The first golf course in the United States designed by Dr. Alister MacKenzie, the Meadow Club was founded in 1927 and is located in Marin County north of San Francisco. Built within an attractive valley surrounded by tall hills, the golf course was recently restored by architect Mike DeVries and once again displays all of the guile and charm of the best MacKenzie courses elsewhere in the country.
This wasn’t always the case, as for decades neglect and overplanting had badly damaged the intent and authenticity of the original MacKenzie design here. It was only after scouring the archives and studying old aerial images of their property, that the custodians of this cherished layout discovered just how neglectful they had been when it came to looking after MacKenzie’s design. When DeVries was engaged to restore the layout the holes were cramped, completely covered in trees and full of small, puzzlingly contoured green sites. There was little MacKenzie left and little reason for anyone beyond the membership to bother playing it. DeVries worked off old design reports prepared by MacKenzie and black and white images of the original course, which occupied a completely barren meadow, to convince the club just how far they had strayed from his original design intentions.
Not only MacKenzie, but the club’s founder was also adamant that no trees were to be planted on his site, yet apparently on the day of his burial a delivery truck arrived at the club with thousands of Pine seedlings that were subsequently planted by amateur arborists in rows across the property. Thankfully many of these trees are now gone, and DeVries has managed to successfully put back MacKenzie’s fascinating green complexes, by expanding the putting areas considerably and accentuating contours that had been softened over the years.
Highlight holes at Meadow Club include the mid-length par five opener, the brilliantly angled 4th, which falls across a diagonal ridge, and strong two-shotters like the left bending 7th and 9th and the sidehill 17th. The par three 11th is another peach of a hole, as is the short par four 16th with its unusually large, angled green site. The star undoubtedly, however, are the green complexes, especially the likes of the multi-leveled 3rd and the twin-tiered 17th. The restored naturalistic bunkering is another highlight.
On the negative side, there are still a number of holes where trees interfere too much with play, each of the 2nd, 6th, 9th and 12th are far tighter than is ideal. Unfortunately progress in this area has slowed in recent years because a disgruntled member, who disapproved of the tree removal, managed to convince council to limit the club to cutting down just five redwoods per year.
Without a single home on the site, and some of the most pleasant golf views in northern California, Meadow Club is a wonderful place to golf and will continue to improve as even more trees are removed from its interior areas.