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|The par-3 fourth hole on Meadows Farms Golf Course's Waterfall nine is situated in front of the old Willis house that served as a Civil War hospital. (Courtesy of meadowsfarms.com)|
LOCUST GROVE, Va. - Meadows Farms Golf Course is an unforgettable round of golf.
Which is exactly what owner Bill "Farmer" Meadows had in mind when he created this 27-hole facility about a half hour from Fredericksburg and a short drive south of the nation's capital.
Meadows, a former teacher who made his fortune in tomatoes, nurseries and cattle, knew he wanted something different when deciding to build his own golf course here.
It had been more than 30 years, after all, since he had played the game as a young adult. And the fact that he's worth well over $100 million meant that not only would he get a new set of clubs when he started playing again, but his very own golf course - done his way.
There are three nines at Meadows Farms, opened in 1993. The Longest Hole Course is predictably the longest, playing 3,909 yards from the tips as a par 37. The Waterfall and Island Green nines are both par 35s: 2,962 and 3,096 yards, respectively.
If this sounds kind of crazy already, you're right. Meadows didn't hire a big-name architect because he had some very specific ideas about how he wanted his golf course. Instead of one or two signature holes, he dreamed of lots of holes you wouldn't soon forget.
Where do you start? How about the longest hole in the United States, according to the Guinness Book of World Records? As the story goes, course architect Bill Ward suggested a par 6. Meadows countered that it should be the country's longest hole, which at 841 yards qualifies it as such, just a couple of yards longer than the previous longest hole, in Missouri.
As daunting as it sounds, the par-6 third on the Longest Hole nine isn't a driver and three fairway woods. First of all, there are three ponds that will impede those club selections, plus this dogleg right plays downhill.
Off the tee, depending on the day and conditions, you may have to hit 3-wood to avoid the first water hazard. A fairway wood or hybrid then takes you around the corner short of another hazard. The last two hazards can be negotiated with short irons.
Then there's the coolest waterfall hole you'll ever see, No. 4 on the Waterfall nine. Set in front of the widow Willis home, a hospital for both sides during the Civil War, the water cascades over an old-looking stone structure that you drive your golf cart through on the way up to the green. At 174 yards, it's an intimidating tee shot, but extremely fun.
And there's the baseball hole, a 172-yard par 3 on the Waterfall nine that's pretty much a baseball field, complete with a fence with advertising and a warning track bunker. The green is in centerfield with the shot playing over the pitcher's mound and second base. A single to center is what you want here, not a home run.
Meadows Farms Golf Course also has an island green hole, another par 3 surrounded by bunkers and a par 4 that Bobby Lewis, vice president of golf operations, calls "our Pete Dye got hit by a train design," referring to the collection of haphazard railroad ties around the green.
The holes are unforgettable. They probably won't win any architectural awards, although maybe they should.
This isn't purist golf by any stretch. Conditions are good, but not pristine. The golf course really doesn't flow together, exactly the way Meadows intended. And if you're looking for five-star service, forget it. The folks here are friendly, but this is blue-collar golf - no cold towels and no clamoring to clean your clubs on the range, which is just fine.
But Meadows Farms Golf Course is loads of fun. From the stuffed red bull above the snack bar counter to bouncing one off the wall of the baseball hole, there's not a shred of boredom. Even driving the cart can be an adventure on a wet day on some of the slopes. (Meadows Farm might want to consider a new fleet of E-Z-GOs with the automatic breaking system or redoing some of the cart paths so they aren't so steep.)
The course is also a bargain, another part of Meadows' master plan, with green fees ranging from $37 to $42. A beer is just $2.50, and everything on the snack bar menu is priced to encourage guests to eat here before and after the round, not at McDonald's or Chili's.
"We wanted to keep this affordable," said Meadows' nephew, Lewis.
Affordable and fun are a pretty good combination.
May 26, 2009
Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in the Houston area. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 20 years in the golf industry. Before joining the TravelGolf Network team in 2008, he held positions at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @Accidentlgolfer.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
Referred to by its hosts as a "hidden gem," the greens alone at Sterling Hills Golf Club in Camarillo, Calif. make this a stone worth turning over. Located an hour northwest of L.A., it's a pleasing, quiet and generally engaging round that will appease players of all levels.
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