WHISTLING STRAITS (STRAITS/IRISH COURSES)
Straits Course Architect: Pete Dye (1998)
Year Opened: 1998
Location: Haven, Wisconsin
Slope: 146. Rating: 78.1
Hole-by-Hole: 1 - Par 4 405 Yds 10 - Par 4 389 Yds
2 - Par 5 592 Yds 11 - Par 5 619 Yds
3 - Par 3 183 Yds 12 - Par 3 166 Yds
4 - Par 4 455 Yds 13 - Par 4 403 Yds
5 - Par 5 584 Yds 14 - Par 4 372 Yds
6 - Par 4 391 Yds 15 - Par 4 465 Yds
7 - Par 3 214 Yds 16 - Par 5 535 Yds
8 - Par 4 462 Yds 17 - Par 3 223 Yds
9 - Par 4 415 Yds 18 - Par 4 489 Yds
Par 36 3,701 Yds Par 36 3,661 Yds
Key Events Held: PGA Club Professional Championship (1999),
PGA Championship (2004, 2010, 2015),
U.S. Senior Open Championship (2007),
Ryder Cup (2020).
Awards Won: Ranked #3 by Golf Magazine - Top 100 You Can Play (2008),
Ranked #1 by Golf Magazine - Best Courses Near You (2008),
Ranked #1 by Golf Digest - Best in State (WI) (2005-08),
Ranked #24 by Golf Digest - Top 100 in America (2007-08),
Ranked #1 by Travel + Leisure - Best Resort Course (2006-08),
Ranked #1 by Golf Week - Best Public Access Courses (2006-08),
America's Top Golf Courses - Zagat Survey (2006-08),
Rated 5 Stars by Golf Digest - Best Places to Play (2002-08),
Best Course in Midwest by Travel + Leisure Golf (2008),
#3 by Golf Magazine - Top-50 Greatest Courses last 50 years (2009)
Irish Course Architect: Pete Dye (2000)
Year Opened: 2000
Location: Haven, Wisconsin
Slope: 142. Rating: 77.4
Hole-by-Hole: 1 - Par 4 400 Yds 10 - Par 4 398 Yds
2 - Par 4 372 Yds 11 - Par 3 208 Yds
3 - Par 3 147 Yds 12 - Par 4 413 Yds
4 - Par 4 489 Yds 13 - Par 3 183 Yds
5 - Par 5 570 Yds 14 - Par 5 564 Yds
6 - Par 3 160 Yds 15 - Par 4 479 Yds
7 - Par 4 372 Yds 16 - Par 4 474 Yds
8 - Par 5 555 Yds 17 - Par 4 375 Yds
9 - Par 4 484 Yds 18 - Par 5 558 Yds
Par 36 3,549 Yds Par 36 3,652 Yds
Key Events Held: Palmer Cup (2005).
Awards Won: Ranked #68 by Golf Magazine - Top 100 You Can Play (2008),
Ranked #4 by Golf Magazine - Best Courses Near You (2008),
Ranked #4 by Golf Digest - Best in State (WI) (2007-08),
Ranked #1 by Travel + Leisure - Most Underrated Course (2006-08).
Ranked #5 by Golf Week - Best Public Access Courses (2006-08).
Website: www.destinationKohler.com, www.akohlerexperience.com
HISTORY: "I should say this with some degree of modesty. But in my lifetime
I've never seen anything like this. Anyplace. Period," commented Pete Dye in
the Spring of 1998, just prior to the opening of the Straits Course.
Dye was given 560 acres of flat wasteland adjacent to one of the Great Lakes,
and told to design the impossible. Wanting to create the unimaginable,
visionary and plumbing magnate Herbert V. Kohler enlisted legendary golf
architect Dye to transform an old airfield into a golfing destination in the
middle of nowhere.
"Pete Dye has always made the most of the glorious possibilities that the land
affords. He is nature's best collaborator and this time, he has truly outdone
himself," said Kohler on the completion of the course.
Located on the western shore of Lake Michigan, Whistling Straits is a
technological marvel. This is what can happen when you're given two miles of
coastline and an unlimited budget, not to mention bulldozers and truckloads of
sand and plenty of imagination. Think about it, 13,126 truckloads of sand,
that's 800,000 cubic yards!
