by Dave Boucher, Central Illinois Golf Staff
Before you even hit a single shot at Metamora Fields, you quickly realize that you are in for a first-class experience.
Upon entering the parking lot, you are overwhelmed by the beauty of the clubhouse and the impressive landscaping around the facility. Ponds and natural grasses surround the building and it is easy to see that no corners were cut or detail left unchecked. Only opened in the past two months, Metamora Fields promises to be the standard in the Tri-County area for years to come. Our first stop was the clubhouse which is visually striking on its own. With a beautiful restaurant downstairs and remarkable reception and meeting area upstairs, the interior decor is worthy of what you would see on a design show on television. Designed by Illinois’ own D.A. Weibring and built by Peoria-based Turf Solutions Group, we headed for the first tee on a particularly windy day for our review.
- A medium-length par-five, the third hole has a fairway split by a bunker with lots of room to the left to accommodate your drive. Getting on in two is a definite possibility as the second shot is downhill, however a creek meandering down the left side and some serious rough down the right makes laying up a smart choice.
- The 6th is the longest of the par-fives with considerable mounding providing definition for the fairway. Avoid the fairway bunker on the left and your drive may hit a downhill slope and give you some extra yards. The second shot may give you a chance to get home in two, but two deep bunkers protect the front. Even laying up may leave a tough approach when the pin in located behind the sand traps. There is a ridge that divides the right third of the green and putting from the wrong level will be a challenging two-putt.
- The shortest of the par-fives is #12, but with a creek crossing the fairway, the wind direction will depend on whether it is reachable. The second shot is uphill and blind, staying to the right side of the fairway will leave the best angle of attack to a 38-yard deep green that is protected by bunkers front left and right.
- The last of the par-five is #16 where a drive over the top of the hill will give you a good view of the green. You can get to the green with a three-wood or hybrid by aiming for the left side of the green and rolling on. Laying up can be challenging as a set of fairway bunkers down the left side will definitely be in play. An excellent chance for a birdie.
- There are five of them at Metamora Fields accounting for the par-71 total. The most nerve-racking of them is on #2 which is short, but you will need to carry a lake that comes in play except for the shortest tee boxes. There is a generous bail out area to the right. The depth of the green (40 yards) will make club selection crucial.
- The 170-yard fifth hole has a variety of angles to approach from, but any shot heading right will be gobbled up by two greenside bunkers. There is a large opening in front which makes a low runner the shot of choice on this visually pleasing hole.
- The 11th hole is only a short to mid-iron approach, but bunkers front left and back right puts a premium on accuracy. Hitting the green on this one is crucial as getting up and down from any direction will be challenging.
- The final par-three at the 14th is another hole where wind direction will play a large factor. A sizable bunker on the front left guards all pins set behind it. Approaching with a right-to-left shot will be desirable and running your ball onto the right side of the green a definite option.
- Metamora Fields kicks off with a lengthy but straight forward par four that has a typical Weibring design fairway bunker left in the prime driving area. Avoiding the sand on the first hole will be difficult as the green is protected front left and right by deep bunkers. A great starting hole, unless you have to bring out the sand wedge more than once.
- Number four is a drivable par-four that has a lot of options off the tee. Trying to make the green comes with risks as there are fairway bunkers and some uneven lies off the fairway left and right. The only green on the course without a bunker, a smart layup will leave a little wedge to a smallish green. Smart players will putt for birdie here.
- The ninth is one of the more picturesque holes on the course with water down the left side and the clubhouse in the background. A long tee shot is required leaving a tough approach to a slender green. Going long is disastrous with a small pond and sand trap behind the green and anything short and right will be sandy as well.
- The back nine starts with a medium-length par-four with a generous landing area for your drive. A creek bisects the fairway well short of the wide green which is protected by a deep bunker in front. A good chance for birdie to start the backside.
- The 15th features an uphill drive between bunkers to a plateau fairway. The second shot is significantly downhill to a green which has a lake protecting the left side and behind. Taking one less club is a smart play as anything short should run up onto the green and avoid a pair of bunkers at the back.
- Pin location (which is provided on the scorecard) will be a factor on your tee shot at 17. A trio of bunkers surrounds the green and approaching from the proper side of the fairway will help you avoid the beach and give you a putt at birdie.
- The 18th is a devilish finish, running parallel to the 9th with the lakes on the right side. A fairway bunker left leaves little room for error off the tee. The approach shot is one of the most difficult on the course as the 42 yard deep diagonal green has water close on the right and back of the putting surface. Those looking to bail out to the left will either find a bunker shot with the lake staring you in the face or a difficult chip where the green slopes away from you toward the water. Finishing with a par will be a successful difficult conclusion to your round.
GREENS / FAIRWAYS / BUNKERS
- Metamora Fields is only two months old. With that in mind, the fairways are in excellent shape and are firm and fast. It was not unusual to get 20-30 extra yards of run off your tee shot. No need to roll your ball here as the short grass is carpet-like and provides a perfect lie.
- The bunkers are numerous to say the least. As is typical of Weibring, the fairway bunkers are right where you plan to land your drives, putting a premium on accuracy. However, they are fair and the sand in them is premium quality and getting out is generally not a problem. The sand traps surrounding the greens are sometimes deep and will enact a penalty for wayward shots.
- The most challenging part of a new facility is the greens and Metamora Fields are generally top notch. They hold approach shots well and run smooth. The speed was medium and there is not a lot of severe undulation to deal with. They were a little sandy, but that is not surprising in their stage of development. Given some time, they will be as good as you will find in the area.
- Another standard of the Weibring design is collection areas, which are abundant at Metamora. They provide some excellent bail out areas around the greens and are trimmed short allowing for a variety of shots from wedges to putters.
There is something for everyone at Metamora. Low handicappers will get all they can handle from the championship tees at 7,100 yards. Holes like the 603-yard 6th and 458-yard 18th will require premium driving distance. For us mortals, there are black (6,663 yards), blue (6,209 yards) and white (5,793 yards) to choose from which makes for an excellent variety. For ladies and juniors, the red tees at 4,939 will offer a challenging yet enjoyable experience.All the teeing areas were immaculate with plenty of area to allow for a variety of tee marker locations.
PRO SHOP / CLUBHOUSE
As previously noted, the clubhouse is nothing short of awesome. The pro shop is stocked with everything required for a great day of golf. The staff, headed by Jeff Roche (who is also the Bradley University men’s golf coach) is friendly and informative about the course. Having someone come and grab your bags and get you loaded up is a bonus I hope they will continue. The marshals (and even the maintenance staff) were helpful throughout the round helping first-timers navigate the course. In addition to the golf, you should check out the menu (it’s online) for the restaurant. All the reviews have been very positive and the view from inside of the 9th and 18th greens is impressive.
Again, top-notch. Really nice driving range and short game practice area. Everything you need to get ready before a round. The practice putting green was sizable and ready to accommodate lots of players.