Blue Skies & Fall Colors

Let’s be honest: This has not been the best Wisconsin golf season.

We didn’t get started until mid-May, September was spent largely underwater and it has all the looks and feels of a season ending way too early in October.

While an early Winter is depressing to think about, Fall golf in the Midwest is stunningly beautiful and I was able to get out last weekend for a round that started out cold and dim, but ended up with bright blue skies and gorgeous Fall colors.

I had to snap a few pics on my cart ride home:

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A look back from the green on the par four 3rd hole at North Hills CC in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin

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View from the tee on the par five 4th hole at North Hills

Comparatively, here was the same view last month toward the height of a weeks-long deluge:

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The par five 4th hole at North Hills flooded by the Menomonee River during September, 2018

Speaking of underwater, here was the unintentional island green on the par four 6th. Not only was half of the course unplayable, the rotting smell and subsequent weeks–long mosquito infestation was almost unbearable.

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Golf Course Review: Grand Geneva, The Brute

What can I say about the Brute at Grand Geneva that isn’t already covered by its name? The Brute is long and tight, and everything about it is “Brute-ish.”

Have you ever seen that beer commercial where the guys are at the tee box and one friend is about to tee off when his buddy says, “Hold on,” and uses his fingers to tighten the fairways and enlarge the sand traps? That is how every hole seems to be on this course. The sand traps are massive, the water features are prominent, and it has a very mature, demanding feel that can be quite intimidating.

I first played and reviewed the Brute 12-15 years ago with a friend of mine, Dane, who used to work there. He was telling me that Jim McMahon and Rollie Fingers always played it barefooted, so we did, too. I remembered it being very nice, but was nowhere near the golf enthusiast I am today, and it was like a whole new experience for me with virtually no recollections of that round and how to play it.

As a side note, it’s hilarious how many times I’ve had people mention Rollie or Jim McMahon as barefooted golfers during rounds with new golf partners.

While WiscoGolfAddict contributing writer John Ziemer and I did not play the course barefooted, we did experience it in a new way: GolfBoarding.

Grand Geneva is currently the only golf destination in the state offering GolfBoards for players to use during their rounds. While the surcharge to use them is minimal – $20 over the standard cost that includes cart – the experience is fun, unique and well worth the added charge (my previous post about GolfBoarding can be found here).

The Brute is one course that I cannot say enough is worth playing from the recommended tee boxes. Similarly to another of my Wisconsin favorites, Wild Rock, everything about the Brute seems massive and accentuated. The course has an awesome look and feel.

Also similarly to Wild Rock, the greens can be really quick and challenging. Many of the greens are crowned, making for really tough downhill putts and a lot of challenging two-putt situations.

The Brute starts with a beautifully elevated par four that, like most holes on this course, features water, sand and a long approach.

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Hole 1: Par 4 (424/395)  Photo credit: John Ziemer

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Hole 1: Par 4 (424/395)  Photo credit: John Ziemer

The Brute uses elevation wonderfully, and especially generously on their par fives. The second hole, for example, features an approach area at least 100 yards long that goes uphill and to the left without any fairway to lay up to. Compounding the challenge of this approach is that the green on two is probably the smallest on the course.

The majority of their par fives are similar, and [at least from the back tees] I would not consider any of them to be easily reachable in two. The sixth hole has a very similar approach area, and both feature greens that are several stories above [and well over 100 yards past] their playable fairways.

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Hole 2: Par 5 (544/509/409)  Photo credit: John Ziemer

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Hole 2: Par 5 (544/509/409)  Photo credit: John Ziemer

The third is a gorgeous downhill par four that narrows to about 15 yards wide between two ponds before going back uphill between greenside bunkers. The water is actually farther away than it at first appears, but driver is likely longer than the landing area will allow.

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Hole 3: Par 4 (374/351/327)  Photo credit: John Ziemer

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Hole 3: Par 4 (374/351/327)  Photo credit: John Ziemer

The fourth is one of those par threes that seems to play much longer than the distance. The elevation is relatively flat overall, but goes downhill from the tee boxes over water, then back well uphill to a very wide green complex.

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Surfing the Brute Course at Grand Geneva on GolfBoards

Last month, WiscoGolfAddict Contributing Writer John Ziemer and I had the opportunity to try something new: GolfBoarding.

Grand Geneva is the first golf destination in Wisconsin to offer this alternative mode of transportation, which got its start in Oregon at the world-renowned Tetherow Golf Resort.

In response to my social media posts, the main question asked was: “What do GolfBoards have to do with golf?” A GolfBoard does not need to be used on a golf course – they would be fun to ride on any terrain – but there are a few benefits realized by utilizing GolfBoards on the course:

  • GolfBoards allow players to go straight to their balls, reducing time spent with both players in one cart looking for the same ball
  • The higher vantage point standing on the GolfBoard helps find balls in the rough
  • GolfBoards allow players to ride right up to the green and teeing complexes
  • GolfBoards reduce the stress put on turf (substantially wider tires that distribute weight more evenly) versus golf carts
  • GolfBoards are fun!

While GolfBoards cost around $5,000 apiece to buy, using one for a round of golf at Grand Geneva costs $20 over the standard round rate for playing with a cart.

First-time users are required to watch a short safety/instructional video and sign an electronic waiver prior to using GolfBoards (which I found helpful), and are then able to practice riding them around before heading to the first tee.

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GolfBoards at the bag drop at Grand Geneva Golf Resort

As a snowboarder, John caught on to GolfBoarding immediately. As a skier, it took me longer to learn how to distribute pressure with my feet. Even so, I was comfortable and on to the faster mode by the time we reached the first green.

