Review: Meadow Brook Golf Club

Course Name: Meadow Brook Golf Club

Designer: Rob Roy Rawlings (1929), Roger Rulewich/Dave Fleury (2010, Redesign)

Location: Richmond, Rhode Island

History: Originally a 9-hole Rob Roy Rawlings design from 1929, the Hendrick family (owners of Exeter and Richmond) bought Meadow Brook in 2006. It was redesigned and completely renovated by Roger Rulewich and Dave Fleury in 2010. The new design immediately received rave reviews, with the course owning the following awards:

  • #14 Best Course in Rhode Island – Top100golfcourse.com (2018)
  • #3 Best Public Course in Rhode Island – Golfweek (2020)

Conditions: 8/10, Meadow Brook is always in fantastic shape and is probably the best conditioned public course in Rhode Island. The greens roll true and the fairways, rough, and teeboxes are similar to what you’d find on your standard private course.

Value: 8/10, Meadow Brook is one of the best values in the state. At peak hours, it will cost you $75 to ride and $60 to walk. If you walk at twilight, you can play this gem for $30. There are also senior and off-season rates.

Scorecard:

Tee                      Par         Yardage         Rating          Slope

Black                  72           7468              75.4               132

Blue                   72           7086              73.3               129

Green                72            6532              70.6               123

Silver                 72            5898             67.7               114

Red                     72            5308              69.5            118

Hole Descriptions: Like many states in the Northeast, Rhode Island is home to quality private golf but is certainly lacking in the public arena. That’s why it was such a big deal in 2006 when architect Roger Rulewich was hired to redesign an old 9-hole course with a poor reputation into an upscale public course. I’ve played Meadow Brook several times now since its opening in 2010 and thoroughly enjoy it. While it cannot quite compare to the elite private courses in the state, the conditioning and value are about as good as it gets in the region for public golf and golfers of all abilities can enjoy it with teeboxes ranging from 5300 yards to almost 7500 (!), making it the longest in Rhode Island.

Roger Rulewich is seemingly known for his upscale public tracks in the region and while I often find them overrated and unoriginal, there’s no denying his courses are solid offerings in an area needing quality public golf. Meadow Brook contains typical features of modern golf design such as giant greens with severe undulations, but features very few blind shots with most holes laid out in front of you. In an era where classic courses are taking down trees like never before, I find Meadow Brook overtreed and somewhat claustrophobic with thick tree-lined fairways on almost every hole. From the longer tees, this can be a very difficult course given the accuracy requirements on the teeshot. Not all of the holes stand out, but some such as the 1st, 4th, 5th, 7th, 10th, 17th, and 18th leave a lasting impact.

One of Meadow Brook’s greatest weaknesses is its strange and awkward routing which hampers walkability. The 1st teebox is nearly 500 yards from the clubhouse while the 2nd teebox is directly next to it. Furthermore, there’s no range despite a giant property and the clubhouse and parking lot are somewhat rudimentary. It’s clear they intended to build the clubhouse by the 1st teebox, but this never materialized and I’m not sure why they didn’t make the 1st the 18th, as it’s an excellent hole.

Perhaps my favorite par 4 at Meadow Brook, the aforementioned opener is an excellent 415 yard hole featuring a semi-blind downhill teeshot. With OB down the left the entire way and a power slot around 250 yards, this is a fun driving hole, but again would be better suited as the closer. A small creek crosses this fairway about 50 yards short of an elevated green that slopes severely back-to-front with two bunkers wedged into mounds long. One perk about the awkward routing is that many golfers finishing near sunset play this hole twice (Shhhh!)

The semi-blind par 4 1st
IMG_3319
The approach at 1
Looking back at the fantastic opener

A short par 5, the 509 yard 2nd is a rare hole at Meadow Brook requiring a forced carry. Playing directly adjacent to the clubhouse, this hole demands a 215 yard carry just to reach a wide fairway.  Large bunkers down the right at 220 yards and left at 260 yards will force a lay-up. Once on the fairway, this hole narrows with a downhill approach and tall mounds of rough on either side. This large green slopes steeply back-to-front and left-to-right with two large bunkers defending its left side.

The par 5 2nd requires a lengthy forced carry
The approach at the reachable 2nd

As a 394 yard dogleg left, the par 4 3rd hole isn’t terribly long, but features another difficult drive through a chute of overhanging trees. A draw is the preferable ballflight for longer hitters to avoid running through this fairway. A narrow, back-to-front sloped green defended by deep bunkers on either side awaits at the end.

The dogleg par 4 3rd
IMG_3337
The approach at 3

The most difficult par 3 on the course, the lengthy 4th hole is officially 209 yards from the Blue Tees, but played over 260 the day I played. Requiring at least a hybrid or longer for all golfers, this narrow one-shotter features a large, elevated green defended by a notable pot bunker just short. From all the way back, the average PGA player would struggle to make par here consistently.

The brutally difficult par 3 4th

At 467 yards, the 5th hole is the longest par 4 at Meadow Brook and a deserving number 1 handicap. This is an extremely strong and memorable hole with an elevated teebox to a tree-lined fairway that slides right at about 270 yards. This large green slopes back left-to-front right and is guarded by a large bunker short left. A bogey here is not the end of the world.

