What was the golf course like that you grew up playing on?
Mine was a Waukesha County municipal course with a few quirks and a lot of character. It had some holes I could do without, and a lot more I always looked forward to.
It always had good greens. Most are slightly elevated, but nothing too crazy. The design team of Arthur Hills and Billy Sixty, Jr. (and later Bob Lohmann) did a really nice job of designing them with optimal pinnability, and the maintenance crew always kept their surfaces rolling quickly, though they could get a little beaten up from so much play from beginners — like I was. And it seemed like they aerated more than most, with huge punches that made putting feel like a game of Plinko.
I never quite figured out the right clubs to hit on its doglegs. They mostly took driver out of my hands from the white tees, and I was always second guessing irons selections. 30 years later, I still second guess my irons all the time.
My friends David, Dan and I played it a lot. Our parents would drop us off at Wanaki Golf Course in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, and we’d walk the course, learn the game and enjoy the time outside. We were around 10 when Dave and I started playing junior leagues there. He was a much better player than I was, but we were buddies and always had fun golfing together. I still have a hard time taking golf too seriously.
I’d love to get out there with those guys again someday. Dan and I typically play a couple times a year, usually in the Madison area (or last year we had a nice 45-hole day at Medinah) where he and his family live. I haven’t seen Dave in decades, though we keep in touch a little on Facebook. Like Dan, I think he’s a college professor now and lives in Indiana.
It had been a lot of years, probably ~ 20 since the last time I played 18 holes at Wanaki, and yesterday’s round waxed nostalgic for me in all the right ways.
It was a day of opportunity. My friend, Jeff, and I were planning on playing North Hills Country Club at 10:30, but as a social-plus member now I’m only able to play it a handful of times a year and get hit with $122.50 walking (I prefer to walk there with my electric caddy, but still get charged for the cart).
Even with the Weather app calling for 100% chance of rain the entire morning and afternoon, I wanted to get out and give golf a go. I didn’t want to burn one of my rounds at the club, though, and really didn’t want to spend $100-plus on an early-April round I didn’t even know if I’d want to finish if the weather was as terrible as it was supposed to be. $45 with cart at Wanaki sounded much better, and their pro shop said to come on out as the tee sheet continued to clear.
We were planning on playing a quick nine. Public courses can be a bit of a death march on Saturday mornings, and I was happy to get even a few hours away from the madness of our 2- and 3-year-old at home.
Nine turned in to 18, though, as we played hole after hole – all bringing back good memories – quickly and without wait. A group on two let us play through off the tee; we didn’t run in to anyone else until 16. It was awesome.
The signage has been updated, the nines have been switched, their rickety old gas carts have been significantly upgraded for new ones (I remember having to constantly pull the choke to get their carts to run), the bridges have been renewed and their maintenance crew has certainly been busy with tree removal.
Otherwise, it was the same course I remember playing as a kid.
The opportunity to play Wanaki again almost didn’t happen for me. In fact, we almost lost it following the 2019 season when Waukesha County decided to discontinue operations.
Wanaki was losing between $41,000 to $243,000 per year since 2001 (link to report), and needed significant capital investment. It’s always had good bones, though, including a beautifully wooded track of land with rivers and ponds, one of the strongest men’s clubs in the state, high annual rounds and played home course to multiple school teams. Losing Wanaki would have made a significant impact on the Milwaukee area golf community.
#SaveWanaki rallied local golf enthusiasts, and eventually stirred up a legitimate bid from a new ownership group to stave off redevelopment. Together with Scott Schaefer of the Milwaukee Brat House, the good folks at Storms Golf were able to acquire Wanaki with the agreement that it continues to operate as a golf course.
This is a dream ownership group for the property, combining longstanding golf-related operations experience and expertise with terrific food and beverage savvy. Scott’s culinary niche couples well with golf where brats, hot dogs and other quick bites play perfectly. The hot dog and pretzel bun yesterday was awesome, by the way.
Wanaki is a solid test of golf, playing host fairly regularly to State Am and Open qualifiers. Its par threes, especially, are really tough – three of them measuring over 200 yards from the back tees. And the greens were in great shape – much better than we expected this early in the season.
A grand re-opening party is scheduled at Wanaki for April 18, 2021, which will include a free pig roast, live music and [rubber] duck races down the Fox River. If you haven’t had a chance to play it yet lately [like I hadn’t], get over there and check it out.
I for one know my next visit to Wanaki won’t take nearly as long to happen as the last one did, and I’m really excited to see what other changes new ownership has in store for this course that holds so many good memories for me.
A few more overhead drone shots from my early-Spring round yesterday at Wanaki Golf Course:
Course Wrap-Up: Location: Menomonee Falls, WI Slope/Rating: Blue-127/71.4, White-123/69.6, Gold-117/67.0 Yardage: Blue-6560, White-6206, Gold-5629 Par: 71
When setting up rounds for my Spring golf trip to Scottsdale, there were a handful of public courses I wanted to play most: Quintero, Troon North, Coore/Crenshaw’s Talking Stick and the Coore/Crenshaw Saguaro and Scott Miller Cholla courses at We-Ko-Pa.
Quintero was number one for me. I’ve looked at hundreds of pictures of the course and its natural surrounds, and while plenty of the pictures were stunning there were just so many that looked the same. In a setting that naturally magnificent, I was sure I’d be able to capture some breathtaking and original shots.
Quintero over-delivered as one of the most beautiful and demanding golf courses I can ever remember playing. In fact, it’s probably one of the most picturesque settings I’ve ever photographed, in general.
Long vistas of the Hieroglyphic Mountains, huge cacti and a wild and expansive desert landscape framed every picture.
The overcast Arizona sky that accompanied our unseasonably cold and rugged weather conditions made it even better. While most snow-birds would complain about pants weather (low-to-mid-40’s) while escaping the Midwest cold, I knew we were in for a treat and think the pictures bare proof.
Quintero was originally planned to be a private club with two courses: The Rees Jones designed Founders Course (currently Quintero Golf Club) that debuted in 2000, and a planned but never built Greg Norman designed Charter Course.
The story I was told during my Uber ride from the airport is that the outskirts-of-Peoria location was simply too far from Phoenix/Scottsdale, while also being too far from Flagstaff in the other direction to draw en masse for the nearly 300 home sites and 700 available golfing memberships.
I believe the driver that it was simply Quintero’s remoteness that didn’t allow it to thrive as a private club development. It certainly was not the golf, which immediately garnered top 100 praise from the likes of Golf Digest, GolfWeek and Golf Magazine.
And it is certainly not the dramatic natural setting that Quintero inhabits.
Still, even being an hour from Phoenix/Scottsdale, the golf is great enough to fill tee sheets at $300-plus per round during peak season.
Rees Jones has a reputation at times of over-designing golf courses. In his defense, that’s what’s been asked of him by the USGA to toughen up tournament venues as “The Open Doctor” (think Dubsdread, East Lake, Bethpage Black, Pinehurst No. 2, Medinah No. 3 and the South course at Torrey Pines – all are beautiful and a great test for the pros, but perhaps over-the-top difficult for the everyday player).
I know Rees’s work at non-US Open venues to be challenging yet thoughtful, and it’s in that vein that I view Quintero. I think he did a wonderful job of designing Quintero especially with regards to three key elements: Interesting hole layouts, beautifully set up tee shots (the only location on a golf hole where all players share the same view), and challenging but fun green surrounds.