Lake Michigan actually comes into play on eight holes, and the water is in
full view on the entire course. In fact, it's like playing on the ocean. Dye
did not hold back. He formed bluffs and massive sand dunes, in fact, the 15th
hole has an elevation change of 80 feet. Natural fescue adorns the fairways,
in-place of the usual Bentgrass, and the courses are framed by over 1,000
To create this masterpiece into a traditional, links-style venue, Dye and
Kohler even added stone bridges and sheep. That's right...sheep. When the
course opened, six Scottish Blackface sheep were brought in to meander freely
around the courses, just as they would have back in time, during the origins
of the game. Currently, well over 40 roam the courses throughout the day. In
fact, don't be surprised to see them walking the fairways with you during your
Offered Kohler, "The recreational result is what you see here today...sandy
wastes which Pete and the winds have fashioned into magnificent dunes, knolls,
hollows, and gullies. There are glorious elevated tees; broad fairways
blanketed with a thick, close-growing mixture of fescue grasses. Solitary
wind-warped trees and tumbling sandy cliffs add a severe, almost desolate kind
of beauty. The course offers a succession of spectacular views, each more
remarkable than the last. The design of Whistling Straits pays homage to the
origins of the game." It seems Mr. Kohler was pleased with the result.
Just one year after opening, the Straits Course hosted the PGA Club
Professional Championship. Jeff Freeman shot rounds of 70-70-72-75 for a 1-
under-par total of 287, as he defeated three players by two shots. The real
winner was the golf course, as the Straits played to a scoring average of
75.14. For the week, only six players broke 70, with the low round a five-
under-par 67 in round two by Terry Mauney. Upon completion of the event,
Freeman commented, "This is a great golf course that Pete Dye has built. I
guess he doesn't want anyone to shoot low scores on it."
In 2004, Vijay Singh won his third career major, as he defeated Chris DiMarco
and Justin Leonard in a playoff, as the Straits Course hosted its first major
championship, the PGA Championship. "What a great monster you created here,"
commented Singh after winning. "I can't wait to come back and play another
Two shots back after day one, Singh moved into first with a second-round 68,
tying Leonard at nine-under par. A third-round 69 gave Singh a one-shot lead
heading into the final day. Paired with Leonard, Singh struggled throughout
the round going out in three-over, as Leonard took the lead. With three holes
remaining, the 1997 British Open champ was two ahead of Singh and DiMarco.
Leonard, however, missed a five-foot par putt on 16 and a 12-footer on 18 to
finish his round at 75 and regulation at 280.
DiMarco, who was the only player in the field to post all four rounds under
par, had a chance for birdie and the win on the last, but missed short from
12-feet. DiMarco closed with back-to-back 71s on the weekend to tie Leonard.
DiMarco had moved into a tie with Leonard on the back-nine, however bogeys on
15 and 16 pushed him back. After a string of eight consecutive pars, Singh,
who had 34 putts the final day, bogeyed 15, but was able to par the final
three holes to join the playoff.
The three-hole aggregate-score playoff started on the 10th, and Singh wasted
no time in getting started, nearly driving the green and making his only
birdie of the day from six-feet. Both DiMarco and Leonard made par and trailed
by gone. On the par-three 17th, Singh's three-iron finished five feet away,
however the Fijian was unable to convert and his competitors remained one
behind with respectable pars. On the closing hole, Singh knocked his utility
wood 45 feet from the hole, while both Leonard and DiMarco missed the green.
Singh completed the victory with a two-putt, as he tapped in from one foot for
his first major championship since the 2000 Masters.
The Irish Course hosted the Palmer Cup in 2005, as the American squad knocked
off the European team, 18-6. The event is a Ryder-Cup style competition
between collegiate golfers from the United States and Europe. The U.S. team
was captained by Buddy Alexander and featured current PGA Tour players, J.B.
Holmes and Jeff Overtone and Nationwide Tour player Spencer Levin. Tied
heading into the eight singles matches, the Americans captured the first six
en route to victory.
The United States Golf Association made its first foray into the Straits
course with the 2007 U.S. Senior Open Championship. In one of the most
exciting and frustrating championships in history, Brad Bryant completed an
improbable comeback to win by three shots over Ben Crenshaw.