The beautiful dogleg right 5th

After two lengthy holes, the 158 yard par 3 6th is the shortest and arguably easiest hole at Meadow Brook. This one-shotter is set at a somewhat awkward angle to a giant diagonal green that stretches well over 200 feet wide. Avoiding the two pot bunkers short is only part of the solution as three-putting is common here. The 7th hole is one of the better holes on the course as a 388 yard par 4. A slight dogleg right, this hole features a wide fairway lined by bunkers on either side and a midline bunker at 265 yards that gives the golfer options. Do you bomb it over leaving nothing in or leave a partially blind approach with a mid-iron? This shallow back-to-front sloped green is tucked on the lower right and defended by a deep bunker short.

The par 4 7th
The approach at 7 from the midline bunker

At 553 yards, the 8th hole is a difficult par 5 with a narrow drive to a tight fairway that doglegs right around 250 yards. With a good drive, this hole is relatively uneventful with the fairway continuing to an elevated back-to-front sloped green guarded by a bunker short right.

The tight par 5 8th calls for a left-to-right ballflight

The 9th hole is a medium-length 386 yard par 4 playing straightaway to a generous fairway. Small bunkers line the left at 255 and 300 yards and the golfer should aim down the right side. This approach continues uphill to a long, narrow, and relatively flat green guarded by bunkers on either side.

The uphill par 4 9th

The 10th hole is the most aesthetically pleasing hole at Meadow Brook and will be the most memorable for many as an 183 yard par 3. Playing downhill, this beautiful par 3 is a design Rulewich has employed on many of his courses with an island green guarded on multiple sides by water. While this hole is intimidating, a gigantic green and bailout short right make it wholly playable.

The signature par 3 10th

At 411 yards, the par 4 11th requires a forced carry of about 150 yards over water to a relatively narrow fairway with a large crossbunker down the left at 240 yards. This hole features one of the smaller greens on the course defended by two bunkers on the right.

The par 4 11th

Meadow Brook is a very tight golf course, but the 12th and 13th holes offer somewhat of a brief respite on a wider open part of the property. The 12th hole is a lengthy 562 yard slight dogleg right par 5. Although there are two bunkers down the left around 230 yards, the key is to keep it down this side to avoid being blocked out by trees that jut out on the right. A crossbunker down the left about 115 yards short of an elevated green is the only real danger on this lay-up. This large green slopes back-to-front with a bunker short right and tight fairway to the left.

The monster par 5 12th

The 13th hole is a very interesting 399 yard par 4 and one of my favorites on the course. This teebox is set up surrounded by tight trees, but the fairway is by far the most generous and open at Meadow Brook. To provide options here, Rulewich sculpted a set of diagonal bunkers running across the fairway from 220 yards on the right to 270 yards on the left. The aggressive play is to carry these bunkers, but laying up is a respectable option. This green is also notable, featuring an elongated and heavily undulating design lined by mounds of rough and a large bunker short left.

The par 4 13th

At 436 yards, the 14th hole is a long, straightaway par 4 featuring a narrow fairway lined by trees. This hole doesn’t really stand out in any way but is notable for an elevated, two-tiered, back-to-front sloped green defended by a bunker short right and large grass swale left.

The par 4 14th

Meadow Brook is notorious for being a long course and the 15th is the longest hole in Rhode Island as a 629 yard par 5. In addition to its prodigious length that makes it a three-shot hole for almost everyone, this is also arguably the tightest hole on the course with thick forest on both sides. The lay-up offers more intrigue with a cleverly positioned bunker down the left about 170 yards short of the green you must avoid.  The fairway slopes downhill and to the right after this bunker only to run back uphill to an elevated back-to-front sloped green. A series of three bunkers guards the right side of the green and makes this one of the prettier approaches on the course.

The tight par 5 16th
IMG_3348
The 15th approach

The 16th is another straightaway treelined par 4 that does very little for me at 429 yards. After an accurate drive, this approach plays slightly uphill to a two-tiered, back-to-front sloped green defended by bunkers on either side short.

The forgettable par 4 16th

Officially 168 yards, the par 3 17th is another hole that can play a variety of lengths due to its giant green that spans at least 50 yards front-to-back. Playing over water initially, this attractive one-shotter features a back-to-front sloped green lined by a large bunker to the far right that really shouldn’t be in play.

IMG_1379
The par 3 17th

At 390 yards, the closing hole is one of the shortest par fours on the course but doesn’t lack in drama or beauty. While not a true Cape hole, this dogleg left features a razor-thin fairway lined by water left the entire way. This green juts out over the water down the left and slopes hard back-to-front with three bunkers built into the hill long.

IMG_3352
The beautiful closing hole

General Comments: While the clubhouse is cozy and spacious, the practice facilities at Meadow Brook are sorely lacking. There is a small practice green by the 1st tee and no driving range. As mentioned above, the routing is a bit awkward at Meadow Brook and the architects did not utilize the land in the best way with regard to practice areas and clubhouse. Pace of play has been average when I’ve played.

Verdict: While Newport National is the prized gem of Rhode Island public golf, Meadow Brook is an underrated course that offers better value and fantastic conditions. This is a course I would recommend to anyone in the area.


5 thoughts on “Review: Meadow Brook Golf Club

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