I had a chance to speak with Rees and pick his brain a little on this at a media event a few years ago at Medinah, shortly after he’d finished work on Course 2. This guy has unbelievable knowledge of golf course architecture, turf management and designing for the challenge and enjoyment of all skill levels – Quintero’s a great example of that. The Oconee course at Reynolds Lake Oconee is another prime example that comes to mind – an incredibly interesting and aesthetically beautiful course that’s fun while providing a stern test of golf.
Let’s get this started
Following an early morning flight from Milwaukee to Phoenix International, my friend and 2019 North Hills Country Club Club Champion, Will, and I arrived with plenty of time to spare the day of our round at Quintero. We took full advantage, visiting several of the course’s most photogenic spots including the all-world par three 6th.
With no tee boxes in site (they’re all way above the green), well-spaced greenside bunkering, a nicely kept fairway approach area and massive green complex, I thought at first that it must be a short-game practice area. It’s a good thing Will had been here before.
We took the opportunity to head uphill where I was able to run dry my first couple drone batteries of the trip capturing some unique angles of a world-class golf hole.
When I told friends I was going to Scottsdale to play my first ever desert golf, everyone told me to bring extra balls. It’s target golf at its best, they said, and that was certainly the case at Quintero.
I thought I had my swing dialed in on Trackman prior to the trip. I was regularly hitting 10+ fairways/round and shooting in the low-to-mid-70’s. Even though that was from unrealistically perfect turf lies, in to a screen with no wind, putting or need to look for errant shots, I was fully expecting to play well and compete with Will and our friend and 2018 North Hills Club Champion, Charlie.
The fairways are not small at Quintero. In fact, a lot of them are 60+ yards wide, but anything missing the fairway is basically gone. Knowing that, and having the vast scale of desert landscape lingering all about creates intimidation. When you add in the strong winds we had for our round, let’s just say I was glad I listened and brought extra golf balls… Though I wish I’d’ve brought more than ProV1’s and TP5’s. I donated 11 ProV1-X’s to the rattlesnakes during my first round of the season.
The golf course
Quintero’s practice facility, about a 5- to 10-minute cart ride from the clubhouse, features a double-sided driving range that stretches over 300 yards and can be teed from both ends. Things were looking good there – I was hitting the ball long and straight – all systems were go.
The practice green near the first tee ran very similarly to the greens on the course. It was really quick, and very smooth. I had no idea what to expect of putting surfaces in the desert, and I was really impressed by Quintero’s well-kempt bent grass greens.
The very first tee shot of the day was elevated and in to a left-to-right, hurting wind – in fact, we didn’t have a single hole all day with wind at our back.
I lost my first two Titleists of the day on one – one right, the next left. So much for a welcoming handshake!
Tipping out over 570 yards and with a long carry over wasteland, the right-to-left running fairway on the par five second left a lot of room to miss laterally and was actually one of the most comfortable drives of the day for me, and one of my only hit fairways.
While there is a fairway straight ahead, it’s actually for the first half of the fifth hole and is not a split fairway, although if no one’s there it’s probably playable (albeit an even longer carry).
The third hole is a terrific example of the visual intimidation I referenced earlier. The fairway here is probably 75-100 yards wide at most spots, but beyond those borders is all lost balls – water left, desert right.
I thankfully had no idea there was wasteland in between the end of the fairway and the approach area, or there’s no way I would have gotten near this green in two.
This is one of the only areas of the course where water comes in to play.
The par four 5th introduces players to one of the factors that makes Quintero truly special: Its incredible elevation changes.
Playing directly uphill, the tee shot gives the impression you’re aiming directly in to the base of the mountain.
With views for days of the Sonoran Desert, the mid-to-long-range par three 6th features about 110 feet of drop in elevation and is one of the most picturesque golf holes I’ve ever seen.
The target is plenty large, and long from front to back, helping make up for all the questions swirling around in players’ heads about the plays-like distance. From ~ 180 yards, Will and I both hit 7-irons and had the distance just about right.
The eighth is an unbelievable par five, teeing off first to a wide fairway with plenty of room to miss left. The second shot then plays over wasteland, and significantly uphill between two peaks. I can’t imagine many could hit this green in two, making it a solid three-shot par five.
Like on six (and later on 16), the par three 9th features an unbelievably dramatic tee-to-green drop in elevation – about 60 feet, according to a past article on GolfArizona (link).
I hit a ridiculously good shot on this hole, landing the ball less than five feet from the pin. It fell from so high, though, and to such a small portion of the green that it one-hopped off the back. I didn’t care – it felt pure, and like one of my first real golf shots of the day, so I was happy.
The only par three at Quintero that’s not significantly downhill, the 13th doesn’t make things any easier on players. The tee shot here is long – around 180 yards from the first tees in, and needs to carry water to hit the green surface (Jones provided a bailout area short-right).
With the sun beginning to lower on our round and day one of my Arizona golf trip, the Peoria skies kept getting more and more beautiful at Quintero, and the great golf holes, ever-present winds and lost balls kept on coming.
The par four 15th is another stunner, and features one of the course’s narrower initial fairways and a tough to hit, elevated green. We both came up short on our approach shots, and both hit good sand shots from the deep front-right greenside bunkers.
The last of Quintero’s set of all-world par threes, the 16th plays at least 50 feet downhill (I’d think much more, but can’t find any numbers to support that online) to one of the most challenging of the course’s par three greens to hit.
While Jones’ beautiful greenside bunkering on the right side screams “Stay away,” it’s the left side that’s fraught with treachery as unplayable desert wasteland encroaches all the way to the left side of the green complex.
We both hit the traps about pin-high, and while Will was able to save par I was not.
The 16th provided a terrific backdrop for an obligatory drone selfie:
This was a tough round to put in the books, especially since my swing started coming around a little towards the end. The eighteenth played directly in to the lowering sun, another restricted fairway with long shadows creeping inward.
With around 200 total golf courses in the greater Phoenix / Scottsdale area, I’d be shocked if Quintero was not ranked one of the top overall. Indeed, Golf Digest ranks it number one among public courses in the state, and GolfWeek has it number two behind Coore/Crenshaw’s Saguaro course at We-Ko-Pa.
While we weren’t able to get on Saguaro during my trip, we were able to play the Cholla course at We-Ko-Pa. It was also spectacular, and with great changes in elevation and a wild, rugged yet refined aesthetic. I personally liked Quintero better, though, and in fact would put it immediately in to my list of the top 25 golf courses I’ve played.
While it is an incredibly challenging course, called out by its 148 slope and 75.3 rating from the tips, I think Rees Jones really hit it out of the park at Quintero. And it’s more than just the par threes, which on their own make it an unforgettable golf experience. It’s the way he incorporated the surrounding natural scenes, always framing key areas within the confines of mountain peaks, using elevation sparingly while meandering through the Sonoran Desert and building up to wow moments early and often.
Quintero Golf Club is bucket list worthy, and a true must-play for golf enthusiasts visiting the Greater Scottsdale area.
Course Wrap-Up: Location: Peoria, AZ Slope/Rating: Black-148/75.3, Gold-143/73.1, Silver-137/70.7, Copper-127/68.4 Yardage: Black-7249, Gold-6875, Silver-6437, Copper-5807 Par: 72 Weekend Rates: Up to $385 (including cart)
For three years I’ve been trying to play Nakoma Golf Club in Madison, and every year something’s come up with the kids that’s kept me from keeping the tee time.
2020 was finally the year as my buddies Jeff and Mario and I headed up a couple months back to Nakoma to play with Jeff’s dad, Gary, at his home course on a flawless Fall day.
