Blackwolf Run Meadow Valleys: The Most Underrated Course at Kohler
The Meadow Valleys Course at Blackwolf Run was the second round I played on my first ever golf road trip. It’s a wonderful experience, and shouldn’t be missed on a trip to Kohler. This post was originally published in November 2013, and has been updated in March 2022 for accuracy.
After a beautiful (and difficult) round at The Bull at Pinehurst Farms in the morning, I made the 5-minute drive over to Blackwolf Run. I’d be playing the River Course the next day, but I was pretty excited to play Meadow Valleys as I’d heard numerous times that it was the hidden gem of the Kohler Courses.
It doesn’t get as much press as any of the other three, but on more than one occasion I had people tell me that they’d prefer to play that course every day over all of the others.
I was skeptical but excited to find out.
Blackwolf Run was originally one 18-hole championship course when it opened in 1988, and was voted Best New Public Course by Golf Digest.
9 holes were added in 1989, and the final 9 was added in 1990.
The original championship course was made up of holes 10-18 of Meadow Valleys and 1-4 and 14-18 of the River Course. This routing is still used for major tournaments, such as the US Women’s Open in both 1998 and 2012 – although it played 500 yards longer in 2012.
This would be my first Pete Dye course and I was extremely excited to get out there. I’d heard about how much fun his courses can be and some of the specific design traits of his, so I knew I’d be in for a treat.
For whatever reason they were starting us off on the 10th hole, and this would be my first round playing by myself. You never know how people are going to react when they get paired with a single on an expensive course.
In this case, the two guys I was paired with elected not to play with me, putting me in the weird situation of being in front of them and behind a foursome. It was about 6 holes before that foursome became a fivesome.
We played from the green tees which measured a manageable 6450 yards.
Since I played it from 10 I’m going to write about it that way.
Just the Facts
- Designer: Pete Dye
- Built-in: 1988-1990
- Rank: #74 Public Course in the Country. (Golf Digest)
- Location: Kohler, Wisconsin. Part of American Club Resort
- Greens fees: $95-290 depending on time of day and time of year.
- Website: http://www.americanclubresort.com/golf/bwr/valleys_detail.html
Hole 10 (Par 4, 330 yards)
After spraying balls all morning long at The Bull I wasn’t thrilled to see an extremely narrow chute for a tee shot. Hybrid is the smart play, just get it 200 out to reach the dog leg for a simple approach. On my second shot I already started to notice some of the interesting design elements of Dye. Lots of undulation in the fairways and strategically placed bunkers.
Hole 11 (Par 5, 495 yards)
“That might be the biggest bunker I’ve ever seen.” – I said this to myself as I stood on the 11th tee. Dogleg left, with one of the scariest bunkers I’ve ever seen (I hadn’t played the Straits Course yet).
If you go too long and straight off the tee you’ll be in the rough, but it’s pretty intimidating to hit it left over the bunker. Very much a risk/reward hole as you decide how much of that bunker you want to bite off.
Hole 12 (Par 4, 407 yards)
On the 12th tee is when the guys I’d end up playing with first let me play through, so I plowed through the hole trying not to hold anyone up. An easy drive with a wide fairway, however be careful of the tough approach shot. If you don’t really connect on the tee it gets even tougher.
Hole 13 (Par 4, 313 yards)
I stood at the tee and couldn’t figure out why this hole was named “chimney”. It sounded like an easy par 4 dog leg left (not that dog leg lefts are ever easy for me), but I figured a hybrid to the middle of the fairway would give me an easy approach.
Until I saw why the hole was called Chimney.
Hole 14 (Par 4, 384 yards)
One of my favorite holes on the course. You get your first view of the river on the right off the tee, and once you get to the green which is slightly right and downhill you see Pete Dye’s signature railway ties round the green.
Hole 15 (Par 3, 189)
An intimidating par 3 (especially from the back tees) over a large ravine. Be afraid if the pin is on the left of the green, bailout on the right. My only par of the first 9 came at a good time, as the group behind me joined me on the tee.
