NEWPORT, R.I. — The 61st U.S. Women’s Open Golf Tournament kicks off today in this posh seaside resort town — once the exclusive summer destination of the Astors and the Vanderbilts. The Open, said to be the most prestigious competition in women’s golf, runs through Sunday, and is expected to draw about 125,000 people. A few notable participants will include Annika Sorenstam, Paula Creamer, Cristie Kerr and Natalie Gulbis.
Equally as tony is the venue. The Newport Country Club, one of America’s oldest golf clubs, will be the site for the competition. To prepare, the clubhouse, which was designed by architect Whitney Warren more than 100 years ago, recently received a multimillion-dollar update. “It’s spectacular; they’ve kept the original building intact and brought it back to its heyday,” says Joe Butz, championship director of the Open.
So what to do when you’re done with the 18th hole? Hark back to Newport’s gilded age with a tour of one of the seaside mansions along famed Bellevue Avenue, such as The Breakers, the former summer home of Cornelius Vanderbilt II, or hike along the 3.5-mile Cliff Walk overlooking Easton’s Beach (known to locals as First Beach) and the famous turn-of-the-century “summer cottages.” One can also wander through Doris Duke’s house, Rough Point, and peek at many never-before-seen pieces from the legendary heiress’ extensive art and antiques collection in the exhibit, “After the Gilded Age: The Well Dressed House in Newport.” To catch views of the mansion from your hotel room, book into The Chanler, located at the beginning of the walk.
Take a break by Newport Harbor and kick back in one of the Adirondack chairs to watch the ships sail by. Or grab a cup of The Black Pearl’s famous chowder on the waterside patio at Bannister’s Wharf, and later visit the Onne Van der Wal Gallery to view the work of the renowned local nautical photographer. Other worthwhile galleries include Peter Jimolka, which offers original artwork by the nationally recognized artist; Blink for adventure and travel photography, as well as photos of Newport, and William Vareika Fine Art Ltd., which is said to be one of the largest galleries in the Northeast and specializes in 18th-, 19th- and early 20th-century museum-quality American art.
For some true Newport fashion, try Angela Moore for Lilly Pulitzer (she stocks the largest selection in the area at her eponymous store); Tracy Reese, and Jack Rogers sandals — or head to Michael Hayes for Tory Burch or Missoni pieces. If it’s denim you desire, pick up Hudson, True Religion and some cowboy boots to match at Laura Jean.
When it’s time for some sustenance on your way to the golf course, grab some muffins at Katrina’s Bakery, sandwiches at Sig’s or coffee at The Steaming Bean. If there’s time to spare, enjoy some delicious northern Italian food at Ristorante Lucia, and just remember, it’s BYOB, so come prepared. Or, on Broadway, try Tucker’s Bistro for dinner and the Corner Cafe for breakfast.
If golf bores you to tears, there are other activities to enjoy. Throughout the summer season, visitors to Rosecliff (a 1902 mansion modeled after France’s Grand Trianon palace) can view the exhibit “Pilgrims to Park Avenue: 150 Years of Family Fashion,” a collection that traces the changes in American fashion from the 1840s to the early 20th century. There’s also the Sunset Music Festival, a concert series on the waterfront, and the Newport International Polo Series, held at the Glen Farm Polo Grounds, where teams from around the world will play against the U.S. every Saturday through Sept. 30.