I tend to like golf course features that sneak up on you. A subtly troublesome contour here, a partially-obscured bunker there, a creek doing the job of a lake - it's the quiet ones that sometimes say the most.
That even extends to features that don't bear directly on the golf-playing experience. When I played the Meadow Valleys course at Blackwolf Run in Wisconsin earlier this week, I did a double-take when walking off the 14th green when I noticed that the bridge across the water that flanks the green was reinforced by the bed of an old train car. It's the sort of utilitarian touch that lends a nice sense of place to the golf course, especially the exquisite back nine.
I take the unassuming nature of this bridge to be a metaphor for the course's own place in the Kohler golf complement. According to magazine rankings, it's the fourth-best of the resort's four 18-hole courses. In my own power-ranking, it's number 2, behind Whistling Straits, followed by the Irish Course and the still-awesome-but-also-spectacularly-difficult River Course at Blackwolf Run. I like that Meadow Valleys has the most scoreable golf at a resort known for stiff tests, and the back nine (part of the original 18 built on site) is exquisite. The 13th is my favorite hole at the resort, its heaving, bending fairway and tiny elevated green making it one of the best short par 4s I've ever seen. Like a railroad car hiding under a bridge, it hides amid its heavily-heralded neighbors, helping make Kohler a heck of a good place to play.