Designed by Tom Bendelow and debuted in 1925, Nakoma is a classic parkland course with outstanding greens and a fun, sporty layout.
As I’ve come to expect of Bendelow designed courses, Nakoma is an enjoyable walk with convenient routing and short treks from green to tee. It’s a perfect everyday golf course. In fact, I’d put it in the running with spots like Kenosha, Washington County and North Hills as one of the better everyday courses I’ve played.
These are courses you could play day in and day out – walking or riding – and never get tired of them. No annoying holes to “put up with,” a good challenge without being difficult for the point of being difficult, impeccably kept conditions and overall reallygood, well-designed golf holes.
Tipping out at just under 6,500 yards, Nakoma feels longer as it plays to a par of just 70 (34 on the front, 36 on the back). While the front nine has three par threes (2, 4, 7) and one five (6), the back has a more conventional two of each.
I enjoy an unconventional scorecard. I love a 5-3-5 to end the round at Nakoma, a 5-3-5-3-5-3 mid-round at Lawsonia, back-to-back par fives at Pine Hills (even though the second in the set should probably be a long four) and The Oaks, or back-to-back par threes on 10 and 11 at Pacific Dunes when it means the holes making up those stretches are right for the course. And, in all these cases, they are.
Par doesn’t need to fit a template of 36/36 with two threes and two fives on each nine. Swaying from the standard keeps things interesting, not to mention provides players with good opportunities to score.
Nakoma’s finishing stretch, which ends with the long par five 16th, mid-length par three 17th and short five 18th, is a terrific example of that opportunity to score – it’s a fun, challenging set of holes that left me wishing there were more.
Pace of play for our round at Nakoma was ideal as we finished in under four hours with nobody pressing us and no waiting on tee boxes. The walk wasn’t overly taxing on the legs, it was a perfectly comfortable round of golf, and a ton of fun.
Nakoma has really good variety to its hole layouts, starting with a soft dogleg left through a chute of trees on one.
It’s immediately evident Nakoma’s membership has invested a lot in their course over recent years, which bears out in conversation with the membership.
As an example, look at the tree lines near the clubhouse. This picture could easily be from Milwaukee CC or Medinah – their tree lines are made up of healthy, mature specimens that provide structure, aesthetics and direction, but don’t lead to lost balls and time spent searching for errant tee shots. Furthermore, the neat clusters allow the turf to thrive and provides a visual appeal that puts their team’s attention to detail front and center.
The other key place where attention to detail is incredibly evident? Nakoma’s greens. They. Are. Perfect.
From the very first hole on, each putt rolled perfectly. Nakoma has some of the best conditioned green complexes I’ve played on.
Our round at Nakoma was the first with my Bat-Caddy X4R electric golf caddy, and there couldn’t have been a better course to demo it on. Finishing 18, I barely felt like we started. I would have happily played another 18, and even more happily another 18 after that.
It wasn’t a flawless ride, though. Jeff put the over/under on how many times I dumped it at five. The first time was on the par three 4th, a fun one-shotter with a great risen green complex and a large bunker front-right.
I wanted to put the drone up for a good aerial shot of this hole. So I put up the bird, drove the caddy off the elevated tee boxes and thought I had it stopped in the middle of the fairway. I put my attention, then, on the drone and took a couple shots before hearing my entire bag hit a tree branch just right of the green. It hadn’t occurred to me that I never hit the “Stop” button.
That was embarrassing! It was my first on-course crash with my new electric golf caddy, but I’m sure it won’t be my last.
A dogleg right par four, the fifth is a fun risk/reward hole that begs players to hit driver over the inside tree line. A spattering of fairway bunkers protects long off the tee, while anything coming up short will keep players from having a good look on their approach.
A long par five that stretches to almost 600 yards, the tee shot on six is somewhat blind beyond the crest of the hill, and to a fairly narrow fairway running downhill.
The green on six was a lot tougher than it originally looked, especially with the hole cut just past the left-side false front.
A really nice golf shirt can be a great holiday present, especially when it’s a shirt that’s made to last.
That’s what I want in golf attire. I want tops that aren’t going to be out-of-fashion in two years. Tiger Woods mock necks? No way. Wild and wacky patterns? I’ve learned that lesson. Too bright colors? They stick out like a sore thumb. Color block? I’ve got 20 combinations in my basement closet that I haven’t been able to rock for several seasons.
That doesn’t mean I don’t like the way those shirts look, or even how they look on me, but I know that fashion’s not my world and I’m not interested anymore in spending good money on what’s cool this season.
I’m more about style. I want a well thought-out shirt constructed with top-of-the-line materials that I can buy today and find almost unchanged on the same rack or website ten years down the road. I don’t want it to scream 2014, or even 2020.
Holderness & Bourne blends classic style with modern, tailored fits and great-feeling performance fabrics to appease the golf enthusiast like me: A guy who wants to look great wearing clothes that fit well and don’t get in the way of my swing.
In just five years, Alex Holderness and John Bourne have taken their anti-fashion brand and created something really special: A premium clothing line that’s highly sought after and doesn’t require constant reinvention.
From a business standpoint, it makes too much sense. Playing the fashion game means retiring clothes every season that’s gone out of style, selling it to the highest bidder to liquidate what’s left on sites like Rock Bottom Golf, Golfetail, Discount Golf and TGW.
This practice erodes both profit margins and brand value. Meanwhile, selling timeless styles that never go out of fashion means updating only when the opportunity arises, continually improving what works without scrapping what’s left.
It also means golf enthusiasts like me can put together a nice wardrobe over time, and even allows for a more versatile product that can be worn outside of golf.
Our family photo shoot this year, for example, featured my favorite piece from H&B: The navy blue Robbins pullover.
The Robbins pullover, which sells for $125, utilizes a blend of cotton, polyester and elastane that promotes shape retention while providing a really nice, tailored fit. The fabric is comfortable, and after having worn it a dozen times looks as nice and new as the day I got it. Whether for golf or everyday wear, I cannot recommend this top enough.
Holderness & Bourne does outerwear really well, but their bread and butter is golf polos.
Their polos feature a comfortably modern, tailored fit with structured cutaway collars, sewn-in stays and 2- or 3-button set-in plackets.
Their fabrics are top of the line for the industry, including DryLuxe Performance Pique, DryLuxe Performance Interlock, Supima Cotton and Peruvian Pima Cotton, and all their polos are adorned with trocas shell buttons, which have a classy look and sturdy feel.
All these premium materials don’t translate to cheap shirts, but they are well worth the $90-98.
My favorite style so far is The Maxwell short-sleeve, which I’ve gotten in both grey & white (shown below), and cobalt & white.
The sewn-in collar stays make for a well-designed and consistent appearance from the neck up, because nothing screams lazy more than a droopy collar!
Looking for other gift ideas to add to your cart while on the H&B website? Check out their Fischer belts, dopp kits and shoe bags.
I haven’t owned a Fischer belt yet, but I really like the look and style: A premium, Italian stretch fabric with genuine leather and nickel-plated solid brass buckles. I’d go with the amparo and white ribbon design, personally.
Fashion vs. style. A timeless look vs. dressing up like Tiger, DJ or Rory on a given week. To me, the sophisticated, classic looks, superior performance and dynamite materials will win out every time.
That’s what I love about Holderness & Bourne, and that’s why I recommend their polos and outerwear as another top-notch holiday gift idea for the golf enthusiast in your life.
