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Not Just for Cheeseheads

June 8, 2006
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Straits Course at Whistling Straits
Ever spend a Sunday afternoon watching golf on TV, wishing you could play the same lush fairways as the pros? Well, you don't need a tour card, corporate sponsorship or a private jet to Pebble Beach.

Just come to Wisconsin.

Thanks to its rolling, wooded landscape and name-designer courses, the Badger State has recently hosted some of the biggest events in golf, including the PGA Championship, the Women's U.S. Open and the NCAA championships. Surprisingly, all these tournaments were played on public courses , so, in Wisconsin, there's no need to join a fancy country club in order to play the same courses as the pros.

Milwaukee's Brown Deer Golf Course has been home to the U.S. Bank Championship (formerly the Greater Milwaukee Open) PGA Tour event since 1994. One of only three municipal courses on the PGA Tour, Brown Deer has become one of the tour players' favorites thanks to its tight, lush fairways and large, appreciative galleries.

Opened in 1929, the par-71 layout was redesigned in 1993 by golf legends Andy North and Roger Packard. Playing at 6,760 yards, the gently rolling terrain tests players' abilities with water coming into play on 10 of the 18 holes, and 55 sand bunkers.

Routinely listed as one of the top public courses in the country, the course's signature 18th hole takes a strong drive to carry a fairway creek and an accurate approach to an elevated green surrounded by five deep pot bunkers. Tiger Woods made his professional debut at Brown Deer in 1996, notching a hole-in-one on the par-3 14th en route to a 60th place finish (worth $2,544).

Sheboygan County's Whistling Straits brought the world's media spotlight to Wisconsin in 2004, when Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, Vijay Singh, Phil Mickelson and the rest of golf's "who's who," faced off against the Pete Dye-designed course in the 2004 PGA Championship. The venue proved so popular with players, fans and television audiences that several more major tournaments have been scheduled for the Straits course in coming years, including the 2007 U.S. Senior Open, the 2010 and 2015 PGA Championships, and the 2012 U.S. Women's Open.

(Sheboygan, of course, has a special history way beyond the 19th Hole: Its Jewish community was forged by an influx of Lithuanian emigres in the early 1900s, a fact which still influences the city's profile as well as being a major point of pride.)

Par for the Course

Sculpted along two miles of Lake Michigan shoreline and offering views of the water from each of its 18 holes, the Straits Course at Whistling Straits is unlike any other golf course in America. Styled after classic Irish links, the Straits has fescue fairways and massive sand-dune bunkers.

Eight holes hug the shoreline as the course plays from just above beach level, then rises nearly 80 feet to bluffs and elevated berms that provide panoramic views of the amazing landscape. Playing at nearly 7,600 yards from the tips, it is the longest course ever to host a PGA "major."

Like Whistling Straits, the Rivers Course at Blackwolf Run is part of the American Club resort complex in Kohler. Another Pete Dye classic, Blackwolf Run is set along the winding Sheboygan River, with water or river gorges coming into play on 14 of the 18 holes.

The course hosted the Andersen Consulting World Championship of Golf from 1995-97, crowning champions including Greg Norman (in '96) and Ernie Els (in '97). Blackwolf Run has also hosted one of the most memorable events in women's professional golf history. Mixing holes from both Blackwolf Run's Meadows and Rivers courses, the 1998 U.S. Women's Open Championship set attendance records as Se Ri Pak notched a playoff victory in front of 124,000 spectators.

Situated on 420 acres of undulating St. Croix Valley hills, Hudson's Troy Burne Golf Course features 120 bunkers protecting bent grass fairways and stadium greens.

For information on golfing opportunities in Wisconsin, call the Wisconsin Department of Tourism at 1-800-432-TRIP or visit: travelwisconsin.com.

This column was prepared in cooperation with ARA Content.


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