Trailing Tom Watson by five shots heading into the final round, Bryant carded
a four-under 68, the low round of the day to overtake a struggling Watson and
win his first USGA Championship.
After opening with rounds of 70-66, Watson seemed in control, and even after a
third-round 73, Watson still held a three stroke lead over Loren Roberts. In
Sunday's final round, Watson reached nine under par and was four clear of
Bryant and five ahead of Roberts with just eight holes remaining. Watson's
game began to fall apart, as he double-bogeyed 11 and back-to-back bogeys on
12 and 13 saw his lead disappear. Another double-bogey on 15 and a closing
double on 18 finished Watson, as he finished with 43 on the back nine for a
six-over-par 78 to place fourth.
Crenshaw started the final day six shots back in 12th, but managed a closing
70 to finish alone in second. With winds gusting throughout the day, Bryant
was one of only two players to break 70, and the only player in the field to
post all four rounds of par or better. It wasn't until the par-five 16th that
Bryant took the lead with a two-foot birdie. Bryant, who led the field in
greens in regulation all week, knocked his tee shot to six feet at the 17th.
He missed the birdie try, but tapped in for par. At the 18th, Bryant two-
putted from about 30 feet to close out the win.
Once again the course proved to be very difficult, especially the closing 18th
that played to a scoring average of 4.589 with just 23 birdies. Overall, the
Straits course scoring average was 75.828, with 16 of 18 holes playing over
par for the championship.
It comes as no surprise that the PGA of America will make return trips to
Whistling Straits in 2010 and 2015 for the PGA Championship and in 2020 for
the Ryder Cup. The world will be watching.
REVIEW: STRAITS COURSE - Bending from right to left, the opening hole on the
Straits Course gives the player his first glimpse of mighty Lake Michigan, not
to mention the myriad bunkers strewn across the course. Hitting to the right-
center fairway, avoiding the dunes and bunkers, will leave the best angle of
approach to a well-guarded green. The 31-yard-long putting surface is fairly
benign, but missing right and long will leave a difficult up-and-down from a
shaved chipping area. Oh, and by the way, the hole can be stretched to 491
The second longest hole on the course, the par-five second is a robust 592-
yard monster, nicknamed Cross Country. By now, the player has figured out that
missing fairways on the Straits Course will prove to be hazardous to your
score. With bunkers running up and down both sides of the landing area, you'll
need to be spot on with your tee ball. This three-shot hole requires an adept
layup, especially the closer you get to the hole, as the fairway narrows
dramatically. Your third will be slightly uphill to a narrow green with deep
bunkers below the hole to the left and a runoff swale to the right.
The first of four outstanding par threes that run alongside Lake Michigan, the
third is all carry over sand and dunes to one of the longest and most
undulating greens on the course. Miss left and you'll end up swimming with the
fishes. When the wind is up and the pin is back-left, watch out.
Rated as the hardest hole on the course, the fourth is a par four that can
play as short as 348 yards and as long as 500. Hanging above the lake, you'll
need to bust a drive down the right-center, avoiding the disaster that looms
below. A long iron or fairway metal will be required to reach a slightly
elevated green that stands perched above the water. Make par here and you're
better than most.
Aptly called the Snake, the fifth, which moves inland, wraps around water and
dunes as it plays west towards Kohler, then north to Green Bay and west again.
A big tee shot can set up a possible chance to get home in two, but very
risky, as water fronts the putting surface. Laying up is no bargain either, as
the landing area is quite narrow, with water left and dunes right. If
successful, just a wedge will remain to the long and narrow green. Very
tempting, but use your head.
One of only three par fours under 400 yards, the sixth is a dogleg right that
requires pinpoint accuracy. Three-metal is a nice play off the tee, but be
wary of the pot bunker on the left side of the fairway. Any shot missed to the
right off the tee will result in a difficult lie in either sand or scrub and
trust me, the scrub is horrible. Your second will be just a wedge to a very
undulating and narrow green that runs left to right. Miss short and you'll end
up in one of several deep pot bunkers.
Back along the shoreline of Lake Michigan, the seventh is a beautifully framed
par three that reaches 214 yards. There's no crime in bailing out left, as
playing from the beach is no picnic. A dozen or so bunkers protect the left
side of the green, which is 42 paces in length. A back-right pin with the wind
howling makes this one of the most feared holes on the course.
