The 2012 U.S. Women’s Open was held at Blackwolf Run and the Championship course comprised the back nine of the Meadow Valleys layout (which features water on the last three holes) plus holes 1-4 and 14-18 of the River course.
In The American Private Golf Club Guide, author Daniel Wexler writes: “The club’s older course is the Meadow Valleys, a long and difficult track which occupies open land on the property’s west side, and makes a brief late visit to the Sheboygan River.
The front nine starts in relatively tame fashion before reaching a powerful closing stretch that includes the 520-yard 7th (enlivened by a centreline bunker and a water guarded green), the 240-yard lake-flanked 8th and 485-yard par four 9th.
The back nine also closes with a vengeance, with late standouts including the 550-yard 17th (whose green angles behind a deep, 95-yard-long bunker) and the 458-yard 18th, which requires a long final approach across the river.”
The back nine at the Meadow Valleys has the best nine holes at Blackwolf Run, and indeed was part of the original championship course. The only hole I really dislike here is number 10 "quiver", which is stupidly tight through the trees. The original version of this whole, coming up from the river on the other side of the green, was immeasurably superior. Nevertheless, with holes like "chimney" and "mercy", waiting beyond, these nine holes are collectively something really special.
While the front nine is decidedly less interesting, it is far from a poor layout, and there are some great holes here as well, particularly number 2. I really do enjoy playing this course, but the pricing, like all things at Kohler, has just become ludicrous (currently $340 during the summer). I like to go up here in late September early October when the rates become reasonable and you can see the fall colors.
The elephant in the room when it comes to Blackwolf Run's Meadow Valleys course is that the Pete Dye design is that it is the less appealing sibling to the River course. While the River course is one of the finer American parkland designs I've played, Meadow Valleys is no slouch if compared to the typical course. It is significantly less demanding than its counterpart and sports about half the amount of water hazards. My chief complaint is the lack of diversity of the front nine: the second through the sixth are all relative snoozers for how grand this property is supposed to be. The back nine is greater of a test and much more enjoyable. A strong, perhaps unheralded offering is the par five 11th. It's an uphill, slight dogleg left with a diabolical long bunker on the left. 18 was undoubtedly my favorite hole on Meadow Valleys, a par four finisher over the Sheboygan River into a double green shared with the River course's nasty closer. Make no mistake, absolutely no one who steps foot on the Kohler properties is there to play Meadow Valleys. However, it's a good add while you're there and probably the most entertaining for the not so experienced golfer of the four. Since reviews are subject to review against other courses, and not their sister tracks, Meadow Valleys is still an acceptable experience and should be treated as such.
During my recent visit to Wisconsin -- I returned to see a few courses to refresh my memory. Meadow Valleys is a good addition to the totality of the Destination Kohler golf offerings and I concur with the comments provided by Daniel and Peter.
Meadow Valleys is a good course -- but it's not breaking new ground given the high bar of courses within the Pete Dye portfolio.
The outward nine does not have the overall visual appeal although the split fairway par-5 4th is done well. You also have the 7th thru 9th holes providing a solid mixture with a par-5, par-3 and par-4 combination and each is quite thorough in what it expects players to do. The inward half is the more picturesque and there's plenty of key decisions players have to make in order to keep one's scorecard intact. The ending is quite intense because the inability to drive the ball in the proper spot will mean increasing pressure on the approach.
Meadow Valleys is by no means an inferior course - the rigors are present and the key -- as with many Dye courses -- is for players to choose the proper teeing areas. Sadly, too many people bite off far more than they can reasonably chew!
The issue Meadow Valleys faces is being in a cluster of other Dye courses that provide much more overall consistency in terms of the strategic dimensions encountered. If Meadow Valleys were the only Dye layout at the destination it would likely gain more visibility and overall respect. Herb Kohler's decision to have Pete do all the courses is what pushes Meadow Valleys into the shadow of the other golf options.
M. James Ward
This golf course is a tale of two nines. As has been well documented, Blackwolf Run began as an 18 hole course and was later expanded to 36. On Meadow valleys, the original holes are all located on the back nine and are really special, while the new holes which make up the front nine are strong on Dye-esque strategy but not dramatic. In practice this works well for the vacation golfer who will likely be making his or her best swings after the turn.
The spectacular back nine stretch starts in earnest at 11 with a score-able par 5 to an exposed point on the course. The tee shot feels cape-like with a large diagonal hazard on the left, but the smart play is away from it. The following par 4 will require two great swings to avoid knee high prairie grasses but the hole itself is quite fair and offers views to the left of what is to come. Next, 13 is all about precision on the second shot up to a small elevated green. Because the hill is so imposing, missing long is common and likely to result in a lost ball. Hole 14 will really stick with you. Dye mercifully designed this one with a wide landing area from which you fire at the green in a natural peninsula formed by a winding creek. This hole is followed by another stunner at the 15th. Though surrounded by trouble, the 15th green is large and easy to hit. The challenge is getting close enough to the pin or hitting a great lag putt. The 16th and 17th, while solid, will also give you opportunity to reflect on the epic 12-15 stretch until you reach 18 which hugs the Sheboygan River. The last approach has a sense of occasion with the unique and imposing clubhouse beyond.