Product Wrap-Up: Brand: Holderness & Bourne Product: Golf polos and outerwear Price range: $90-125
It’s the golfer’s uniform: A collared shirt, hat and shorts or pants, along with a white, black or navy blue stand bag.
It gets worse for professionals, who have even less to choose from since they can’t wear shorts.
Maybe that’s why we golfers love to accessorize the way we do. It’s fun showcasing something that’s a little different in an environment that otherwise keeps us looking pretty similar… Especially when it’s with customized accessories that showcase our personality while providing much needed functionality.
To me, one of the coolest ways to accessorize golf gear is with custom club head covers.
It’s crazy to think Seamus basically started the head cover industry in earnest about ten years ago. Prior to that, the only options were the head covers that came with your clubs, which were fine, a couple generic options at Golf Galaxy or your dad’s old calf-length socks. Not as great.
When it comes to club head covers, there are two companies that stand above the rest: Seamus and Fore Ewe. Both sell super high-quality, durable woolen products, both are based out of Portland, Oregon, and both provide endless ways to customize.
Where the two companies differ the most revolves entirely around personal preference: Seamus’s head covers are sewn and more sleek in appearance, and Fore Ewe’s are knit and more “floppy” in appearance.
Club head covers are very personal, and they’re not cheap (nor usually returnable), so you’ll want to make sure you get this one right. A few ideas for ensuring that:
A gift card – expect ~ $75 per cover for drivers, and $55-65 for fairway woods and hybrids
Ask them to make their own selection(s)! It takes out the surprise, but gets them exactly what they want while working through the lead time en route to the Holidays
Established in 2011 by Akbar and Megan Chisti and named for their Irish Terrier, Seamus O’Reily, Seamus Golf specializes in unique, one-off golf accessories that started with club head covers and has since expanded to on-course tools (divot repair, bag tags, flasks, alignment sticks, towels, scorecard holders, yardage books and so on), bags and pouches, extremely limited-run Sunday bags and equipment, major golf memorabilia (eg: US Open collectibles), clothing and cool hand-forged collectibles.
The newest of those hand-forged collectibles is the putting cup, for example:
While their stable of accessories has expanded significantly over the past 9 years, their bread and butter has always been exquisitely designed and manufactured woolen club head covers.
Seamus Golf has collections that will match every golfer’s personality and interests, whether through classic design like with their tartan wools or through more direct associations like with their new collegiate and NBA collections.
Looking for a good starting point? Below is a link to Seamus’s 2020 Holiday Gift Guide:
Beyond their amazing golf products, Seamus is a company worth supporting. When the COVID-19 pandemic originally started, for example, they shut down their normal operations for months to instead sew masks to donate to frontline workers. Akbar, Megan and their staff are wonderful people who always go above and beyond, whether that’s for customers or society, in general.
Product Wrap-Up: Brand: Seamus Golf Product: Club head covers Price range: $55-75 apiece
Also exceptionally high in quality construction and customizability, Fore Ewe offers a very different head cover product than Seamus in that theirs’ are knit.
Knit head covers have a very old-school look and feel: They’re softer and flowy, with smooth yarn and pom poms.
Knit head covers are typically skein dyed, which involves loose lengths of yarn being immersed in receptacles full of pigment. This is the most costly method of dyeing yarn, but leads to a superior product with color that’s fade-resistant.
As is the case with their hand-made MacKenzie Golf Bags, everything is handmade with incredible attention to detail.
Included in that detail is a whole lot of potential customization. For “standard” options, the order placer only needs to make a couple of decisions, like what type of top feature to use (fat tassel, tassel, large pom), the club it’s for (driver, fairway wood, hybrid, putter), and standard vs. long length. Chances are it’ll always be standard-length, and if they don’t already have custom head covers then you’ll want to go with the driver option. It’ll be $10 more than the others, but it’s the most popular option by far.
For custom orders, there is a whole lot more personalization available, including:
Club type (driver, fairway wood, hybrid)
Head color (40 color options)
Head design (solid, small checks, larger checks, vertical stripes, horizontal stripe, diagonal dot and what color(s)?)
Head cap (yes or no)
Neck stripes (none, thick, thin and what color(s)?)
Top treatment (none, tassel, fat tassel, mini tassel, large pom, small pom, loop and what color(s)?)
Neck length (almost always standard)
Top stitch text (eg: Initials)
Double-waxed and spun, Fore Ewe’s wool is exceptionally durable and smooth. Elastic promotes a snug fit.
Product Wrap-Up: Brand: Fore Ewe, by MacKenzie Golf Bags Product: Club head covers Price range: $55-80 apiece
Whether you go with sewn Seamus head covers or knit covers from Fore Ewe, the important thing is that they protect your club heads.
Both companies’ products will do that beautifully, protecting club faces from dings and scratches during your round or in storage, and worse from snaps while in transit or when that immature buddy of yours’ unstraps your bag on a cart path.
Generally speaking, golf enthusiasts tend to be collectors. Myself included, we’re lovers of anything and everything that brings back memories of the best times on our favorite courses.
Options abound when those favorite courses are Pebble Beach, Bandon Dunes or Augusta National, but what about when it’s somewhere less known and more personal?
Options are few and far between, then, and are typically limited to the clothing and gear for sale in their pro shop.
So, rather than spending $95 on a golf polo with a logo on the sleeve, this year go the extra mile for something that’ll blow them away.
Course Maps Founder Severiano Saiz (“Sev,” as named after Seve Ballesteros whose family lineage traces back to the same village of Pedrena, Spain) launched Course Maps this past March, realized quickly he had a winner and left his real world job in August to work full-time on the golf start-up.
“Golf course layouts present a neat intersection of a couple of things I’ve always loved:,” said Sev, “golf/golf architecture, maps and graphic design. It’s all come together very naturally for me and I really enjoy putting together each map.”
Sev’s maps feature beautiful architectural hole layouts with the course’s scorecard and key information in white ink set against a solid-colored background of green, grey, navy blue or slate. Key features of each hole are called out in contrast and include fairways and greens, teeing areas and bunkers; ideal lines of play are shown as dotted lines.
The printing process utilizes giclee ink on high-quality, museum-grade paper. The standard for art prints, giclee features a 12-color combination that results in vivid colors, especially when compared to the standard 4-color inkjet printer. The chemical makeup of giclee keeps prints from fading over time due to sun exposure and age, ensuring Course Maps should look beautiful for generations to come.
While framing is not required, it is available through Course Maps in black or white. Their frames are 3/4″ thick Alder semi-hardwood and include hanging hardware. Adding the frame (which ships complete) to an 18×24, for example, adds $49 to the cost.
I went with a green background and black frame for my Course Map of the Links course at Lawsonia. The hunter green works beautifully with the rest of the golf art in my basement and bar area, and as Sev described it: The green over black “screams ‘classic golf clubhouse.'” I couldn’t agree more.
When it arrived, I was so enamored with the aesthetics of my first Course Map that I didn’t realize the scorecard had mislabeled the par five 11th hole as a par four.
A coworker of mine noticed it in my Instagram post, though, and mentioned it as a comment. Within a week, Course Maps had sent me a new one with an updated scorecard.
I would have noticed the error at some point – it’s part of my favorite stretch of holes on the Links course where the 9th thru 15th holes go par 5, 3, 5, 3, 5, 3. It’s a really unique stretch of holes with lots of good birdie opportunities. I never even mentioned it to Course Maps, though, and so for them to see it and remedy the issue so quickly was really impressive. I like to support companies who understand the importance of customer service and doing the right thing, and I feel great about backing Course Maps.
