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|Pete Dye's Meadow Valleys lies in the shadow of Kohler's other, more famous courses. (Brandon Tucker/GolfPublisher.com)|
KOHLER, Wis. - It isn't often that a Pete Dye-designed golf course is considered the "weakest link" at a resort - unless of course it's in Kohler, Wis., where Dye is featured exclusively on the town's four golf courses.
So, one of them is going to have to bring up the rear.
Such is the case with Meadow Valleys at Blackwolf Run in Kohler. Stunning Whistling Straits and Irish courses on the Lake Michigan coast are better known, as is Blackwolf's parkland gem, the River Course. Meadow Valleys gets a little lost in the shuffle. It's the only course of the four that isn't nationally ranked in Golf Digest's Top 100 Public Courses.
In terms of good Wisconsin golf, the only thing Meadow Valleys lacks is the scenery. The two Whistling Straits golf courses of course are big-budget lakeside masterpieces designed with the dramatic Irish links in mind. The River Course at Blackwolf Run takes up the most inspiring terrain snaking around the Sheboygan River bed and offers several gorgeous elevated tee shots as well.
Meadow Valleys, on the other hand, plays on good, but not spectacular, rolling open land with ponds and meadows on many holes. It's still a good enough course to be the feature course at a lot of other Midwestern resorts, but not at Kohler.
It's commonly referred to as the "easiest" of the four Kohler courses - which is a gross overstatement. No Dye course can ever use "easy" as an adjective, especially when it has a 144/74.6 championship slope/rating and plays more than 7,100 yards.
A more accurate description is there are fewer chances for seriously big numbers - although they still do exist.
The front nine is relatively tame and flat compared to the River course, playing mostly wide open around meadows. Landing zones are a little more generous than you're used to in Kohler.
It's the back nine that really gets your attention. The short par-4 10th's fairway is an unbelievably tight tree-lined corridor that punishes anyone who tries to hit a wood. Not only does your shot need to find the fairway, you can barely have any fade or hook on it since the trees encroach the tee so closely.
The 13th, "Chimney," is another short par-4, more wide-open, but features a semiblind, uphill tee shot followed by an approach to a narrow, steeply elevated green sloping off in each direction. This short-iron or wedge approach requires the most touch of any of the course's holes.
The back's two par-3s are both shockers. The 15th hole, "Mercy," is a long tee shot that is all carry (200-230 yards from the back tees), playing over a wild, deep gorge. The green doesn't do you any favors either: It's one of the course's most sloping.
The 17th is shorter, just 165 yards, but the green is blocked by a giant maple tree sitting right in front. You're going to have to shape your iron around it, or hit it high enough to fly it.
The 18th may be the prettiest hole of both Blackwolf Run courses - especially played from the highly elevated championship tees. It plays down to a fairway that runs along the river to the right. Tall trees shade the hole, which also features plenty of flowering on it to add color. The second shot is over the river to the green that sits well below the base of the clubhouse. That is, unless you're a woman - they've created an entirely separate green here just for you, sitting in front of the river instead (maybe Dye does have a soft side).
Meadow Valleys is the least prestigious of the four Kohler courses, but that's due in part more to its less-remarkable landscape than its design. There are some holes here as memorable as you'll play in Kohler, especially the 18th.
Sweetening the deal is the free replay offered to American Club guests who play the River course or the Straits course in the morning. The same deal goes for the Irish course as well. Like all of Kohler's courses, caddies are available and the course is walker-friendly. Peak rates are $150.
The main accommodation facility is the five-star American Club. A beautiful example of Tudor architecture, it was built at the turn of the 20th century to house immigrant factory workers in Kohler. It's since been expanded and upgraded and is now an all-encompassing hotel with conference centers, gardens and several restaurants. Guests of the American Club also receive free access to the Sports Core fitness center, which features a full gym, as well as lakeside beach and patio for the leisure-minded.
The Kohler Waters Spa has recently received its own rejuvenation and is now one of America's best retreats and features a variety of signature treatments and several relaxation rooms.
The LPGA Championship used nine holes from both the River and Meadow Valleys when it was staged at Blackwolf Run in 1998.
August 7, 2007
Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Channel Courses & Travel. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
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