Kohler's rack rates place them in the realm of "bucket list" once-and-done golf. However, the brisk pace of play often achievable at Meadow Valleys in summer afternoons makes twilight/super twilight a reasonable proposition, particularly considering that the back nine continues to be used in the major championship "composite" configuration of the course.
If the entire course were like the front nine, it would not a top 20 public in the state, while if it were all back nine it would be one of the best inland public courses in the Midwest at any price. This fact alone preserves its place in the increasingly strong landscape of public golf in Wisconsin.
When Meadow Valleys was built Pete Dye added 18 holes to the Blackwolf Run project thus creating the River and Meadow Valleys courses at Blackwolf Run. But the holes were arranged in such a way that the the new holes became holes 5-13 on the River course and holes 1-9 on the Meadow Valleys course
When tournaments are run at Blackwolf Run the original holes are used as the championship course (1-4, and 14-18 on The River Course and the back nine on Meadow Valleys).
The little sister to the River course continues very much in the same vein as it's older sibling. .It winds through lush vegetation interacting with the Sheyboygan River at every opportunity. And generally it is those river holes that are the highlights.
Dye still manages to throw in some unique looking holes and challenge with awkward approach angles. It is playable off the appropriate tee but is a beast off the back pegs
I thought the strong par fours at holes fourteen and eighteen were impressive, and absolutely world class!
Notable holes include:
- hole 8 (Wet and Wild), a par 3 diagonally over the river which continues along the left side of the green
- hole 9 (Deer Hunt), a tough, long par 4 with water along the right side of the green
- hole 13 (Chimney), a short par 4 with an extremely elevated green
- hole 14 (Nature's Course), a delightful par 4 with the green tucked into a bend in the river. The downhill aprroach is one of the highlights of the round
- hole 15 (Mercy), a long strong par 3
- hole 17 (Maple Syrup), a pretty, but demanding shorter par 3
- hole 18 (Salmon Trap), a demanding finishing hole with a long diagonal approach over the river to complete the round. The hole has an alternative green for the red tees that does not require a river crossing..
Meadow Valleys is a quality course in a beautiful setting. It forms a killer combo with The River course and provides a nice contrast to the links like golf at Whistling Straits. I will return!
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.
Meadow Valley starts with a welcoming par 4. Water right so favor the left off the tee. The 2nd hole is a demanding par four. Favor the right side off the tee. The green is elevated on sits on a ledge. If you are short good luck with the up and down, my advice take an extra club. The 3rd appears to be a gimme par three, not sure how we all managed to bogey it. Two bunkers left and right. The first par 5 is a good risk reward hole. A quasi split fairway, left is safe and right affords the oppty to go for it albeit with a blind shot. The short 5th is also a birdie oppty. Favor right center off the tee. The approach will be between trees on both sides. The S shaped 6th is a beast. Favor the left off the tee and on the approach. This is a deep green and the greenside bunker right is not user friendly. The 7th is a short par five and definitely birdieable. Favor left of center off the tee. Anything over the middle pot bunker will set up a flip wedge. The 8th is a long par 3 with water left. Pay particular attention to the pin location as this is a very deep green. The front ends with a long dogleg right with water on the right from about 180 yards in. This is another very deep green.
The back started off with my least favorite hole. A short dogleg right, do not try to be a hero and fly the elbow. Be sane and hit an iron or a utility down the left center to set up a short iron approach. On the approach favor the right as there is a severe drop to the left. The 11th is a short par 5, but it is uphill and will be difficult to get home in two. The landing area narrows the closer one gets to the green. Bunkers left and right, but still a decent birdie hole. The 12th is a tough hole. Slight dogleg left. Off the tee aim just left of the bunkers on the right. On your approach stay right, left does not have a happy ending. The 13th is also a dogleg left. Short hole, may want to leave the driver in the bag. A severely elevated green, take an extra club. The 14th is a long dogleg right. Off the tee favor the right side. The approach is tricky, downhill to a green that is protected by bunkers and the creek. Take one less club. The 15th is a long par three. Short and left is death. The good news is this another very large green, the bad news is the swale running across the entire green from the back to the front. The last par five is a good birdie oppty, but only the stoutest of the stout will get home in two. Right center is best off the tee as the moguls left are debilitating. For the 2nd shot favor the left side as there is a BAB on the right side. The 17th is rated the easiest on the course. It is protected by two large tress, one left and one right. Short and left is NG. The finishing hole can reach out and grab you. There are two greens. Favor the right side off the tee and you will still have a long approach over the river. Good closing hole.