Fortunately for golf enthusiasts in Wisconsin, Course Maps has several in-state options already available without requiring a custom order. These standard options include the Links course at Lawsonia, Erin Hills and Sand Valley.
If you or the person you’re shopping for has a love affair with one of those or another already on their site, you’re in luck!
But, for the everyday golfer who hasn’t traveled to Cruden Bay, Pinehurst or the Ocean course at Kiawah Island, and hasn’t found their way [yet] on to Oakmont, Inverness or Pine Valley, then custom prints from Course Maps will allow golf enthusiasts to enjoy and relive the cadence of holes from their favorite property – whatever property that is.
“The majority of golf art, memorabilia, etc. is built around the famous courses that everyone knows — Augusta, Pebble, St. Andrews and so on. But the reality is most people will never get to play those courses.
The courses that people love and have created the most memories at are the local muni courses, the small country clubs, or the hidden gems that are off the beaten path. There’s not really much in the way of giftable items related to those courses and I think that’s what we really cater to with Course Maps.
We’ve seen a huge demand for our custom orders and I think it’s such an awesome thing. Our maps are really something that encapsulates all of the memories that have been created on that course. I’ll always remember watching my dad open that first map and it makes me really happy that I’m able to share that feeling with others through Course Maps.”
— Sev Saiz, Founder of Course Maps
Custom ordering creates the opportunity for a truly unique gift, especially for private club players who love and have tremendous pride in their home course.
As you’d guess, it is more expensive to buy a custom Course Map than it is one of the ones that’s already available. The reason for this, of course, is that it requires the upfront artistic work to make it printable.
As a one-off product, Course Maps will sell custom prints for $120 (12×16) to $150 (24×36). As an order of five or more, though, the per unit cost comes all the way down to $45 (12×16) to $60 (24×36), without framing.
Especially at a private golf club, it’s really easy to find four friends to go in on a custom order. I sent an email to 19 friends from North Hills Country Club, for example, and in three days 12 have responded they’re in.
For golf courses and pro shops, orders of 25+ can be tremendously lucrative, bringing the price for 12×16’s all the way down to $36 apiece, or $48 apiece for 24×36 prints.
Like with standard, non-custom prints, framing is available on custom product and will add $55 (one-off price) to 12×16’s, $70 to 18×24’s or $140 to 24×36 prints. Those costs can be reduced by volume ordering, as well.
If this is an avenue you’re interested in pursuing for a Christmas / Holiday gift for a golf enthusiast in your life, make sure you get going on the order soon. Course Maps has a 2-3 week lead time (followed by time in transit), so we’ve got a 1-2 week time frame to place an order and expect delivery before December 25.
If you’re concerned whether he or she will like it, don’t be. Trust me, they’ll love it.
My wife says presents should be gifts people would feel guilty buying for themselves – gifts that make them feel appreciated, and better yet spoiled.
The first item in my 2020 Holiday Gift Guide, the Bat-Caddy X4R electric golf caddy, fits that description to a T as a thoughtful and indulgent gift for a number of worthy golf enthusiasts:
The first to adopt new technology / the “gadget guy”
Older players wanting to extend their ability to walk the course
The player who has everything
The purist – it’s the closest thing you can get to having a human caddy on the course without one
Those concerned with social distancing right now
Prior to getting the X4R, I had seen two electric caddies in my life… In thousands of rounds of golf. One was a guy’s I played with at Chambers Bay back in 2012, and the other was one of my playing partners at Kenosha Country Club earlier this season.
It was his first round with it, and he had it imported from China as all manufacturers in the States were stocked out when golf enthusiasts bought up everything that could help them walk the course with less effort while COVID-19 wouldn’t allow the use of riding carts.
All that to say they have not caught on yet here in the Midwest.
I was enamored with the remote control one I saw at Kenosha, though, and had to experience it.
In just four rounds, the Bat-Caddy X4R has become my all-time favorite piece of golf equipment.
A round of golf with an electric caddy is as care-free as it gets. Outside of errant shots and missed putts, there’s no pushing, pulling or lifting. It’s stress-free play where the only thing to carry is a remote control.
Walking the course, in general, changes the rhythm of the game, and not having to shoulder your clubs especially creates an easygoing experience so you can focus on the game in front of you.
Imagine just walking with your hands free (minus a small remote or your drink of choice, which it can also carry), no weight on your back and shoulders, a little extra bounce in your step…
Bat-Caddy leads the US market for electric golf caddies with over 60% market share. Chances are you’ve never seen their product here in the Midwest, though, and that’s because they’ve been busy growing their business on the East and West Coasts.
In the marketplace of brands, Bat-Caddy has the best product selection and fits in a space I typically like: Feature-rich at a value price point.
Bat-Caddy’s product line allows golf enthusiasts to get in to advanced technology without breaking the bank. While most brands’ fully electric, remote control option with a lithium ion battery will cost upwards of $2,000, for example, the X4R with lithium ion upgrade hits around $1,500-$1,600 but is available through the Holidays for around $1,100 (current promotional price).
Consumers get a lot for that $1,100, including a long-lasting lithium ion battery (up to 36 holes per charge), lightweight aluminum alloy construction (with stainless steel components) and many standard options that are paid upgrades for their competitors.
A scorecard holder, drink holder, umbrella holder, freestyle mode with timed distance advance and cruise control functions, power and battery charge indicator, USB port, rear anti-tippers, bilateral adjustable-height handlebars, automatic shutoff mode, and ultra-quiet dual direct drive motors all come standard on the X4R.
Performance and operations
If you can’t tell by now, I’m a huge fan of electric golf caddies and the X4R, specifically, but that’s not to say the experience has been 100% perfect.
There is a learning curve when it comes to operating an electric golf caddy, and some courses are more challenging to use them on than others.
I practiced a bit in my driveway after I got the X4R set up. Feeling pretty good about my ability to control it, I took her out on the 6th hole at North Hills Country Club to take a few photos, capture drone video and give it a trial run in a course setting.
I learned quickly that hills should be traversed straight up and down after I toppled it the first time I tried driving it down an elevated tee box.
While the X4R can handle 30-degree inclines/declines with relative ease, the tripod configuration (which is the industry standard) can get off-balance quickly when the left or right side is lower than the other.
The 30 degrees works up and down very well, though, especially with the standard rear anti-tipper that anchors the caddy going uphill on more extreme terrain.
My first round with the X4R was at Nakoma Country Club in Madison, and looking back was probably the easiest possible course to use it on. It’s a mature course with smooth terrain – plenty of ups and downs but without the “wild” areas and sandy expanses. The tee boxes, especially, are accessible from all angles.
To say it was a perfect golfing experience couldn’t have been more true. The caddy was a breeze to operate, I broke 80 with a great group of friends and when we finished 18 it was hard to believe we weren’t ending the front 9. It was the easiest, most enjoyable walk.
Conversely, my second round with the Bat-Caddy was during our annual Wisconsin vs. Illinois Writer’s Cup at the newly renovated Club at Lac La Belle in Oconomowoc. The course’s new routing features some very wild/fescue-covered areas, and the cart paths are far from smooth. The edges of the cart paths are extremely canted, which if run up against can push over the Bat-Caddy pretty easily. In addition to that, the tee boxes are oftentimes separated by expanses of fescue and long grasses that can’t be rolled over using a cart.
I tipped the cart twice at Nakoma getting used to operating it, and at least a handful of times during our 27 holes at La Belle.
