Meadows Course at Sunriver Resort

Open golf course is more challenging than it appears

By Zack Hall / The Bulletin / @cogolfguy

Published Aug 18, 2014 at 12:01AM

Breaking down the course

A closer look at the Meadows Course. For more information on the items below, B8

Difficulty

Not as easy as its generous fairways might suggest. Meadows plays long while clever bunkering and water hazards force a golfer to manage the course.

Strategy

Play aggressively off the tee to help set up manageable approach shots. Putting surfaces tend to slope away from the middle, so play for the heart.

Verdict

A true resort course that hits its intended goal of being playable for all. Meadows can be pricey on weekends, but locals get a decent deal on weekdays.

SUNRIVER — The area behind the green of the par-3 fourth hole at Sunriver Resort’s Meadows Course was teeming with activity.

On a paved bike path that runs behind the green, endless legions of vacationers jogged, walked or rode their bicycles past the green, seemingly without a care in the world.

Their laughs were audible and their joy contagious.

Golfing by myself, I made bogey. Certainly that was not the result I was hoping for on Meadows’ shortest par 3.

Yet I could not help but feel like I, too, was on vacation.

Perhaps the most unique aspect of playing Meadows, which is set near Sunriver’s Main Lodge in the heart of the bustling, sprawling resort, is that most any golfer is greeted with telltale signs of travelers on holiday.

“You are in the hub of activity right there,” says Josh Willis, Sunriver Resort’s director of golf. “From seeing the planes come into the airport, and the horses running in the meadow, to the families on the bicycle paths, it is very unique.”

The Meadows Course does seemed relaxed. And its setting — featuring panoramic mountain views, which were mostly obscured on a day when I was racing to beat the onset of an afternoon thunderstorm — is gorgeous.

Make no mistake, though, Meadows is a serious golf course that is a far better test than it appears at first glimpse of the exposed design and generous fairways.

For one, it plays longer than its 7,012 yards from the back tees would suggest because it has one fewer par 5 than is typical on a championship design. (Meadows has an array of tees set at 6,625, 6,250, 6,022, 5,605 and 5,287 yards.)

More than length, though, the 46-year-old course — which was redesigned in 1999 by highly regarded architect John Fought — is defended well with significant bunkering, water hazards and slick greens.

Meadows is enough of a challenge that it has helped Sunriver Resort land large-scale national tournaments that require two championship golf courses — such as the PGA Professional National Championship, which the resort has hosted three times.

“It’s really the course that complements Crosswater (Sunriver’s signature course) and allows us to be an attractive host site for golf championships,” Willis says. “It’s a good test. You tip it out (play from the back tees) and that golf course will kick your rear.”

Part of the challenge comes in the course’s most overwhelming design feature: its bunkering. Meadows is cleverly designed so that at times golfers are forced to trust more than their eyes.

One such hole is the par-4 11th, a 411-yard hole that appears straightforward.

When I played the hole, I pushed my drive just a touch right, landing in the fairway bunker. Standing in the bunker, I decided to play a wedge just over the sand that appeared to guard the front of the green.

I hit my approach shot short of my intended target, yet over the hazard. In other words, I thought I was still in decent shape.

Then I walked to my ball and saw that it was some 25 yards short of the green and an eventual bogey.

“Some bunkers are designed to be penal,” Willis says. “More bunkers are designed to shape fairways. No. 11 is a very interesting hole because the bunker looks like it is right in front of the flag and then you get up there and you have 40 yards between it and (the hole). It is unique and fun.”

Willis is right, such bunkering is enjoyable to negotiate.

The same could be said for Meadows as a whole.

Difficulty of course

Generous fairways and an open design — ponderosa pines are present on many holes but are generally set well off the fairways — will keep most golfers in play, even particularly aggressive players.

But with clever bunkering, wetlands and a brook that all help shape the course, Meadows has plenty of defense. And as a par 71 with only three par 5s, Meadows can play quite long, even from the 6,625-yard blue tees or the 6,250-yard member tees. This is actually by design, as Meadows offers a vast array of par-4 distances, ranging from the 356-yard fifth hole to the 469-yard third hole.

For beginners or novices, the course’s myriad water hazards could present a significant challenge, though there are few forced carries.

Favorite hole

The par-4 18th hole has the ability to change a match.

