Meadow Hills

Meadow Hills GC, Aurora. Henry Hughes, 1957.

More than anywhere else, this was my home course growing up—my high school’s home course and the best of the Aurora muni options for most of the time I lived there. As a result, I love the place with a passion all out of proportion to the reality. It was built as a private club but later bought by the city. A few changes have been made over the years but the basic character of the course remains—it’s not a long course, but it has defenses—narrow fairways, mature trees, and tiny greens.

Credit: Golf Advisor

The course announces it will be no pushover immediately. The first is 453 yards to a 30 yard wide fairway with trees tight right and left. The hole is straight but the tee is angled and offset slightly aiming you down the right side of the hole, effectively making the fairway play even narrower—as a result many drives off the first either go way right into the ninth fairway or snap left into the trees or out of bounds left. The green is a circle 30 yards deep with a bunker short and right. Not a fun target to try to hit with a long iron, especially coming out of the rough.

The second again tests your long iron game. A par 3 of 204 yards, again to a tiny round green guarded by bunkers short right and left. The third is 433 and doglegs right around a large tree about 240 yards out. If you can work the ball around the tree—or, these days, outright fly it—you may find a downslope in the fairway and have just a wedge in. But the conservative play is to the corner, which leaves another long approach to a small green.

That’s the consistent theme at Meadow Hills. If you can drive it well and control your ball to keep it in the fairway, you’ll have the chance to score well. The greens are small enough that if you hit them, you’ll end up with makeable putts. But the greens are small enough that if you miss the fairways, you will have a very difficult time hitting the green, even with a wedge or short iron.

After the third, the approaches at least get shorter. The fourth is a short par 3. The sixth is an uphill par 5 that’s reachable, though the green is hidden behind a trio of fronting bunkers. The seventh is a short par 4 playing downhill.

There’s just one outright bad hole here—the 11th, a par 4 that plays downhill to a forced dogleg landing area, then back up a slight hill over a pond and a bunker. The dogleg is not 90 degrees but it’s close. There’s no point in trying to cut the corner even if you could because of the pond, and if your drive doesn’t get far enough down the fairway (or if it goes too far) you’ll be blocked out by trees (or be out of bounds on the driving range).

But there are also several lovely holes. I always liked the downhill curving dogleg of the fifth, which makes you want to hit the big stick but demands precision as a pond through the dogleg can gobble up imprudent shots.

The 12th is a nice par 4 playing gently uphill to a fairway that angles right to left. There’s a pond left of the fairway if you get overaggressive with a draw. You play back over that pond on the short par 3 13th. Look for the left tee hidden back in the trees by the 12th fairway. The 14th and 15th—a long par 4 followed by a par 3, have nice approach shots from high point to high point over a deep swale.

The 16th is a potentially reachable par 5 that became much more risky when they built homes down the left side of the hole and so the left side of the hole became out of bounds, but it’s a fun spot on the course for a risk/reward hole, especially after the difficult two holes that come before it.

Growing up, the most dramatic holes on the course were the trio of water holes—the eighth, ninth, and the 18th. The eighth and ninth play back and forth along a small pond. On eight the tee shot is notably downhill with the pond cutting into the fairway from the left—the fairway narrows to about 20 yards and you have to hit it 260 yards to where the fairway widens again. The tee at the ninth is set over to the left side so it forces your decision more—you either must make the carry of 230 yards or deliberately play out to the right. Even if you carry the water, however, the real challenge of the ninth hole has always been hitting the green, one of the smallest on a course full of tiny greens, and elevated at the top of a hill.


The 18th looks the most dramatic with a large pond directly in front of the tee and a wide fairway sloping right to left as a target. But even the longest carry is only around 200 yards and those who can’t make the carry have plenty of opportunity to play out to the right. Again, the challenge here is around the green, which is two-tiered and drops off on all sides. However, the green is also on a bit of a peninsula with OB fences surrounding it and it’s very easy to have a shot just a few feet wide of the green hit the side slope and kick hard then end up under an OB fence. That’s a tough way to end your round.

Most of those carries will not intimidate a lot of better players today with high swing speeds, solid core balls, and 460cc driver heads. But I suspect they’re still plenty relevant for the majority of the muni golfers who play the course regularly, no matter the equipment they use. This was always a course that a really good player could attack—if they were on their game.

It’s no one’s idea of a must play, but I certainly could have done a lot worse than to have learned the game here.

Colorado 6th Decile [2000]

Credit: City of Aurora