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GolfBoarding to my tee shot

I loved the GolfBoarding experience and can’t wait to do it again. The other great thing that came out of our trip to Lake Geneva is that I was able to utilize John’s photography skills to re-shoot the Brute course. Every other time I’ve been there was with terribly inclement and nasty weather; John took full advantage of a perfect Summer afternoon and got some beautiful shots.

I will be following up this post with one updating my 2012 early-Spring review of the Brute course.

Have you had a chance to try out GolfBoards yet? What are your thoughts on the experience and its benefits to golf, in general?

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Setting up for an approach shot in to 18

Golf Course Review: The Preserve at Oak Meadows (IL)

Each year golf writers from Wisconsin and Illinois emerge at the course of the hosts’ choosing for an epic 27-hole battle: The Writers’ Cup.

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Team Wisconsin (red) and Team Illinois (blue) before teeing off at The Preserve at Oak Meadows for the 2017 Writer’s Cup

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2017 Team Wisconsin

After sending our neighbors to the south home beaten from Sand Valley in 2016, Illinois welcomed us to their newly renovated gem in Addison, The Preserve at Oak Meadows.

Closed down for the 2016 season, The new Preserve course has been beautifully redesigned by Greg Martin as a single 18-hole championship course (pared down from 27 holes) that is now not only a more functional golf facility but also better serves its expanded role of providing water retention/flood control for the Wood Dale/Addison area.

As a golf course architect, Greg Martin is not yet a household name but I believe he will be. Martin, based out of Illinois, recently ended his two-year term as President of the American Society of Golf Course Architects (ASGCA). He’s highly revered within the industry for his work ethic and talent; you’ll never talk to a golf course architect with anything bad to say about him and his work.

Martin’s most notable project to date is one that few will ever experience: Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Illinois. The story goes that billionaire Jerry Rich wanted to be a member at Augusta National Golf Club – who wouldn’t? When he was turned down, he decided to build an Augusta-class course on his own property, leading to the development of Rich Harvest Farms.

This passion project at Rich Harvest Farms has done well enough to host the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Championships in 2017, the 2015 Western Amateur, the 2009 Solheim Cup and countless regional events.

Combined, that is probably as many players as the course sees on a seasonal basis. From what I’ve heard from media friends who’ve played it, the course sees a few foursomes a day while employing a massive staff to ensure perfect course conditions and customer service. It is the type of place where nothing is overlooked and the golf experience is second to none. I’ve heard they have 30 members (including Michael Jordan) and over one hundred employees.

It’s this attention to detail and professionalism that I’m sure won over DuPage Golf for the $17 million remodel project at The Preserve at Oak Meadows. Martin’s work impresses with well thought out teeing locations, terrific greens and strategic shot value.

I’ll claim it’s an effort to avoid spoiling all the surprises, but reality is that the downpour during much of our round was so torrential I didn’t even take my camera out. I hope to get back sometime to add in the first through third holes, though, to complete my course review.

We’ll start out with the short par four fourth, a terrific risk/reward layout: The 302 yards the scorecard shows from the blue tees is indicative of playing down the fairway, so it’s shorter and very reachable.

Anything aimed at the green will need to fly a whole lot of fescue, so while the reward is high, the risk can be substantial.

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Hole 4: Par 4 (352/337/302/273/255)

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Hole 4: Par 4 (352/337/302/273/255)

The fifth is a right-to-left par five playing uphill and to the right through a chute of trees. Just left of the right-side fairway bunkering is the perfect line off the tee.

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Hole 5: Par 5 (529/514/497/483/384)

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Hole 5: Par 5 (529/514/497/483/384)

The narrowest hole on the course, the sixth is perfectly straight, slightly downhill and well bunkered short-right of the putting surface.

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Golf Course Review: Kiawah Island, Cougar Point (SC)

My wife and I fell in love with Charleston and Kiawah Island, South Carolina during our October 2016 honeymoon, and since then we’ve been in a hurry to get back.

Renting a huge, fabulous home on the marsh side of the island with our friends Tom and Lindley from Atlanta, our days were filled with beaches and swimming, golf, shopping, good food and cocktails. Other than only playing one round of golf, it was perfect!

After playing the Ocean Course and Osprey Point the last time we were in Kiawah Island, I’d been hearing great things about Gary Player’s renovation of his original design, Cougar Point.

The second through fourth and eighteenth hole are all visible from Kiawah Island Parkway – the main drive when entering Kiawah – and I always thought they were part of the River Course which is one of the island’s two private tracks that I was originally supposed to play while there.

My round at the River Course unfortunately fell through, but fortunately for me those amazing golf holes and conditions I thought were of the River Course were actually of Cougar Point. The holes seen from the parkway look so good, too, with big orbital sand traps surrounding the green on two, a continuous teeing area that looks like it runs about a hundred yards long, and the fifth hole past the fourth playing adjacent to the picturesque Kiawah River.

Tom and I were in for a treat at Cougar Point.

The clubhouse at Cougar Point is currently under construction, so operations are being run out of a makeshift building until Spring 2019. The new clubhouse will be very southern in style, and the renderings look beautiful.

The course begins with a handshake: A short, straightaway par four with very little trouble. I put one out there about 265 yards off the first tee, leaving just 70 in and my first three-putt/bogey of the day. We’ll blame that one on rust.

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Hole 1: Par 4 (372/342/330/282/243)

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Hole 1: Par 4 (372/342/330/282/243)

The second hole has a bit more bite: A mid-length par three with a tough green and intimidatingly large sand and water features. This is a hole I’d salivated over playing often while driving along Kiawah Island Parkway. It is a beaut.

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Hole 2: Par 3 (171/158/142/126/100)

The path from two to the third hole is a little confusing – just a heads up – but it’s worth it when you get there.

A sharp dogleg left par five, the third has a wonderful risk/reward finish over water to a tight green that begs players to try for that perfect shot.

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