I’ve only tipped it once since then, though, in two rounds at North Hills. I was maneuvering it alongside the 16th green, saw my ball was in the trap behind me and to the right, quickly stopped it and hit reverse, then watched as it plummeted in to the bunker. A lady in the group on the nearby first green thought it was hilarious and laughed really loud, and I’ll admit I was a little embarrassed (not easy to do).
My point is that the more you use it, the more efficient you’ll get at operating the electric caddy and understanding the strategy behind where to and not to drive it, how much speed to add and when, how to get it on a straight line and which angles you should and shouldn’t take.
The X4R is best operated with its remote control. Hitting the up or down directional buttons once will add a slight amount of speed in that direction, while hitting it several times will speed it up significantly up to ~ 5.5 miles per hour.
The caddy can then be shut down by either hitting the middle “Stop” button or by hitting the arrow opposite its current direction to take off some of the speed it was previously given.
The X4R does not always stop completely. There have been several times when I thought it was stopped but it continued to roll, very slowly. In other words, and this seems obvious when it’s written down, there’s not a parking brake that keeps it 100% in place on steep hills after it’s been shut down.
My last time out I had it stopped on the hill that leads to the elevated green on 18 at North Hills, for example, and it never stopped rolling backward down the hill. It wasn’t a big deal in this case because it came to rest on level ground and I hit a really nice chip shot to one foot on a back pin while it was still rolling, but it obviously could have been bad if there was water or a cliff where it was rolling to (and if I didn’t have my eye on it).
The other thing to be cognizant of is that once the cart is set in motion, it’s set in motion [until the 45-second automatic shutoff kicks in]. There are several situations when this is important to keep in mind:
If you’re multi-tasking In my first round with the X4R, I sent it heading slowly off the tee box on the par three 4th at Nakoma. I then put my drone up to get some aerial shots. It completely escaped my mind that the cart wasn’t totally turned off, which I realized when I heard a crash and subsequently saw my clubs in a yard sale right of the green.
If it’s out of the 90- to 120-yard range If it gets out of the range of the remote control, you will not be able to stop or turn it. Hopefully the automatic shutoff will kick in first, or that the only thing in its way will be a tree branch or shallow sand trap, and not a river!
Don’t even mess with either of those situations. If there’s a question about it getting out of range, shut it down. If you want to post something to your Instagram, stop the cart. Trust me, there’s no point messing with potential disaster.
Electric golf caddies can keep you playing, and walking the course, longer
“That could get me walking the course again!”
Those were the exact words of two different North Hills members [on separate occasions] who approached me after seeing the X4R on the course. Another dozen have asked me about it with interest as a cool toy.
Both sides are true… It’s a really cool toy, but more importantly using the X4R means expending energy only on swinging the club and walking the terrain – no pushing, no pulling and no lifting. Getting up hills can be a breeze again without the added weight of a golf bag, or having to push or pull a standard cart.
If you’re the guy who has to pay to ride his own cart while his buddies walk, maybe an electric caddy is for you. And if you want the exercise that comes with walking the course, but don’t want to carry your own clubs or pay for a pro jock to lug them, you’d for sure love it.
And if you love the caddy experience but are concerned about social distancing during this crazy time of COVID-19, there is no better way to find that than with a remote-controlled trolley like the Bat-Caddy X4R.
Making a financial case for an electric golf caddy
With the average cost of using a golf cart between $20-24 per round, the high price tag of an electric trolley starts making sense. In fact, you can theoretically recover $100-$120 of the product’s cost every five rounds played.
Dollars rarely make sense when it comes to golf, though! In the same way you can’t expect to be happy with your price per round at an exclusive private country club, realize that the “investment” in a golf caddy is primarily one that will enhance your enjoyment of the game of golf (and not as a long-term cost saver).
The Bat-Caddy X4R comes in a single large box with a number of parts, and it’s very easy to install. The frame is pre-assembled, so just the wheels, anti-tipper, battery and accessories need to be put together manually.
The install is simple and well-documented. The wheels snap in to place, the battery (after charging) straps down with Velcro, and installation of most accessories was easy to figure out even for a guy who hates following instructions to put things together.
The one accessory that was a little confusing for me was the phone / GPS device holder. With the accessory holder, drink holder, scorecard holder and umbrella holder all installed, it’s hard to find a place for the phone to go.
I got a little creative and used the three rubber strips that were included to attach it to the screw of the umbrella holder, which looks great but is I’m sure not its intended spot.
After four rounds with the caddy, though, I’ve had no performance issues and it holds my phone up just fine.
While it’s recommended using a cart bag (which does not have tripod legs and has a more stable base) with an electric golf caddy, I’ve been using it with my Vessel Player 2.0 stand bag and have had no issues with weight/stability nor the legs which I keep strapped together. I also remove the straps to streamline the setup.
Selecting the right electric golf caddy / trolley
It took a while for me to figure out all the specifications that are involved with electric golf caddies, so I thought I’d include some of my research on features in case it’s helpful for others, like yourself.
The following are some of the key components you’ll want to consider when researching electric golf caddies. The features of the X4R I’m reviewing are in green.
Control style: Manual vs. remote
A manual control style means you’ll be controlling the steering of the caddy from its handlebar(s). A button, lever or other power source will move the cart move forward, taking just the pushing or pulling off the user’s hands. A remote style, which is wireless, is much more advantageous as it allows you to get the cart away from your body and control its operations using a small remote control.
Battery type: sealed lead acid (SLA) vs. lithium ion (Li-ion)
This part’s big, so pay attention.
Sealed lead acid batteries are less expensive, but they’re heavy. They also get 25% to 50% of the life expectancy of its standard lithium ion counterpart, which for the Bat-Caddy X4R is the 14v-20Ah.
The heaviness factor can be a positive when it comes to electric caddies because the weight adds stability. It can also be a negative since it makes it tougher to pull out of the car trunk. For a relatively young and healthy guy like myself, that’s not a major nuisance, but it could be a deal breaker for others.
The 14v-20Ah lithium ion battery upgrade adds $200 to the cost of the sealed lead acid version. Bat-Caddy also sells a 12v-25Ah LiFePO battery, though, that will last two to four times as long as the standard lithium ion one but adds another $100 to the overall cost.
Here’s a handy chart showing battery options from Bat-Caddy’s website:
Climbing capabilities: 20 to 30-degree hill climbing
Most caddies will climb hills up to 20- or 30-degree angles. The X4R climbs or goes down up to 30 degrees, which is supported by its rear anti-tippers that help keep it upright.
Battery operating range: 18 to 54 holes
The X4R with the 14v-20Ah standard lithium ion battery’s product page gives a range of up to 36 holes per charge, or 36-54 holes with the upgraded 12v-25Ah battery. This can be adversely affected, of course, by the weight of the golf bag it’s carrying, excessively steep hills/uneven terrain, and right-left-right “Army” golf.
Bat-Caddy recommends charging its lithium ion batteries between every use. There is no loss of battery life doing it this way, and it ensures you always have enough juice regardless of where you’re at in your round.
Carrying capacity: 50 to 77 pounds
The X4R’s durable aluminum alloy and stainless steel construction gives it a higher weight capacity than most electric golf caddies. While you probably will not need it to carry 77 pounds of gear, it will keep the cart from bottoming out around the wheels if you’re carrying more weight than usual.
Accessories – all of these are available on the Bat-Caddy X4R, but its standard accessories are shown in green. I’ve ranked the importance of each to me in parentheses:
Scorecard holder (#1)
Golf cart drink holder (#2)
Golf umbrella holder (#4) – do not use an electric golf caddy in the rain!
