Longest hole in U.S. golf could use a few bus stops

May 17, 1994|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,Sun Staff Writer

LOCUST GROVE, Va. -- The longest golf hole in America has two lakes, four tees, a sand trap shaped like a three-leaf clover and a green roughly the size of Utah.

To call the No. 12 hole at the Meadows Farms Golf Course long would be like calling the Empire State Building tall.

This preposterous piece of golf real estate stretches from a stand of pines, doglegs to the right down a hill, and rambles across what was once a rolling field filled with cattle.

It is 841 yards.

Par is 6.

The only thing missing is a bus stop.

Who on earth would plan for such a hole in such a place, an hour south of Washington and 18 miles west of Fredericksburg?

It would take a visionary, or a multimillionaire, or someone whodoesn't mind a little excess in his life.

It would take someone like Bill "Farmer" Meadows, a laid-back 59-year-old West Virginia native and Washington-area entrepreneur, whose voice drips country but whose tastes are most definitely big-city.

He drives a Mercedes, lives in a 13,000-square-foot house with 21 television sets and a 100-foot-long game room, and owns a $22 million-a-year landscaping and nursery business that he built from a couple of used trucks. And he sort of likes golf.

Farmer -- nobody calls him Mr.Meadows -- took up the game three years ago and whittled his handicap to a respectable 18. But he noticed that the golf business wasn't service-oriented.

"Nobody ever said, 'Thank you,' even after you put down $200 for a round of golf," he said. "In fact, everyone was kind of borderline rude. Well, you come here and you're going to be thanked a whole lot."

Two years ago, Farmer decided to turn 300 acres of a cattle farm he owned into a course. He then hired a West Virginia-based architect, Bill Ward Jr., purchased $3,000 worth of golf books and magazines, and trolled for every new design idea.

"I didn't want to be bored," he said. "I wanted no two holes alike."

With the help of Mr. Ward, he transformed his cattle farm into a golf theme park.

It features:

* Nineteen holes, the first one for practice.

* Eighteen bunkers shaped like church pews.

* An island green.

* A 160-ton rock wall that Farmer personally laid out.

* Bounce bunkers, which are strips of pressure-treated wood placed just above a couple of sand traps. Ridiculous? Of course. Fun to play? Definitely, because a bad shot can get even wackier when the ball hits and bounces who knows where.

* And then the long, long, long hole. The only thing missing is a windmill in front of a cup. Total price tag: $2 million.

It was Mr. Ward who came up with the idea of building a long hole. And it was Farmer who insisted it had to be the longest. But there was no way they could design a hole longer than the 948-yard, par-7 record holder at the Koolan Island Golf Course in Western Australia.

So they settled for what they claim is the U.S. record. The mark has been certified by the Guinness Book of Records but is not included in the record book.

"I wanted to build an honest par 6," Mr. Ward said. "No gimmicks."

He succeeded. For the best golfers, a driver, two fairway woods and a short iron can bring the hole within reach for a par. Oh, there are a few purists out there who don't like the thought of such a hole. After all, on most every other golf course the longest holes are normally in the mid-500-yard range, with a par of 5. One guy from a golf magazine flew in for a round and suggested the par 6 be turned into two shorter par 4s.

But Farmer isn't budging. Having the longest hole in the United States is good for business. He's talking of breaking even on the operation in only its second year.

The golfers come every day, drawn from Northern Virginia and Washington, drawn from Pennsylvania and Maryland, drawn even from Eastern Canada. For $24 weekdays and $29 weekends, they get one trip around the course and a cart, plus the long hole.

"Best I've done on that hole is get an 8, and that's not bad," said Tom McKeen of Fredericksburg. "But I will tell you, it's awfully intimidating coming up to the tee and seeing that the hole is more than 800 yards long."

If Farmer has his way, the hole may grow a little longer. There's a house for sale just behind the tee.

"After we finished up, we realized that we were just a few yards short of half a mile," he said. "I don't know if I'm going to buy that house back there. They want $60,000. And then you'd have to tear it down. And put in another tee. I just don't know. But . . ."

Good grief. The longest golf hole in America may just get a little bit longer.

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