Blackwolf Run's Unique Start

Short par-4 first hole features severely uphill approach shot

The par-4 first hole at Blackwolf Run features a drive from an elevated tee, but a severely uphill approach to a green that can't be seen from the fairway. (John Mummert/USGA)
By Ken Klavon, USGA
July 4, 2012

Kohler, Wis. – There are a few plausible reasons why the first hole at Blackwolf Run is called “Quiver.”

Players hit their tee shots over the Sheboygan River, but the river abuts the teeing ground, making it a non-factor for players of this caliber. It could be related to first-hole jitters, along with the fact that players will encounter a blind second shot. Most, if not all, of the flagstick can’t be seen from the valley where the drive zone sits.

“It’s a thinker’s hole,” said Paula Creamer, the 2010 U.S. Women’s Open champion. “I’ll be going for the middle of the green every day.”

Lexi Thompson, who at age 17 is playing in her sixth U.S. Open, said she used a hybrid off the tee Wednesday and then focused on her line. “You have to trust your line on the second shot,” she said, emphasizing “have to.”

 “It's a hard first hole just because you can't see the iron shot land,” said Stacy Lewis, the second-ranked player in the world, who starts her first round of the 2012 U.S. Women’s Open Thursday on No. 10. “It's tough. You're not really sure how far the ball is going yet. You're really not sure what the wind is doing. So it's not the easiest opening hole.  … I'm kind of glad I'm not starting on 1.”

At 348 yards, No. 1 is deceiving mainly because of the severely elevated green. Deducing the proper club and yardage can be tricky. Favoring the middle to the left side of the fairway from the tee opens up the approach to the green.

What is called the original championship course at Blackwolf Run incorporates holes 10-18 of the Meadow Valleys Course and holes 1-4 and 14-18 of the River Course, the same layout that was used at the 1998 Women’s Open. The original course opened in June 1988.

“The original 18 holes built here are the 18 holes we’re playing for the championship,” said U.S. Women’s Open Championship Director Ben Kimball, who is handling course setup this week. “That first hole is the original first hole.”

But, according to Kimball, when Pete Dye designed the second 18 holes here, officials had to figure out a way to use the first green as the first hole. So the 10th hole on the Meadow Valleys actually comes to that green from the opposite direction.

If players stand on the back of the first green and look to their left, they can see the fairway that is now typically played, which approaches from a different angle.

“They decided if we wanted to keep our championship routing intact – and it also needs to play in a different direction – we’d have one fairway in pristine condition because it never gets used except during the championship,” said Kimball.

The first hole has a couple of fans in two-time Women’s Open champion Juli Inkster and 2007 champion Cristie Kerr. On Monday, Inkster hit 3-wood off the tee and 8-iron for her second shot. On Tuesday, with the hole playing into the wind, Inkster used a 6-iron for her approach.

“It’s a tough shot because you don’t want to be long and you don’t want to be right,” said Inkster, 52, who has won five USGA titles. “And the green is very undulating. It’s a good starting hole. It’s not tight off the tee, which gives you a little leeway.”

Added Kerr: “There's not a lot of flat spots on that green. You kind of have to, in my opinion, separate that green into two parts, from the middle to the left and the middle to the right. And wherever they put the pins, if you're in between clubs, you really have to pick your spots. Of course you want to hit the green. Where you do miss it is going to give you the best chance to make par. Anybody in the field here would [be happy to] walk away with four pars on that hole.”

Ken Klavon is the USGA’s online editor. Email him at  

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