Meadowbrook Golf Club: an underachiever on the outskirts of Gainesville
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Meadowbrook Golf Club is one of those golf courses you play and dream about what might be, what could be.
It has a lot going for it. It's built on the rolling Santa Fe hills on the outskirts of Gainesville, on beautiful rolling terrain where an Indian reservation used to be. Thus, you get the interesting elevation changes not many Florida golf courses can boast, especially in this part of the state. Cranes, hawks and foxes can be spotted on its natural ponds, streams and valleys.
It has a big-name designer, being the first course that well-regarded architect Steve Smyers did. The course meanders up and down, around picturesque water hazards and between old oaks. The layout is interesting and challenging, with a nice variety of holes, featuring a six-six-six layout: six par 3s, six par 4s and six par 5s.
It has tight, tree-lined fairways, especially on the front nine, while the back nine is more open. It has doglegs, risk/reward and all sorts of intriguing angulation that keeps you focused. Golf Digest ranked it the best course built in north Florida in 1987.
But, and this is a big but, it could be so much more. The course is in dire need of some tender-loving care.
"I have a dream where I win the lottery and buy this course," said former manager George Blumberg. "I'd shut it down for a year and renovate it."
The course has been through several changes of ownership since it was built. The new owners have yet to put the kind of money into it that could realize its potential and make this course one of the best in north-central Florida.
For one thing, the Bermuda Bahia rough is too deep and penalizing. I can't remember ever playing a course where I lost so many balls that should have been found. I lost one that couldn't have been 10 feet from the green. You have to walk through rough to get to some tee boxes.
"It's stuff like that that's so frustrating to golfers," Blumberg said. "There's no reason for the rough to be that high. This isn't the U.S. Open."
There is also no reason for the weeds on and around the greens, or the un-mown areas dotted around the course and clubhouse, giving it an unkempt look. The course also has drainage problems that need serious attention, not stopgap, temporary measures. During heavy rains, locals say it becomes a quagmire.
The greens, which are large and have interesting slopes and angles, should be a strong point, but they're slow and grainy. Again, some serious maintenance would make them some of the best around.
Of course, it must be said that green fees are a very reasonable $29 weekdays, $36 weekends, including cart, and if the owner fixed the course up as it should be, those would certainly go up.
All that said, it is still a good play for the price — students can play it for $22 and members pay only the $12 cart fees.
There are a number of excellent holes, like No. 5 with its blind landing area off the tee and downhill approach to a small, undulating green. Or No. 9, where you tee off uphill to a tight tree-lined fairway, or No. 10, a short par 5 with a wide fairway and downhill approach, giving anyone who hits a decent drive a good shot at birdie.
The course has a ton of potential. Right now, it's not living up to it.
"This is good for the guy on his way to South Florida," Blumberg said. "He parks his RV, plays 18 holes and he's happy."
Stay and play
The Hilton on SW 34th Street isn't far from downtown Gainesville, on the southwest corner of the University of Florida. It's a good-sized hotel with 245 rooms, three suites and 25,000 square feet of meeting space.
All rooms have free, high-speed Internet access. There's a swimming pool, fitness room, lobby bar and restaurant.
The Best Western Gateway Grand is right off Interstate-75 and a convenient place to check out the Gator Nation. There's a complimentary breakfast, free, high-speed Internet access, pool, hot tub, fitness room and more than 6,000 square feet of meeting space. They also have a spa.
The course has an Advantage Club Membership that gives members discounts and preferred tee times.
September 11, 2006