Golf at Meadow Brook began in 1930 but a change of ownership in 2006 led to a complete redesign of the layout by Roger Rulewich and David Fluery, bringing water into play at no fewer than seven of the new holes.
The Hendrick family now own and operate the Meadow Brook golf facility, along with two others in Rhode Island. Exeter County Club was first to open in 1969, followed by Richmond Country Club in 1991, so the family has now worked in the golf business for more than half a century.
Meadow Brook can be stretched to 7,468 yards from the back tees, playing to a par of 72. The longest hole on the scorecard, the 649-yard 15th, is also rated the most difficult on the back nine. The spectacular par three 10th is regarded as the “signature hole” here, playing 202 yards over water from a raised tee which is surrounded by natural rock formations.
The more I have studied golf architecture, the more I have fallen in love with courses from the golden ages, and the elements of those courses found in modern minimalism today. Some of those include width for playing angles, natural grading of fairways over the ground, variety in length, and bold, undulating green complexes. Despite Meadow Brook fitting few of categories, I found myself returning year after year when I still lived in New England!
Bottom line up front: Meadow Brook not for the faint of heart. At 7,400 yards from the tips, and lengthy yardages from the other tees, this course is an absolute monster. My close friends and I typically would travel to Meadow Brook at the end of each summer as one final test of our improvements over the season. We were almost always humbled by this beat-down of a golf course.
Admittedly, Meadow Brook’s bunker style is bland, the property is fairly flat, and the green complexes are altogether unmemorable. However, the pride from hitting successful heroic shots throughout the round is utterly intoxicating. There is also a hidden secret that makes the course slightly more manageable than the scorecard suggests: wonderfully firm conditions that allow for significant rollout not found on many other area courses.
My favorite holes at Meadow Brook include:
• #1: The tee shot on the first feels like a narrow, Augusta-like chute, yet the Meadow Brook veteran knows of a large opening to the right. The next shot plays over the bumbling ‘Meadow Brook’ itself to a green complex a chipping area on the right.
• #2: Despite its fairly flat nature, and proximity to the road, the 2nd provides interest with bunkers guarding the fairway at the perfect driving point, and rumples in the layup area.
• #3: Carved back into the forest, this par four curves beautifully down a slope to a narrow, deep green.
• #4: A 263 par three with a deadly pot bunker fronting the green. Deadly, and yet probably similar to the way so many classic par threes played in the golden ages.
• #5: This slightly uphill par four sits at 481 yards from the tips and is among the narrowest on the course. It is a brutal test.
• #10: The island green 10th appears more challenging than it plays due to the exceptionally large putting surface and rough around the green complex.
• #12: This par five is among my favorite of ~3500 holes played to date. It plays to a whopping 603 yards, but the green is perfectly visible from the tee box. In a way, it is sort of inspiring to literally see what 600 yards looks like, all right in front of you. Fairway bunkers require strategic thinking through the green.
• #15: Among the most narrow holes I have played anywhere, the 649 yard (!!!) par five 15th is memorable for its unrelenting challenging. There is no room to bail out, and virtually no area to lay up either. It is an outrageous test of optimism.
• #18: A fitting end to the round, this hole’s tiny fairway hugs a lake, and the green offers no relief with water in front and pot bunkers behind.
Meadow Brook is not a course I would enjoy playing every day, though I am sure it would lower my handicap. Perhaps it might be more highly rated if the holes offered variety in lengths, if bunkering and greens were made more interesting, and if a significant amount of trees were removed. However, these things simply do not align with Meadow Brook’s brand. Meadow Brook owns its identity as a long, difficult, well-manicured test. If you are ready to step up to its challenge, you will find a great value golf course in a very quaint part of Rhode Island.