Golf Course Review: Blackwolf Run, Meadow Valleys

Blackwolf Run, Meadow Valleys Course Rankings:

Golf Digest: #72 US public, #10 Wisconsin
GolfWeek: #10 Wisconsin public

Designer: Pete Dye (1998)

The Meadow Valleys golf course at Blackwolf Run is GolfWeek’s number eight public course in the state of Wisconsin, and Golf Digest’s number 62 overall rated public course in the country.

As part of the Blackwolf Run golf facility, the Meadow Valleys features nine of the eighteen holes played for the “Original Championship” golf course – the course played during the late-nineties’ World Golf Championships at Blackwolf Run (won by Mark McCumber, Greg Norman, and Ernie Els), and then for the US Women’s Opens of 1998 and 2012.

The Original Championship course plays slightly different than the River or Meadow Valleys courses, regardless of the routing. For example, the Original Championship course starts out next to the clubhouse and plays out to the green of the tenth hole on the Meadow Valleys – the one hole on the course that I would personally throw away.

While the River course is the number fourteen rated public course in the country, and the undisputed king of the Blackwolf Run golf complex, the Meadow Valleys is a fantastic course in its own right, and actually includes some of the most beautiful holes included in the championship track – especially the thirteenth through fifteenth on the Meadow Valleys.

The course starts off with a fairly intimidating tee shot, or at least it was from the black tees! With water on the right and long fescue encompassing the left side of the driving area and long, this is a hole where the old “Breakfast ball” might have to be taken.

Hole 1: Par 4 (392/368/349/335/281)
 
The second hole is a bit easier off the tee than the first, and is best approached from the right side. Traps on the left side need to be avoided to have a chance at hitting this highly elevated green in two.
 
Hole 2: Par 4 (402/392/385/375/278)
Hole 2: Par 4 (402/392/385/375/278)
 
A mid-length par three, the third hole does not look like much from the tees, but somehow played very difficult for our group – no one was able to hit the green from 182. The left side is the best line to keep away from the traps and deep waste areas right.
 
Hole 3: Par 3 (182/176/158/142/110)
 
With a massive fairway trap directly in front of the tees, and a split fairway on each side, drivers need to make up their mind before teeing off on four. Hit the huge sand feature and do your best to get out. I thought I could play a long iron out, twice, which resulted in my fourth shot being played from just beyond the sand.
The fairway then runs out and right, with large mounds shrouding a recessed green area.
 
Hole 4: Par 5 (565/539/516/473/428)
Hole 4: Par 5 (565/539/516/473/428)
 
The fifth hole tee shot is best played toward the left tree of the big oaks that front the green complex. The approach area between them is narrow, as is the green, and it slopes heavily from right to left.
 
Hole 5: Par 4 (403/380/362/340/314)
 
The sixth is a long par four. The left side of the driving area does not look appealing off the tee, but the closer the tee shot is to the left side in the fairway, the closer it will be to the green (and the less sand that will have to be taken on to hit it).
Hole 6: Par 4 (475/470/444/406/341)
 
Hole 6: Par 4 (475/470/444/406/341)

The par five seventh plays toward the world’s tallest symbol of freedom: The 400-foot tall American flag at Acuity Insurance. The flag, in fact, can be seen from almost anywhere on both the Meadow Valleys and River golf courses at Blackwolf Run.

The fairway trap that cuts through from the right side of the hole’s playing area is within driving distance, but the most important shot on this hole is the second: Keep it dry.

Hole 7: Par 5 (520/494/488/475/426)
Hole 7: Par 5 (520/494/488/475/426)
 
Here is where I personally started regretting our decision to play the tips on the Meadow Valleys course. With strong winds, we brought our carts around to the eighth hole tee boxes, and looked farther back. Then farther…
The eighth played straight in to the teeth of the wind, with water left and short and a forced carry of 225-plus yards. Good luck. Only one person did not lose a ball on this hole, and I lost two (my second attempt was with driver).
 
Hole 8: Par 3 (240/187/176/160/112)
 
The Meadow Valleys gritted its teeth at us even more on the par four ninth hole: A 485-yard two-shotter with a very demanding tee shot. Keep the ball just right of the left-side treeline, but left of the huge recessed trap that fronts the fairway. Easy.
The second shot takes on the same pond that was played on eight, with the only bailout areas left or short.
 
Hole 9: Par 4 (485/462/432/413/307)
Hole 9: Par 4 (485/462/432/413/307)
 
To me, Pete Dye always has one hole that does not make sense with the course. At the Meadow Valleys course, this is the tenth. If there was a competition for the hardest short par four in the world, my opinion is that this might be it.
Golfers are literally shrouded in a canopy of a tee box with what appears to be a long chute no more than 10-15 yards wide and trees/leaves everywhere, and have to blast their way out without hitting either a draw or a fade (either would hit the treeline and almost inevitably result in a lost ball).
If and when players get out of the forested start to the tenth, the finish is not much easier: Plenty of sand, and a massive drop-off on the left side of the putting surface that falls to the approach area of the opening hole on the Original Championship course: The original 18 holes of Blackwolf Run that are played for PGA/USGA and LPGA tournaments.
With the clubhouse on the horizon, it is at least a beautiful look-back.
 
