The Meadows

Meadows GC, Littleton. Dick Phelps with Brad Benz and Mike Poellot, 1984.

A challenging course with as much water in play as any course I can think of in Colorado (and they’ve added another lake since I last played it!).

The course plays down along a creek bed and the creek has been dammed in several places to create lakes that challenge several of the holes. The eighth is probably the signature par 3, a long shot over water to a green also guarded by six bunkers in front and another behind. There’s another pond that the 10th, 11th, and 18th holes work around.

The most dramatic ponds are at the 12th. When I was playing here, this was a double dogleg par 5 (left, then right) with water guarding the right side of the hole. In the years since, they built some homes to the left of the fairway and, I guess in an effort to help keep people from cutting the corner to the left, they also added another lake to the left of the fairway. So now there’s water on both sides for both the drive and the second shot. For your second, you need to decide whether to stay short of water crossing the fairway or try to carry it. Finally there’s water and a bunker right of the green and two bunkers left. It’s a dramatic hole, but a bit much.

For the most part, the holes that just interact with the creek are better.

At the far west side of the course, just across the freeway from the hogback, the sixth is a fun downhill par 4 with a fairway split by the creek. Good drivers can reach the second fairway without too much trouble but the fairway is semi-blind from the tee on account of several large trees in the creek bed. A successful big drive is a big reward, however, the green on the sixth is one of the smallest on the course and if you lay back safely to the left fairway, your approach shot to the small green will probably be from 160 yards or more and a worse angle.

The 14th is a clever hole with a large bunker to the right and the green set across a creek. If you challenge and carry the bunker you set up a much shorter second shot from a better angle, but fail to carry the bunker and you may not be able to reach the green from the bunker, especially given the penalty of the creek if you come up short.

The back side’s second par 5 is 570 yards gently moving left around the creek. This is a simple, classic hole—the closer you play to the creek, the shorter you make the hole, which may bring the possibility of reaching the green in two into play.

The fourth is one of the few holes that doesn’t have water of any kind in play. A 530-yard uphill par 5, the fairway is wide but split by a center line pot bunker 250 yards out. Brave drives that go left of the bunker make the hole shorter and give a better angle if you hope to get home in two, but there’s plenty of trouble for shots that miss that way.

Probably my favorite hole on the course is the ninth—a big par 5 playing down a hill with the creek along the left and the green set across the hazard. Big drives can find a boost down the hill that make the hole reachable. I saw the son of a former Masters winner hit this hole in two with an iron once. But for most players the challenge is getting your second shot in the right place to carry the ravine with your third shot.

But for all I like about the course, I’ve never found a Phelps course without at least a few holes that just don’t make much sense to me. Here, the biggest head-scratcher is the second—a hole that doglegs around a lake and seems for all the world like it should have been the site of a do-or-die reachable hole with the green perched just at the far side of the lake. Instead, the green is much further up the hill and there’s no reward in carrying the lake on a line to the green even if you can. Worse, from the tee the fairway lines suggest the best line is toward the second tongue of fairway to the left of a small inlet, assuming you can make the carry. In fact, though, if you hit your tee shot on that line you’re likely to run through into a creek you can’t really see from the tee. The best aggressive line off the tee is really over the inlet, maybe with a little draw. But you would never know it without playing the course several times.

And then there’s the 18th, an otherwise innocuous finishing hole where for 35 years they’ve maintained an island of fairway out to the right of the hole for no reason that makes sense to me. The carry to this fairway is not any shorter than the carry to the main fairway (it is wider, I guess) and playing to it makes to hole 20-40 yards longer. If anyone plays there on purpose, I’d love to figure out why.

Colorado 4th Decile [1997]

Credit: Foothills Park & Recreation District