Wisconsin Golf Expands its Appeal
If Wisconsin is not on your golf travel radar, it should be.
With the opening of the new Sand Valley Golf Resort on May 2, 2017 (by Mike Keiser, the same developer of Bandon Dunes and Cabot Links), the playing of the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills and the 2020 Ryder Cup matches at Whistling Straits, Wisconsin is creating quite a buzz in the golf universe.
Wisconsin has an abbreviated golf season, but guests can expect to play May through October, with the most comfortable times being June through September.
Wisconsin’s vacation destination answer to Pebble Beach and Pinehurst is the American Club in Kohler, a luxurious, multi-amenity resort complex. Oozing with sophistication and top-notch service, The American Club Resort, a Forbes Five-Star and AAA Five Diamond hotel, encompasses posh 5-star accommodations, four championship golf courses, nine restaurants, boutique shops and one of the world’s most amazing spas, the Kohler Waters Spa. Founded in 1918 by former Kohler Co. President Walter J. Kohler, Sr., the American Club’s hallways are dotted with display antiques from the town’s amazing history.
To fully experience the American Club Resort, also known as Destination Kohler, a 4-night package allows for play on the two courses at Whistling Straits (The Straits and The Irish) and two courses at Blackwolf Run (The River and Meadow Valleys). Then, add on one or two nights to play Erin Hills and the new Sand Valley Resort and your Wisconsin dream golf vacation will be complete.
Framed by miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, the Pete Dye designed Straits Course at The American Club Resort in Kohler, Wisconsin is a turf masterpiece with bluffs, imported fescue grasses, rolling dunes topped with tall grasses, stone bridges and amazing links-style bunkering. A walking-only course, The Straits replicates the seaside links courses of U.K. and Ireland. If you want even more authenticity, there are sheep grazing near the course (About 40 Scottish Blackface sheep wander the property).
Erin Hills Resort
The pros will be put to a stern test in the U.S. Open (June 15-18, 2017) on this long course with its undulating fairways, penal fairway bunkers, well protected greens, and high rough just off the fairways. Amateurs, of course, aren’t subjected to the sometimes diabolical U.S. Open set-up and Erin Hills is a joy and challenge to play. In total, there are 7 sets of tees and the course can stretch from 5,889 yards to over a whopping 8,000 yards. Most golfers pay from the 3rd and 4th sets of tees from 6,425 to 6,750 yards. There are no carts, so players are highly encouraged to take a caddie. The caddie program is exceptional and the well qualified “loopers” are all seasoned professionals, some working winters at Augusta and other prestigious Sun Belt clubs. The rooms are beautifully decorated with luxurious, period style antique furniture, ultra-comfortable beds, large flat screen TV’s, and large well-appointed bathrooms with powerful rain showers. You can choose from individual rooms and suites, or opt for a 2, 3 or 4 bedroom suite with a luxurious living area, kitchenette and card table, among other amenities. The 4-bedroom cottages, named Ballybunion, Royal Portrush and Royal County Down, are as good as it gets and are comfortable beyond belief. The Irish Pub is a warm, welcoming place for post golf cocktails, and the outdoor patio with the gas fire pits are a great way to enjoy après golf cocktails. The Clubhouse Dining Room has a fantastic chef with high quality food and a good wine list. You can even dine outside on the porch overlooking the golf course, for alfresco style evenings. A few small breakout rooms are available for a private dinner or meeting, making Erin Hills a perfect small group venue.
Sand Valley Golf Resort
There’s little doubt everyone will want to tee tee up at this Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw design, with its long vistas and big rolling hills. It’s being compared to Shinnecock and the great Heathland courses in Great Britain. A walking only layout, it’s visually stunning with a natural, uncontrived look with exposed sand dunes, ridges and valleys. The front nine is hilly, the back nine plays through valleys and the fescue turf makes it play firm and fast. The 1,700-acre Sand Valley Golf Resort is located in central Wisconsin near the tourist town of Wisconsin Dells, about a one-hour and 40 minute drive north of Madison and about a 2 1/2 hour drive from Milwaukee. It sits in one of the deepest natural sand basins in the country, a result of the glacial Lake Wisconsin that drained many centuries ago. The 40-room lodge offers rooms with views of Sand Valley and amenities such as a 49 inch flat screen T.V, reliable and fast Internet, 300-thread cotton sheets, L’Occitane bath accessories, and Keurig coffee maker.