Playing at a mammoth 467 yards from the tips and a nearly-as-difficult 450 yards from the blue tees, the hole would be a significant test on distance alone (the hole shrinks significantly to 368 yards from the member tees). The fairway also happens to dogleg left around a large pond, adding to the difficulty.

The key to the hole is the drive. A decent drive down the left side of the fairway leaves a manageable approach shot with a mid-iron, though aiming for that line brings significant risk with water down the entire left side. Any drive that drifts right, however, will leave a long approach into a deep green bordered by water on the left and three bunkers.

How to approach the course

Aggressive play off the tee can be rewarded at Meadows, which has both an open design and generous fairways. But such play is not without risk, as Meadows incorporates fairway bunkers on nearly every hole longer than a par 3 and water hazards that dot the layout.

Speaking of bunkers, be wary of the hazards that guard the front of some greens, such as on the par-4 11th and 12th holes. Those bunkers are set well in front of the green, creating an optical illusion of sorts that will lead some golfers to play their approach shot shorter than necessary.

The greens tend to slope away from the middle of the putting surface — a hallmark of a John Fought-designed golf course — putting a premium on precision. And the surfaces play firm and fast while offering a relatively true roll.

Off the course

With all the activity swirling around Meadows during the summer, it is hard not to feel like you are on vacation, even if you are a local. The pro shop is located inside Sunriver’s Main Lodge; outside, the amenities all around the course are what attract and entertain the resort’s many visitors.

The Owl’s Nest, Sunriver Resort’s restaurant and bar, is located on the floor above the clubhouse, and a deck outside the restaurant offers patrons panoramic views of the golf course and the Cascade Range.

A nine-hole putting course, similar to miniature golf though using real turf greens, sits just behind the clubhouse. And a snack bar offers sandwiches and drinks to golfers at the turn.

The driving range, practice green and short-game practice area are ample, all just off the first tee.

Verdict

Meadows is not easy, but most recreational golfers will appreciate its relatively open design. And the course can be stretched long enough (7,012 yards from the back tees) to test even world-class golfers. In addition, Meadows is in excellent condition, a credit to superintendent Ryan Wulff and his staff.

Meadows can be pricey on weekends, especially for those who do not live in Deschutes County, for whom the peak rate is $119 (all of Sunriver’s green fees includes cart and range balls). The Deschutes County rate offers a significant discount on weekday mornings ($79) and afternoons (as low as $59).

For a well-conditioned course that is a joy to play, the locals rate makes Meadows a fair bargain.

— Reporter: 541-617-7868, zhall@bendbulletin.com.

The basics

Number of holes: 18

Status: Open seasonally.

Location: In Sunriver, 15 miles south of Bend, west of U.S. Highway 97

Tee times: 541-593-4402

Course stats: Par 71, 7,012 yards

Green fees: Through Sept. 14: $79 Mon.-Thur. and $99 Fri.-Sun. for Deschutes County residents; $99 Mon.-Thur. and $119 Fri.-Sun. for all others; Sept. 15-28: $79 Mon.-Thur. and $89 Fri.-Sun. for Deschutes County residents; $99 Mon.-Thur. and $109 Fri.-Sun. for all others; After Sept. 28: $49 daily for Deschutes County residents, $59 for all others (Prices includes cart)

Director of golf: Josh Willis

Course designer: John Fought redesign (opened 1968; redesigned 1999)

Extras: Driving range, practice facilities include chipping green with bunker, putting green, and nine-hole putting course with bunkers

Website: www. sunriver-resort.com

Meadows Course at Sunriver Resort

SCORECARD

Hole Par Yardage

No. 1 4 421

No. 2 5 578

No. 3 4 469

No. 4 3 174

No. 5 4 356

No. 6 4 366

No. 7 4 430

No. 8 3 213

No. 9 4 431

Out 35 3,438

Hole Par Yardage

No. 10 5 174

No. 11 4 515

No. 12 4 368

No. 13 3 335

No. 14 4 488

No. 15 3 390

No. 16 5 218

No. 17 4 515

No. 18 4 369

In 36 3,574

*All distances from back tees

Editor’s note: This is another installment in a seasonlong series in which Bulletin golf writer Zack Hall visits each public and semiprivate golf course in Central Oregon.