With the waves crashing along the shoreline, you'll have a hard time staying
focused on the task at hand, carrying a couple of hundred yards of sand and
waste area to reach the landing area on the 462-yard eighth. Several dozen
bunkers dot the landscape on this par four, not to mention the severe drop-off
towards the water on the right. Playing slightly downhill towards the green, a
mid-iron should suffice, depending of course on the pin placement of this
whopping 47-yard-long putting surface. The tiered green runs from front to
back and may be difficult to hold when the pin is back.
The closing hole on the front nine heads back towards the clubhouse and
requires a tee ball struck towards the left side of the fairway, as it will
kick towards the right. Too far down the right might leave a blocked second
shot due to a tall tree at the 100-yard mark. Just a short iron should remain
for your downhill approach to another well-guarded green. Sand dunes and
bunkers on the left, and Seven Mile Creek on the right, make for an
Playing uphill from tee to green, an aggressive play with driver should be the
club of choice on the short, par-four 10th. A deep fairway bunker looms larger
than life in the center of the landing area, but with driver in hand, you
should be able to clear disaster. The club to the green is quite severe and
might require a little extra zest to reach the plateau. Only 28 paces in
length, the putting surface is quite slick from back to front and any shot
short of the green will run back down the fairway.
From short to long, the 11th is the Grande Dame at the Straits and garners the
name "Sand Box." Try adding up the bunkers up and around this par five and
you'll lose count. The drop-off to the right can spell doom, so play down the
left side and make this a true three-shot hole. Although it narrows towards
the green, a layup down the right will leave around 100 yards in. Slightly
uphill to an elevated putting surface, you'll need to be quite accurate, as
the green is just 23 paces and surrounded by a shaved swale. As if the length
of the hole wasn't hard enough.
Back along the water, the par-three 12th is the shortest and probably the most
difficult to attack, despite the length of the green. Just 166 yards, the
greenskeeper can make mice out of men on this gem. With the multi-tiered
putting surface perched above the water, the man in charge can be really cruel
with a back-right pin, where there's just a few yards of space. A drop-off of
40 feet to Lake Michigan will snare plenty of balls that are just off line, so
play to the fat of the green and trust your putter.
One of the few modest holes on the course, the 13th is just 403 yards and
bends to the right towards the green. Plenty of fairway and rough to the left,
so if you must bail out that's the play, as another severe drop to the right
will end up in the sandy dunes or worse, "The Lake." A short iron should be
the club of choice to the downhill green that sits incredibly close to the
water. The narrow putting surface features several humps and bumps as it cants
to the right. At second glance, not that easy, is it?
The sharp, dogleg-left 14th requires brain not brawn in an attempt to conquer.
Fairway metal or long iron off the tee should set up a very short iron
approach to the slightly elevated green. Miss left off the tee and you'll have
a sandy, blind approach, while a right mistake can leave an awkward lie off
the dunes. The putting surface is long and undulating as it slopes from back
to front. This hole can be had, but you need to be precise.
The 15th starts a final stretch to the clubhouse of spectacular proportions.
Maxing out at 518 yards, this par four -- yes, par four -- is very awkward to
the eye, as you must adjust your line of sight to the fairway towards the
left. Even with a mammoth blast, you'll need a fairway metal or more to reach
the green. Sand surrounds most of the S-shaped landing area, so pick your line
and go with...you know. There's nothing to be ashamed of making a bogey, at
least that's what I keep telling myself. When Vijay Singh captured the 2004
PGA Championship, he made two pars and two bogeys, as the hole proved to be
the most difficult for the week, averaging 4.35 shots.
The final par five with a real chance to yield a birdie, the 16th is a
reachable 535-yarder that finishes overlooking Lake Michigan. An ample fairway
for mere mortals, the landing area tightens for the big hitters in their
attempt to get home in two. With sand dunes and the dropoff towards the water
lurking left, you would be wise to hit the fairway. Your second shot plays
slightly uphill to the green or if you're laying up, a tight finger of a
fairway. The putting surface is long and elevated, making your approach
difficult to get close.