Golf trolley carry bag
Golf bag rain cover (#5)
Golf trolley seat – sounds nice to have!
GPS or cell phone holder (#3)
Sand and seed dispenser
Remote control clip hanger (#6)
A few other things you might want to considerwhen buying an electric golf caddy / trolley include (ones that come standard for the X4R are in green):
Tracking adjustments – if it does not drive perfectly straight, can you straighten it out manually?
Handle design – left- or right-handed? Is the handle height adjustable for taller people? The X4R has dual handles and is adjustable-height
Warranty and service – Bat-Caddy has 1-year parts & labor, and 2 years on lithium ion batteries
Dimensions and foldability – size when folded? The X4R is ~ 31iL x 20iW x 10iH
Free-wheeling mode – if the battery dies, can you use it as a standard push cart or will you be stuck on the course?
Wheels – the wider the wheels and the wider the wheel base, the more stable the cart will be (the X4R has a standard width wheel base)
Tire tread – tire tread helps keep the cart operating consistently on morning dew and loose turf
Descent control – keeps the speed consistent when going downhill
Automatic shut-off – prevents runaway carts (the X4R shuts off after 45 seconds if no commands have been given)
Battery charge indicator – know how much juice you’ve got left in the batteries
Programmable speed settings
Electronic (GPS) navigation – set the cart’s direction and allow it to automatically continue on a straight line
Robotic follow-me mode – on robot caddies; I’ve heard very mixed reviews of this operation style, including that it’ll run in to you a lot when you stop
Gyroscope – a full 360-degree directional range vs. forward/backward and left/right
Having rarely seen and barely known electric golf caddies existed, I had no idea what I was missing. Now that I’ve got one, I can’t imagine golf without it and wholeheartedly recommend the Bat-Caddy X4R for any golfer, whether it’s the player in your life who’s got everything or maybe even yourself.
Product Wrap-Up: Brand: Bat-Caddy Product: X4R Electric Golf Caddy Price as shown: $1,594 MSRP (current promotional price through the Holidays: $1,099) Optional accessories shown: Phone/GPS device holder
Green Bay Country Club might be the most underrated golf course in the state of Wisconsin. In fact, it might be the best private club in the state and to me is for sure the best modern private course.
I racked my head over and over, for days before starting this review, trying to reason with myself about how I felt:
“Is Green Bay the best private course in Wisconsin? Is it better than Pine Hills? How about Milwaukee, or Blue Mound?”
It needs to be in the mix, even if it’s not officially reviewed often enough for consideration by “the big publications.”
The land Green Bay Country Club was developed on is probably the most dramatic golf landscape. It’s every bit as rousing as the layouts at Blackwolf Run, Pine Hills, West Bend, the Irish course at Whistling Straits, Sand Valley or Mammoth Dunes, and the Dick Nugent design works with that terrain as masterfully as any.
From the very first tee at Green Bay CC, players’ heads are consumed with thoughts. There’s nary a shot where doubt doesn’t creep in to their mind, whether it’s “Don’t go left… or right” on the first hole – or “Don’t go too far… or short” – this is a tremendously challenging golf course that will test players’ mettle.
Green Bay could host tournaments. Certainly state championships, but I’m talking bigger, too. It’s 7097yards can stretch out even the best players, and it features plenty of target opportunities that require precision.
The course plays long, including from the blue tees – there was a lot of wind, but I found myself hitting a ton of hybrids and 5-irons in on par threes and fours. Even those usually came up short. This is not a driver-wedge course.
If you were to ask 25 members at GBCC what they think the signature hole is, I bet you’d get at least 8 different responses. I think you could make a case for all of these, and probably others:
The par 4 1st hole – name me a better opening hole in the state
The 634-yard par five 6th, one of the longest holes in Wisconsin
The dogleg right, ridiculously downhill par 4 7th
The island green par 3 8th
The beautiful and challenging, twice dissected by water par 4 9th
The insanely elevated tee shot on the par five 10th – WOW
The scenic and long downhill par 4 14th
The triple-fairway, semi-circular par 5 17th
The downhill , water-surrounded par 4 18th finishing hole set in front of their awesome clubhouse on the hill
For me, I love the 17th. There are two great opportunities to swing away, or a ton to play strategically and hit a spot. And the green surrounds, tucked in a corner with a wide and narrow green above the creek, is absolutely beautiful.
The first par three on the course, the fourth is a challenging, slightly downhill one-shotter with trouble everywhere.
The tee boxes on the right side of five require a shot through or over a chute of trees to a fairway that runs left-to-right.
Tipping out at 634 yards, the par five 6th is one of the longest holes in the state. If you’ve been dreaming of an opportunity to hit your 3-wood (at least once), this should be it!
The seventh has one of the most severe changes in elevation on the course, playing left-to-right and significantly downhill.
This hole reminds me a bit of the 11th at West Bend Country Club.
The eighth is a tricky downhill par three to an island green. Aptly nicknamed “Rock Island,” the green complex presents a massive target but, at least during our round, had wind swirling all around.
Maybe the most challenging hole on the entire course, the par four 9th is a long par four with two forced carries. Regardless of the tee shot, the approach here is going to be really long, and will have to successfully navigate all kinds of trouble.
Green Bay Country Club is chocked full of “Ah-ha” moments. After we finished the front nine, I turned to my buddy Jeff and said, “That was unbelievable. It can’t get any better than that.”
Just look at the tee shot on the par five tenth hole.
Somehow, the back nine is even more dramatic and impressive than the front. We didn’t even think it was possible, but there it was.
Summer in Wisconsin is second to none, and few in-state destinations can compare to Lake Geneva. Beautiful lakes, terrific dining, a fun bar scene and fantastic golf beckon travelers from across the Midwest to this small lake town that swells between the Memorial and Labor Day weekends.
Less than 30 minutes from the Wisconsin/Illinois border, Geneva National is a gated community with options galore: For golf, dining, drinks and lodging.
The newest of those lodging options is The Suites at Geneva National. Perched atop a knoll adjacent to the clubhouse parking lot, The Suites are comfortable and extremely well-appointed. Roomy bathroom en suites have double-sinks and vanities, detached water closets and 8-foot deep glass enclosed showers.
A dry bar with a wine fridge, coffee maker and pantry are near the mudroom entryway, and a raised workspace provides a comfortable and stylish spot to get work done, if needed.
Wisconsin’s is a short travel season, though, so hopefully you’re not looking to vacation to get work done.
While many vacationers to Lake Geneva choose to venture out and explore its lakes and quaint downtown, Geneva National makes that just an option as visitors are able to have fun-filled days without ever leaving the property.
From three terrific golf courses, to fantastic dining, to the day spa on premises and the resort’s restaurants and nightspots, there is always plenty to do at Geneva National.
My wife and I, along with our friends KC and Tanya, spent a couple nights there last weekend, and I can’t say enough how much we enjoyed the experience. It was Kelly and my fourth wedding anniversary, and KC’s birthday, so we had plenty to celebrate. We did.
Day one started with golf on the Palmer course, which is a fun, challenging track that has one of the most scenic finishes in the state: An infinity green par three 16th followed by one of the late Arnold Palmer’s very own all-time favorite hole designs: The beautiful par five 17th that meanders alongside Lake Como.
