Friday, August 14, 2009

Whistling Straits

Whistling Straits (ranked #53 in the world) is located in Kohler, Wisconsin, about 90 minutes north of Milwaukee. Built by Pete Dye in 1998, it is a beautiful course. If you want to know what it is like to play golf in Ireland but don't want to fly across the Atlantic, Whistling Straits is as close as you'll ever get. The land the course was built on was formerly a U.S. Army base. Owner Herb Kohler instructed Dye that he wanted the course to resemble Ballybunion.

The eight holes that play along Lake Michigan are the most dramatic. Similar to his work at Casa de Campo, Dye does a brilliant job of situating green sites along and above the water. The course is also over-run with bunkering. Many holes have scores of bunkers. Golf Digest estimates there are more than 950 bunkers on the course. That means on average there are 50 bunkers per hole. For basis of comparison, Winged Foot West and Merion East have less than 150 bunkers each on the entire course.

Many of the bunkers don't actually come into play, but they give the course a dramatic and rough and tumble look. The dog-leg right eighth hole is especially noteworthy in this regard. It has a lot of small natural looking bunkers cascading down the hill between the fairway and Lake Michigan.

Like at the Bandon Resort, at Whistling Straits you can only walk, there are no golf carts. This is to maintain the aesthetic in keeping with that of a links course. Cart parts would have ruined the look of the course. The course is full of wonderful little walking paths and natural looking matted down areas that you use to walk from hole to hole, just like in the British Isles.

The par four fourth hole, "Glory"

The par threes along the water are all noteworthy, including the twelfth and seventeenth on the back.

The twelfth hole plays only 138 yards and has a big green, but there is a little piece of it close to the water that is isolated from the rest of the green and it's the Sunday pin placement for tournaments. The effective landing area when the flag is set on this side of the green is tiny.

The dramatic par three 17th at Whistling Straits

The area the course is built in is isolated and pastoral. It is subject to foggy and changeable weather conditions since it is on the lake. The clubhouse is done in an understated and elegant manner. Sitting in the clubhouse on a misty, rainy day with a Guinness in hand is enough to trick the mind into believing you are in the Emerald Isle.

I stayed at The American Club nearby, also owned by Herb Kohler, the owner of the resort. It is a very nice place and has a great pub. The dining room serves local fare including some great Wisconsin cheese.

No comments:

Post a Comment