Hole 16 (Par 5, 487 yards)
Another intimidating hole, but for entirely different reasons. Not that long, but you have a completely blind tee shot with absolutely no idea which way to go. Hint, aim right center of the fairway and if you clear the ridge you should get some good roll down to the fairway. Another MASSIVE bunker on the approach shot. On second thought it’s less of a bunker and more of a desert.
Hole 17 (Par 3, 152 yards)
Not overly difficult, unless you go left. Bailout over the tree on the right. Statistically the easiest hole on the course.
Hole 18 (Par 4, 383 yards)
Great finishing hole, that reminds me of the 18th at Crosswater when looking from behind the green. Water directly in front of the green with the clubhouse looming over you and the 18th on the River Course sharing the green.
Also worth noting from the tee box you could see dozens of salmon spawning in the river.
Hole 1 (Par 4, 349 yards)
Easy opening hole dogleg right. Driver not totally necessary, just get it in the fairway for an easy approach.
Hole 2 (Par 4, 385 yards)
Straight away par 4 that you’d better hit! Multi-tiered rough leading up to the elevated green with a bunker at the base, and deep rough everywhere else. You’ll notice it’s called “Table-Top” for a reason.
Hole 3 (Par 3, 158 yards)
One of my favorite par 3s on the course, and I’m not totally why, as it’s pretty basic. Tee off from the trees, with signature Dye drop off and bunker all down the right hand side. You’ll have a tough up and down if you’re down there. Believe me, I know from experience.
Hole 4 (Par 5, 516 yards)
Pretty long par 5 with plenty of trouble areas. Keep your tee shot to the left off the tee to avoid another bunker, and prepare yourself for a blind approach shot over a giant ridge with more bunkers if you’re on the right.
Hole 5 (Par 4, 362 yards)
Easy par 4 if you can put your ball in the middle of the fairway. Careful you don’t go too far right or the trees will cut off your approach. This is the hole that really helped me understand where the “Meadow” part of the course name came from.
Hole 6 (Par 4, 444 yards)
One of the most difficult holes in all of Kohler. “Serpentine” is a stupid long par 4 measuring 444 yards from our green tees. You’ll want to keep your drive on the left part of the fairway if you really want a shot at the green. It’s deep so feel free to take some club and bomb it out there.
Hole 7 (Par 5, 488 yards)
Another one of my favorites on the course. A manageable par 5 with a beautiful lake on the left of the green and 2nd shot. Dye is particularly mean here where he places rough and bunker right in the middle of the landing area for your second shot. You also see this feature on the 15th at Oakland Hills South Course.
Hole 8 (Par 3, 176 yards)
It was getting seriously dark at this point in our round. This only made the already partially blind tee shot more difficult. Clear the mound and you might get a little bit of roll down to the green. Short is much better than left.
Hole 9 (Par 4, 432 yards)
Another tough par 4 with bunkers all along the right. All four of us thought we hit really solid drives that would clear the end of the first big bunker. And all 4 of us were about 10 yards short. Be careful you don’t bite off more than you really should.
It’s not difficult to see why Meadow Valleys is known as the hidden gem of Kohler. The name sums it up perfectly, as the front 9 runs through beautiful meadows, while the middle of the back has you hitting over and through numerous valleys.
By the end of my round I was dead tired. After a full day of travel the day before and being on the latter half of a 36 hole day, my energy was definitely waning. That said, I still had time to have dinner and drinks with my playing partners in what was certainly one of the most enjoyable evenings of the trip.
The bar has a really cool log cabin feel and a great view of the 18th green on the River Course. In the summer the deck would be a must-visit spot.
Bottom line? If you’re in Kohler, don’t pass up a chance to play Meadow Valleys. It’s easier than the River, but is just as scenic, and half of it has held US Women’s Opens. Personally, I’d take this over the Irish Course at Whistling Straits if you have to choose. That said, I may be biased since my round on the Irish Course was shrouded in a rainy fog, and it was 80 and sunny at Meadow Valleys. Take that for what it’s worth.