Golf was followed by happy hour on the patio, then one of the very best steaks I’ve had at The Hunt Club. The old fashioneds were well made, and the food was perfect. From the mussels, table bread and app starter plates, to the entrees and through to the truffle desserts, we were all enamored with The Hunt Club experience.
It wasn’t my first time there, and I knew exactly what kind of world-class dining experience we were in for. It’s not often I pump the tires of a restaurant as much as I did The Hunt Club, and it’s much less frequent that I’m so 100% right.
You can find much less expensive restaurants, but few better.
Day two featured golf with KC and my friend, Tom, on the Player course, which is my favorite of the three at Geneva National. The Player course has consistently memorable holes, from the strategic little par three fourth, to the spectacular drivable par four fifth, the downhill par five tenth, and the long par five 16th, the hits come early and often.
The clubhouse is nearing the end of a significant renovation, and plays home to several key areas of the resort including its best spot for a quick breakfast, Turf Kitchen + Tap. The bar and restaurant at Turf overlook the club’s putting green, the 18th on the Palmer course and first tee of Player, as well as the driving range and its million dollar view.
The clubhouse’s interiors have been fully revamped with new furnishings, fixtures and finishes since I was last there; the ballrooms have been remodeled, and a renovation of the pro shop will begin this off-season.
Turf is in the process of being converted to a BBQ smokehouse. In fact, the new smoker was being winched in to place as we finished day two on the Player course.
We spent the majority of the second evening at Geneva National’s sister property, The Ridge. A newly renovated hotel with 146 rooms just five minutes off-property, The Ridge has a cool outdoor space with a pool and tiki bar (the pool is also available to guests of Geneva National), Crafted Pizza & Tap, and plenty of outdoor seating.
The four of us grabbed seats, drinks and appetizers, as well as pizzas from Crafted and enjoyed the ambience of live music by the ~ 20-foot-long fire table for hours.
It was another wonderful evening in Lake Geneva.
While the resort and its amenities are impressive, it’s the golf that stars at Geneva National. Both the Palmer and Player courses are consistently ranked in the top 10-20 public tracks in the state, and all three courses including the Trevino (which I haven’t played in a lot of years) are undergoing numerous enhancements. Chief among those is significant tree removal with the goal of restoring many of the original lake views from when the property was developed 30 years ago.
This work is already evident on several holes, where tree growth stunted signature sightlines for years.
The 15th is a terrific example of this, with the lake now looming beyond the par three green.
This was the first time I’d ever been to Geneva National on a couple’s trip, and my wife and I [and our friends] really enjoyed the experience.
It was also the first time we’ve been OUT to dinner since February, and we were both very comfortable with the safety procedures and precautions in place to address COVID-19. Every employee wore a mask indoors and when customer-facing, tables at the restaurants were properly spaced and there was never a time when we felt unsafe or at risk.
It was great getting away from the stress of everyday life – not just from being at home 24 hours a day with the two of us and a 1- and 3-year-old, but also from a life that has become accustomed to being home and staying away from public places.
Everything we did onsite lent itself to leisure and enjoyment. That’s what a great vacation is for, and that’s exactly what we got at Geneva National.
Bonus Fun Fact: Curious why the speed limit is 26 mph on the private roads at Geneva National? This is an homage to Arnold Palmer’s 26 amateur wins (Link: Arnold Palmer).
While Course 3 gets all the pub, I think No. 1 is the best golf course at Medinah Country Club.
Course 1 features great design, terrific routing and the best of all worlds: A lot of wide, forgiving fairways with strategic playability, great par 3’s and 5’s and a little bit of tree-lined parkland style thrown in for good measure.
Redesigned by Tom Doak and his team in 2015, Course 1 has amazing Tom Bendelow green complexes and beautiful, signature Doak bunkering. Its par threes are varied and fun, standing in contrast to the penal one-shotters on its sister course No. 3.
While the par threes on Course 3 are plenty beautiful, they will beat players over the head for even slightly errant shots, especially if the wind is blowing.
Doak’s big on strategy, providing options for players of all skill levels, and lets them build a level of comfort off the tee.
One great example is at Streamsong Resort in Bowling Green, Florida. Coore and Crenshaw’s Red course, while maybe more visually appealing than Doak’s Blue course, rarely lets players feel comfortable.
The general feeling on tee shots – at least for me – is more angsty on Red, while on Blue I can swing away. Letting it rip is obviously more enjoyable, and while not every shot goes straight they’re almost always findable, and playable.
Rather than giving everyone the exact same challenge [from the tee] to hit a certain target, each player’s tee shot sets up their unique challenges that are found in the angles of approach and the putts they’ll face for being in or out of position.
Comparing Courses 1 and 3 at Medinah is similar in that respect to the Blue and Red courses at Streamsong. Medinah’s Course 3, like Streamsong’s Red, is big on target golf and penalizing errant shots, while Course 1 and Streamsong Blue allow for a higher degree of error and letting that error increase the degree of difficulty from its fairways, rough and green complexes. To me, it’s a more enjoyable brand of golf.
Course 1 is a top ten course in almost any state. Illinois is not “almost any state,” though. Like New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and California, Illinois is top-heavy with world-class private courses, and when you share a property with a track that’s hosted multiple US Opens and PGA Championships, a Ryder Cup, 3 Western Opens and a US Senior Open, you’ll face an uphill battle when it comes to rankings.
I would bet that if you polled the membership at Medinah, a majority would say Course 1 is their favorite on the property.
Tom Doak design characteristics at Medinah, Course 1
A Doak design characteristic I’ve come to love is his bunkering, especially cross-bunkering. The par four 16th on Course 1 has a really nice example of this. I had to point it out to my playing partners.
A few examples from other Doak-designed courses I’ve played:
Medinah’s Course 3 has a very famous cadre of par threes. Three of them require full carries over water, while the other – the 8th – is a nice little downhill shot to a well-protected green.
They’re all great holes, and perfect for the major competition Course 3 garners, but they present a maybe-too-major challenge for a more pedestrian (barely single-digit) player like myself.
Course 1’s par threes are much less intimidating off the tee, but present more challenge on the putting surfaces. That’s a strategic element I’ve come to expect and love on courses in Tom Doak’s portfolio, whether on par threes or any other hole.
My favorite of the par 3’s on Course 1 is the 15th.
A short one-shotter, the tee shot is just 148 yards but requires daft precision to find and hold the putting surface.
The short-right trap is interesting to me. From the tee, it looks like it would run up to the front edge of the green; on the other side, though, is run-off before a nasty false front. Very cool design element.
Tom Bendelow design characteristics on Course 1
The feature on Bendelow-designed courses that I’ve come to appreciate most is his greens. Bendelow designed some magnificent putting surfaces, and a lot of that is evident still on all three courses at Medinah.
The other feature I love about Bendelow-designed courses is their walkability. While we took carts, his courses always have short walks from green to tee, and the overall routing makes good sense.
Course 1 starts similarly to Course 2, adjacent to the colossal Medinah clubhouse. The tee shot plays over the famous “Camel bunker” across the river, and between one of the course’s narrower tree lines.
The third hole is a great, short par four that’s reachable for long hitters. Tipping out at 311 yards, or 299 from the silver tees, the fairway bends softly to the right, with the river not coming in to play.
The par three 7th has a beautiful little green complex with a ridge running from front to back. It plays long, over 200 yards from the two back tee boxes, and over water about 20 yards before the green.
Many of the finishing holes at Medinah close out by the clubhouse, like the 9th on Course 1. The 9th is a long par five – 616 yards from the tips or 603 from the silver tees, and has a challenging uphill approach over water.