Hole 10: Par 4 (382/366/330/320/242)
Hole 10: Par 4 (382/366/330/320/242)
 
Getting back out in to open terrain again, the eleventh is a much more friendly hole – a par five of medium range whose biggest hazard is the gigantic (although not the largest on the course) sand trap that makes up the left side of the driving area.
 
Hole 11: Par 5 (522/514/495/487/460)
 
You will notice a large cow-milking barn to the left during the drive to the twelfth hole. This is actually the restroom – an authentic, charming feel that does not go unnoticed.
The twelfth is one of my favorite driving holes on the Meadow Valleys, as everything is out in front of you and downhill. There is plenty of trouble, sure, but something about it looks awesome and drivable. The green falls hard toward the left side, so the approach should be to the middle/right to avoid the falloff left.
 
Hole 12: Par 4 (461/438/407/395/327)

The approach is not as simple or inviting. The left side is dead, and the mounds right and deep rough make for an intimidating approach.

Hole 12: Par 4 (461/438/407/395/327)
 
Thirteen is a very interesting par four. While driver can be hit off the tee, it will have to be played over the left side traps or else drawn down the fairway.
The characteristic of the thirteenth that makes it so memorable is the green complex: Risen high above the playing surface, the volcano-like green complex can be very tough to hit and hold with anything more than wedge.
 
Hole 13: Par 4 (341/335/313/304/233)
Hole 13: Par 4 (341/335/313/304/233)
Hole 13: Par 4 (341/335/313/304/233)
 
Quite possibly the most beautiful golf hole I have ever played, the fourteenth at Meadow Valleys is nicknamed “Nature’s Course.” From the elevated tee boxes, the Sheboygan River looms right, as well as on most days a number of fly fishermen trying to catch salmon and trout.
The tree-lined fairway plays slightly right to left from the tees, then veers sharply downhill and to the right on the approach. Driver can be used, but probably not from the forward tees. Hit it straight and aim for the middle of the fairway, in hopes of catching a charitable downhill run-out.
The green is vast, and is surrounded on three sides by the river, as well as a charming  bridge fashioned from an old flat-bed train car. Anything that misses this huge green is destined to fall dramatically from the playing surface in to the river.
 
Hole 14: Par 4 (423/409/384/376/293)
Hole 14: Par 4 (423/409/384/376/293)
 
The fourteenth is probably best viewed from the forward tees on the fifteenth hole, as seen here:
 
Hole 14: Par 4 (423/409/384/376/293)
 
The walk back to the fifteenth’s black tees was another sobering experience: If eight was intimidating, this was just a joke. To me, it said: “As a 10.0 handicap, I should probably not be playing the tips!”
[“Hash-tag-‘Play-it-forward'”]
With a 230-plus yard carry straight in to the howling wind, this was a nearly impossible shot. Again, all of us lost balls except for Ross, and dropped nearer to the green. This is probably a good time to mention that I was the highest handicap in our group – Jeremy and Ross are both ~ 3-4, Michael is ~ 8, and I am by far the worst player of the group. This is seriously a PGA caliber par three.
The fifteenth is the signature hole on the Meadow Valleys: It is the hole featured on their scorecard and on the course web site’s main page.
 
Hole 15: Par 3 (227/196/189/150/103)

The longest par five on the course, the sixteenth is nicknamed “Rolling Thunder.” The tee shot from the tips requires a whole lot of length to clear the hill that fronts the fairway and landing zone, then fires right green-ward. Stay well right of the small barn off the tee.

Be smart on the second shot to avoid the largest sand trap at all of Blackwolf Run, lingering short-right and along the entire right side of the green.

 
Hole 16: Par 5 (590/544/487/478/415)
Hole 16: Par 5 (590/544/487/478/415)
 
Probably the easiest par three on the Meadow Valleys course, the seventeenth is deemed “Maple Syrup,” named after the massive maple trees that front the green area. Avoid these trees, and enjoy a reasonable distance of 165-182.
A high shot shape is preferred here in order to clear the treeline.
 
Hole 17: Par 3 (182/165/152/138/92)
 
I absolutely love the finish on the Meadow Valleys course! Teeing off beside the Sheboygan River, a long driver can only be played if staying well left of the river crossing. The second shot is the true beauty of this finishing hole, as the longer the tee shot is, the shorter the distance to carry the river will be.
Nicknamed “Salmon Trap,” the eighteenth actually has two greens: One for the ladies (that does not cross the river), and a colossal shared double-green with the eighteenth on the River course for the men.
 
Hole 18: Par 4 (458/395/383/373/303)
Hole 18: Par 4 (458/395/383/373/303)
Hole 18: Par 4 (458/395/383/373/303)
Hole 18: Par 4 (458/395/383/373/303)
Hole 18: Par 4 (458/395/383/373/303)
 

Course Wrap-Up:
Location: Kohler, WI
Yardage: Black-7165, Blue-6735, White-6236, Red-5065
Slope/Rating: Black-144/74.6, Blue-138/72.6, White-132/70.1, Red-120/66.1
Par: 72
Weekend Rates: $220 (including cart)

3 comments on “Golf Course Review: Blackwolf Run, Meadow Valleys

  1. Pingback: Golf Course Review: Kiawah Island, Ocean Course | WiscoGolfAddict

  2. Pingback: OnMilwaukee Article: The First 15 Years of Whistling Straits | WiscoGolfAddict

  3. Pingback: Wisconsin’s Best Public Golf Courses | WiscoSportsAddict

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