut and Rhode Island in particular.
I also appreciate the notion of being able to get so much (probably too much, to be honest) of a good thing in America's smallest state.
Which brings me right back to golf. Yes, Rhode Island is small, but like my original home state of Connecticut, Rhode Island punches above its weight for golf, both on the private and public side.
At the top of the heap is Newport Country Club, a USGA-founding club with a splendid seaside golf course touched by both Donald Ross and A.W. Tillinghast. Tiger Woods won the second of his three U.S. Amateur titles there against Buddy Marucci in 1995. I can personally vouch for the course as well: I played it once in mid-30s temperatures with sideways rain and still look back on it as one of the greatest courses I've played, and one of my favorite golf experiences.
There's also Wannamoisett Country Club, a Donald Ross gem that hosts the Northeast Amateur, one of the summer's most prestigious amateur events. Conquering the tough, compact par-69 course has been a rite of passage for then-future pros like Ben Crenshaw, David Duval and Dustin Johnson. Ross also designed the sportier but similarly respected par-69 Warwick Country Club. When you refer to it, make sure you pronounce it like a local: "Warrick."
Rhode Island also has some more modern gems. Shelter Harbor Golf Club is a superb Michael Hurdzan/Dana Fry course with some classic-styled greens, gnarly bunkering and a killer lobster roll served in the clubhouse. And Carnegie Abbey Club is an exclusive, links-inspired Donald Steel design with sod-walled bunkers and a beachside drivable par-4 finisher.
If you get an invite to any of these courses, plus a few others - Rhode Island Country Club, Misquamicut Club and Sakonnet Golf Club are all worth trying to access - jump on it. But in the meantime, here are five top public-accessible courses in the Ocean State:
This Arthur Hills design opened in 2002 and has been thought to be Rhode Island's top public course ever since. It's not cheap to play - peak-season tee times can reach $125 - but the combination of meticulous conditioning and some classic features (e.g. a rectangular green on the par-5 8th, complete with sharp-sheared corners) has earned it plenty of fans.
Even golfers with only a casual familiarity with design know who Donald Ross is. The trouble is that many of his most heralded courses are private or at pricy resorts that aren't feasible to play regularly. Triggs, though, is a Providence muni that is a treat to play and won't break the bank. The course shows some teeth on the short par-3 14th, which has a fortress-style green surrounded by bunkers.
The newest Rhode Island course, Meadow Brook opened in 2010 and has been a success ever since. It's one of the more upscale plays in the state but the Roger Rulewich layout makes for an enjoyable round. It's a particular hit among big boppers - the course stretches to nearly 7,500 yards from the tips, making it the state's longest layout.
By all accounts, Fenner Hill is one of those "just right" public courses. Family-built and -owned, it's not flashy but it's inexpensive, well-maintained and enjoyable to play. It's no-nonsense in true Rhode Island fashion.
Nine-hole courses are back in vogue, and Jamestown is a local's favorite that has always been in style. Known for having some of the fastest greens in the state, it's a layout you'll want to take a few loops to figure out. And at just $20 for nine or $30 for 18 holes, it's a solid value play.