Difficult, demanding, intimidating and downright beautiful, that's what's in
store as you stand on the tee of the 17th. The longest and most difficult of
the par threes, this sensational one-shotter requires cojones! Hugging the
Lake Michigan coastline, you'll need to bust anywhere from a long iron to a
driver depending upon the conditions. The 30-40 foot dropoff is enough to
shake any player's confidence. The putting surface is large enough where you
can bail to the right, but a back-left pin can be daunting. How tough is the
17th? During the 2004 PGA Championship, the hole played to a scoring average
of 3.1438 with just 20 birdies in four rounds. Although he tied for 68th,
Robert Gamez aced the hole they call "Pinched Nerve" in round two with a five-
What's in a name? How about the closing hole on the Straits Course being
called "Dyeabolical." At 500 yards from the back tee, your only hope is for
the wind to be at your back. Another big drive is needed just to reach the
fairway to have any shot at getting home in regulation. Sandy brush and dunes
are in full view down the left side, so play out toward the right, elevated
fairway. If you fail to accomplish this task, you have an option of playing
left to a new landing area or right to an adjacent fairway (I went left). A
long iron or fairway metal will remain to a humongous green that sits down in
a bowl fronting the clubhouse. With a forced carry over sand, scrub and Seven
Mile Creek, you might want to take an extra stick to better your chances. Both
DiMarco and Leonard had chances to win in 2004 on the final hole, but both
missed putts, while Singh parred the last in regulation and in the playoff for
IRISH COURSE - If you think playing the Irish Course is a step down from the
Straits, you're sorely mistaken. You'll certainly find this out on the first
tee, as the opening hole plays 400 yards long and uphill through the green. A
generous fairway gets you started on the right track, but you'll need an extra
club or two to reach the angled left green. A half-dozen deep bunkers guard
the left side of the putting surface, which stretches 34 paces. Watch out for
a back-left pin. If that's the case, play towards the right and trust the
A beautiful, dogleg-left par four, the second requires smarts, not brawn, off
the tee. Wrapped around a lake and just 372 yards long, this gem needs just a
fairway metal or hybrid off the tee to set up an easy approach to a wide, but
narrow, green. The undulating putting surface is protected in front by a pair
of bunkers, while one deep trap lurks in the rear. When the weather is up,
this hole can be a real test.
Although the third is rated as the easiest on the course, don't be lulled into
a false-sense of security. The green is wide and fronted by water and a
railroad-tie bunker made famous by the designer that stretches of 35 yards.
Despite its short distance, you need to be spot-on or you'll find plenty of
Easily one of the most difficult holes on the course, the fourth is the
longest par four on the Irish, a whopping 489 yards. Doglegging hard to the
left, the key is a tee shot that must draw from right to left, avoiding the
huge waste-area trap that runs down the entire left side of the fairway. A
mid-to-long iron will remain to a very small target, protected by sand dunes
left and an enormous trap right. The putting surface is slick, two-tiered and
runs from back to front. This monster is aptly named "Sandbanks."
Temptation could certainly replace "Devil's Elbow" as the name for the par-
five fifth. From the back tees on this dogleg right, the big hitters will be
chomping at the bit to cut the corner in efforts to reach in two. The problem
is two-fold, as a huge, waste-area-styled bunker guards the dogleg, while
further right are thick brush and deep trees. The smart player will go down
the left side of the fairway and then layup short of the creek bed and
crossing bunker. The split landing area can be reached, but its narrow strip
makes for a difficult target. The green is very long and undulating with sand
covering the entire left side. Watch out, this might be a day at the beach you
One of my favorite par threes on the course, the sixth reminds me of the 10th
at Prairie Dunes in Kansas. This stellar hole is completely surrounded by sand
and dunes, making it an island green. The putting surface is quiet and could
produce a possible deuce, that is of course if you hit the green.
The short, dogleg right seventh can be a birdie or double-bogey waiting to
happen, depending upon your tee shot. Just 372 yards in length, the key is
hitting the rolling, wide fairway. For the big hitters, three-metal or less
works best, but for us mortals, a driver can suffice. Your approach shot with
a short iron is slightly uphill to a kidney-shaped green. Avoid the right side
of the hole, as a creek and trees will swallow up anything close. Of course
the deep pot bunker, short-left is no bargain either.
