The Jack – Meadowbrook Golf Club
By R.J. Smiley
Meadowbrook opened for play in 1926, as the fourth sibling of the collaboration of Theodore Wirth and William Clark. People loved the new course that was built along gorgeous Minnehaha Creek (the brook in the name). It was the second Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) course to have grass greens and tees. Meadowbrook Golf Club quickly developed a national reputation as a great golf course and was awarded the prestigious USGA Public Links Championship in 1948.
Meadowbrook Golf Club has three major elements that make it the unique golf course that it is. The first element is the William Clark trademark, elevated greens. Almost every green at Meadowbrook sits on a hilltop and those that don’t were designed and built in the “push-up” method, where native soils are piled up to create an elevated base for the final greens mix. I have found nothing in my research to prove this fact, but my golf course development experience tells me that architect Clark built Meadowbrook with elevated greens to eliminate the boggy soil conditions found on much of the golf course. In this writer’s opinion the signature holes on Meadowbrook are #10 and #11. These two holes define the golf course. Drive from a slightly elevated tee to a soft-no-roll fairway then play your approach shot to a severely elevated green framed by huge, mature oak trees that must be as old as the golf course. Oh yes, stay below the hole as these greens are severely pitched back to front. These two holes are beautiful (poster worthy) parkland golf holes. Modern architects are continually searching for property that will allow them to create something as aesthetically pleasing and fun to play as #10 and #11.
The second element that makes Meadowbrook such a joy to play is the variety of par 3 holes. The second hole at Meadowbrook is a spectacular, slightly downhill, mid-length (about 160 yards) par 3. From the elevated tee the hole usually plays into the prevailing south wind and the bunkers appear menacing. The front nine’s sibling par 3 #6 is every bit as beautiful and even tougher than #2. The sixth plays up to 185 yards and again slightly down hill. The huge bunker guarding the front of the green has a big lip that looks like a mountain from the tee. Everything is right in front of you – just play the hole. With the timeless design qualities that these two holes provide, no wonder Meadowbrook was awarded a USGA event. The most unique par 3 on the course is the 16th with its banana shaped green. The green, rebuilt several years ago, looks like a banana that was laid on its side on top of a sand pile, meaning, the green is well bunkered. It is possible to knock your tee shot onto this banana and not be able to putt at the hole. You will remember the par threes!
The other element that makes Meadowbrook unique is the two completely blind approach shots to holes #7 and #12. Only the biggest hitters, who have the strength to drive their ball to the top of the hill, can avoid the blind second on the long tough seventh. Locals have the advantage because they don’t have to walk to the top of the hill to get a line to the pin; they know which tree to shoot at. The wonderful little twelfth hole shares design features (beautifully elevated greens) of the previous two beauties except the green is placed well beyond the crest of the hill, making it a blind shot where determining the proper distance is difficult.
At Meadowbrook golfers can hit their own practice balls! The maintenance staff does something unique for golfers who want to hit their own practice balls. There is a small area just below the clubhouse with a green cut into the side of a small hill where you can hit short irons. There is also a huge practice area on the backside of the course where golfers can hit any club in their bag. Most importantly, you will meet other players who want to get better.
Meadowbrook also shares something with its younger sister course, Hiawatha, namely Minnehaha Creek. It is hard to believe that you could take a canoe and your golf clubs and play 36 holes in the same day. Over the years improvements to Meadowbrook have been made. Water hazards have replaced usually wet areas and a few greens have been replaced. But the integrity of the original layout has been maintained.