The River Rival Region has three of the most scenic and historic nine-hole golf courses on the North Shore in Rowley Country Club, Ould Newbury Golf Club and Amesbury Golf and Country Club.
Each course has its own distinct style and feel, topography and setting, and signature golf shots and holes. Over time, The Daily News staff has sampled the three to pick its favorite nine holes of golf among the three courses, three holes from each course (all yardage is taken from the blue tees).
Although the subject is clearly up for debate with the holiday season in full effect, the weather conditions prime for golf and the courses in pristine shape, now is the time to go pick your own favorite nine.
Hole 1: No. 1 at Rowley — 403-yard Par-4
Each course in the area has a fantastic opening hole. In both Amesbury and Newbury, the starter has you hit some 40 feet elevated above the fairway with a fantastic view of half the front side of the course shooting out into a fairly straight open fairway, but Rowley is just a little more unique.
More so than either of the other two, Rowley’s opening hole very much requires a precise tee shot. With U.S. Open-like rough on the left and the trees on the right, an inaccurate shot will give you no chance to hit your approach over the stream that crosses just in front of the elevated green. And as you drive up to the green, one of the nicest amenities of all the courses awaits: a covered wooden bridge straight out of old New England.
Hole 2: No. 6 at Ould Newbury — 157-yard Par-3
As one of the members said of No. 6 at Ould Newbury, at different points of the day with different hole locations and different wind conditions, you realistically could play any iron club in your bag.
The hole plays from a slightly elevated tee box over the marsh to a vertically long, yet narrow green that is protected by three front-side bunkers. You have a little room for error left and long to get up and down, but anywhere else and you’re likely going kerplunk in a very muddy and mosquito-ridden sort of way. Never on the course will you feel more of the marsh that surrounds the course, and with so much possible variation the hole really is one of the best par-3s around.
Hole 3: No. 5 at Amesbury — 530-yard Par-5
You want a challenge, No. 5 at Amesbury certainly will certainly give it to you. Not only is the par-5 one of the longest holes in the River Rival Region, the slightly dog-leg right hole realistically requires a shaped shot off the tee – a cut for righties and a draw for lefties – because you want to be up on the right side of the fairway.
Without finding the right-side landing area, your ball will likely either find the valley as the fairway quickly slopes off to the left making the hole that much longer. A good approach is also required with two bunkers sitting some 25 yards in front of the undulating green.
Hole 4: No. 6 at Amesbury — 335-yard Par-4
Holes five and six at Amesbury may be the most fun back-to-back on any course in the River Rival area. After undertaking a real test on the par-5, No. 6 gives a fun and realistic shot at birdie.
Amesbury has its share of elevated tees, and six has probably the most difficult of the lot with a bit of window shot down into a wide open fairway. But what makes No. 6 Amesbury’s most unique and likely signature hole is its double-green. The first green sets up fairly easily right there for the taking, while the back green sits up another 25 yards back to the right behind a little watering-hole pond and stream.
Hole 5: No. 3 at Rowley — 442-yard Par-4
Another of the most unique holes on the north shore, No. 3 at Rowley requires two good shots into the green. Although not particularly lengthy you need cut the ball out some 225 yards from the tee box around the nearly 90 degree dog-leg right corner of trees, while avoiding hitting it too far into the woods.
If you can accomplish that feat, you’re staring at an easy high-flying wedge shot into the green, but a murky muck of a pond eats up some 60 to 70 yards going all the way up and around the right side of the green. Anything wayward right will certainly splash down, but if you can find the middle of the green you have a flat putt for birdie or par.
Hole 6: No. 5 at Ould Newbury — 327-yard Par-4
Four at Ould Newbury will not punish you if you play the hole smartly, but it will certainly tempt to go for broke.
Wrapped just to the left of the trees, a nice little draw into an open landing spot at the base of the 50-foot hill up to the green is the sound play. But get greedy and the hole will take away any shot at par with marsh and woods taking away shots long, right or left.
Make sure your pitch is firmly in the middle of the green, which slopes severely diagonally down the right side of the green, or your ball may wind up going back down the hill.
Hole 7: No. 9 at Amesbury — 395-yard par-4
There’s nothing fancy about Amesbury’s finishing hole. What you see is what you get – a long par-4 that feels even like a grind at the end of your round. You have to go a ways to the green. Golfers need to remember to play a club or two up or fall short and possibly onto the beach. And pay attention to the pin placement because the two-tiered green could leave you with a mini-golf-like putt if you miss the right tier.
Hole 8: No. 8 at Rowley — 498-yard Par-5
Arguably the toughest golf hole in the River Rival region rivaled only by Ould Newbury’s finishing par-3 hole. Players must know and trust the lengths of their hybrids, woods and perhaps even driver off the tee where some 240 yards down the fairway brush and a stream intersect the fairway.
To be able to clear the trouble requires a shot of no less than 275 yards from the back of the box, but to lay-up leaves a lengthy approach with the hazard still staring you right in the face. And once you’ve cleared the brush you still have a tough shot into a smallish green protected by woods in the back and a bunker on the front-right side of the green.
Hole 9: No. 9 at Ould Newbury — 211-yard Par 3
The signature par-3 of the River Rival region at Ould Newbury is also the signature closing hole. Hitting from just behind the cake-style elevated green at Ould Newbury’s No. 8, golfers must not only severely uphill, but up and over the famous 70-foot hickory tree halfway out on the left side of the fairway. Over the years several members have tried to cut down, burn down or vote to have the tree removed, but it has stood the test of time.
With that in mind, No. 9 plays like a short par-4, and most players must hit no less than a 5-wood to reach the green, but most pars are made by a good up-and-down pitch and putt. In the nearly 100-year history of the course, only a handful of players have drained a hole-in-one. In fact, there are only eight documented aces.