The eighth is more of a three-shotter than most par fives, as this monster
requires strategy and finesse. Your tee shot must carry almost 200 yards just
to reach the landing area and needs to be placed down the left side. Two
humongous bunkers down the right sit well below the fairway and must be
avoided. Your second shot, playing slightly uphill, must clear the ever-
present creek to reach the layup zone. Two fairway traps around the 100-yard
mark will dictate the approach. Your third shot is straight uphill to a slim,
slick green that runs hard to the front and is guarded by sand short. Making
birdie won't be easy, neither will par.
Another double-carry hole, the ninth is another monster par four of 484 yards
in length. From the back tees you'll need a howitzer to carry the crossing
creek to the upper fairway! The lower landing area is accessible, but it will
leave a longer second to a long and difficult target. Not only will your
approach be over 200 yards, but you'll have to splice your shot in between
trees and over the creek once again. A rarity on the Irish, this hole features
the least amount of sand on the course, but plenty of trouble.
Playing straight uphill, the 10th swings slightly to the left and plays every
bit of its modest 398 yards. Use driver and play down the right, avoiding the
severe drop-off on the left, not to mention sand and thick rough. A medium
iron should remain to an elevated green that allows only a glimpse of the
flag. Remember, take an extra stick to get home or you'll roll back down the
fairway. The putting surface is long and slick, so be careful. The best
offense is a good defense.
Another sensational par three, the 11th can reach 208 yards from the black
buttons. Sand covers the entire right side of the monstrous green, the second
longest on the course at 49 paces. So you would figure with all this trouble
right, that missing left would be an OK bailout. Wrong. Two deep bunkers,
hidden by mounding, lurk in the distance. The traps are so deep that even
Shaquille O'Neal couldn't see out of them. Even hitting the putting surface is
no guarantee of par. Take what you can get and move on.
The only hole on the course without sand coming into play, the 12th is a
modest, straightaway par four. The fairway is very generous and sloping from
right to left. Try to stay on the right side for the best angle to the green.
The putting surface is long and lean and guarded on the left by a deep, grassy
The final par three on the course is the 183-yard 13th. This beaute features a
50-yard-long green that's partially hidden on the right. Tall mounding and
bunkers in the rear provide an excellent target, but are hazardous to your
score. It's all carry to the green, so get the correct yardage from your
caddie and let it rip. At 14,000 square feet, you'll see plenty of three
From the back tees, you'll need to carry your drive over 200 yards to reach
the fairway, otherwise, a huge waste-area bunker, which also runs down the
left, will snare your errant shot. It's risky and highly unlikely that you'll
reach this par five in two, as the hole plays uphill from the fairway. The
prudent play would be down the right side, which will leave a 100-yard shot to
the green. Be mindful of the creek that runs along the left and splits the
landing area. Your third will be to an elevated green fronted by numerous pot
bunkers. The blind putting surface features a great backdrop. Rumor has it
that Dye buried a bus and train cars underneath mounds and mounds of dirt.
Again, Dye has saved the best -- or what some would say, the hardest -- for
last. Starting with the rugged, dogleg-right 15th, this stretch of holes
rivals the Straits Course. At 479 yards, this par four requires another long
carry over grassland just to reach the fairway. Playing left is the safe move,
however this will leave a very long approach to a lengthy green. From the
right, you'll need to carry more dense rough and several bunkers that front
the angled green. A back-right pin can be dastardly, especially with a
Playing uphill to the fairway, the 16th is another long par four that features
water lining the left side, not in view from the tee. The right is no walk in
the park either, as rough and scrub brush make for a difficult second. The
fairway falls off hard to the right as you near the green into a cavernous
bunker, and a deep pot bunker guards the putting surface on the left, so your
choices are minimal. The green is quite slick from left to right, so stay
below the hole for your best chance at par.
Although the 17th is one of the shorter par fours on the course, it certainly
will test your mettle. With a lake to the left and sand dunes to the right,
you'll have to be spot on with your tee shot or double-bogey is brought into
the equation. Fairway metal or hybrid off the tee might the best play, even
though the landing area is generous. Your approach from the fairway must cross
the corner of the water to reach the narrow green. It makes for a pretty site,
but six on the scorecard never looks good.
Heading for home, the 18th is another tough test -- this time, a 558-yard par
five. The tee shot is a long carry over water to a big fairway with sand on
the right. Left side of the fairway will give you the best option for your
second. You'll have to decide wether to layup short of the crossing creek or
try to clear with a 200-yard-plus approach. The smart choice is an iron to the
bottom of the fairway, leaving an uphill shot at the elevated green. Trying to
clear the hazard will leave a difficult and blind approach to the large
putting surface. Careful not to miss left of the short grass, as a deep bunker
awaits well below the green. Any shot short and right will run back down the
fairway, as the incline is steep.
FINAL WORD: I look back at my experience at Whistling Straits and get goose
bumps. Playing two of the best courses in the country, on Lake Michigan with
spectacular views, being treated like a movie star and walking where some of
the greats of the game have crossed, is a once-in-a-lifetime encounter.
First of all, we have to start with The American Club, a three-story, three
wing resort with guest rooms and suites totaling 237 and more than 21,000
square feet of conference space. The brilliant red brick throughout the
buildings and the slate roofs give this Tudor-style structure its wonderful
character. The dining is first-cabin, including the Immigrant Restaurant, a
AAA Four Diamond Award establishment for 17 straight years.
But the real jewels of Kohler are the two phenomenal courses at Whistling
Straits. Some have called the Straits Course as "Ireland on steroids." I have
yet to travel to The Emerald Isle, but if it's anything like the Straits and
Irish courses, than I'm in for a real treat.
Most people talk about the final holes at a course being some of the best on
the layout, but with the Straits, the entire venue is as good as it gets. The
walking-only course on the shore of Lake Michigan is, in a word, a
Framed by massive sand dunes and bluffs, the Straits Course offers views of
the lake on all 18 holes, with eight holes snug up against the great body of
water. The greens are massive at 7,500 square feet and with more than 500
bunkers and even more sand dunes, you're in for the ride of your life.
Caddies are required on the Straits and with the course stretching to
almost 7,700 yards, you'll walk approximately 5 miles. Now don't get
discouraged, there are five sets of tees starting at 5,400 yards, so choose
the correct color and you'll have the time of your life.
The Irish Course is a wonderful complement to the Straits. Not as long as its
partner, the Irish also boasts five sets of tees, ranging from 5,100 to 7,200
yards and yes, plenty of sand. Almost 2,000 trees were planted on the course,
and although Lake Michigan is in view on five holes, it never comes into play.
The Irish does feature plenty of water hazards, in fact, four streams snake
through the course, not to mention a 10 1/2 acre lake on 16 and 17.
"The challenge for me was to create a second 18-hole course at Whistling
Straits that would be comparable to the first course, not just a complement
but of equal stature," said Dye.
Walking is preferred on the Irish, however carts are available for those who
like cart-path only. Golf is a traditional game, so trust me when I tell you,
take a caddie on both courses, you'll be glad you did. The greens are not as
large as the Straits at 7,000 square feet, however the 13th hole boasts a
whopping 14,500 square foot putting surface.
The caddie program at Whistling Straits is something special. Each incredibly
knowledgeable about the courses, yardage, greens and after a couple of holes,
your game. What I really enjoyed was the fact that our caddie was right on
with the reading of the greens, the history of the courses and his genuine
honesty and kindness. Just ask for Brian Everatz the next time you venture to
Kohler, trust me, he'll only add to the experience.
Most clubhouses nowadays are these massive 21st-century structures that look
out of place, but not at Whistling Straits. Modestly designed, the clubhouse
fits the landscape to a "T". A farmhouse if you will, stationed above the 9th
and 18th holes of the Straits Course, with remarkable views of Lake Michigan.
The two-story structure features a full-stocked pro shop for both men and
women, a dining facility with sumptuous fare (the Kobe Sliders are amazing), a
second floor bar and lounge and a complete locker room. Let's not forget the
five fireplaces strewn about and the rich dark, inviting colors that give the
clubhouse its wonderful charm.
Although not as expensive as Pebble Beach, Whistling Straits is a pricey
ticket. At $330 for greens fees, another $60 for the caddie, not to mention
tip and a few sundries in the pro shop, you're looking at $500 for a round of
golf. So what? It's worth every penny and then some.
Bring your friends, bring the wives, heck, go by yourself, you'll be glad you
did. This one is a must destination for all parties concerned.
I will always remember walking 36 holes with my buddy Dave one glorious,
August day at Whistling Straits. One of my finest days on a golf course, ever!