Golf Course Review: Castle at the Bay

A 40-minute drive from the Wisconsin Dells, Arkdale is home to the most fun golf course I have ever played. Widely known as the “Replica Course,” Northern Bay features six replica holes and 12 others that should be replicated by lesser tracks.

View from the clubhouse of hole 10
The replica holes at the Castle Course are a lot of fun to play, but some of their non-replica ones are probably my favorites. Holes two, eight and 13 are fantastic holes. Interestingly, the fairways at Northern Bay are not bentgrass, like most notable courses in the state, but rather bluegrass. While I really enjoy the way they play, I have been told it catches the club more than bentgrass, and can be tougher to play from.
Thirteen is highly elevated with a dogleg left that can be cut with a driver. The smart play is a hybrid or low iron to the fairway, which can set up a managable approach to the green. Straight tee shots over 220 yards will probably find the deep, slanted bunkers that are on the far side of the fairway.
Hole 13: Par 4 (401, 373, 360, 350, 323)
Hole two is a long par three that starts testing your length. Slightly uphill, the green is 200-plus yards away and I found is best reached by hitting a well-struck 4-hybrid.
Hole 2: Par 3 (223, 206, 154, 136, 116)
Hole eight is a 500-plus yard par five that features a wide open tee shot. Put it out there far enough and you can try to cut the corner over a large pine tree that narrows to the green. The scorecard says it is reachable in two, but I don’t buy it. Lay it up into the approach alley and assure yourself the green in regulation.
The hole that makes this course most marketable is the “Island Hole.” Hole ten is a gorgeous replica of the 17th at TPC Sawgrass – the most famous hole in golf. From the replica length of 132 yards, the wind seems to always play into the tee boxes, which should change your club selection from the normal PW/9-iron you might expect. 150 yards will land you in the water on the opposite side of the island, and 130 will splash before it. The drop area (shown below) forces a difficult 25-yard flop shot and provides little in terms of relief.
Hole 10: Par 3 (146, 132, 127, 95, 81)
Hole 10: Par 3 (146, 132, 127, 95, 81)
My favorite replica hole is the par three third, which is modeled after the 16th at Augusta National. This hole requires a mid-iron off of high tee boxes over a long and narrow pond to a hugely undulating green. There are three large sand traps around it, and going in either of the two above the pin will result in a next to impossible shot out. The green slopes severely from the top to the bottom, and anything overhit from there will likely find the pond.
Hole 3: Par 3 (194, 170, 164, 160, 158)
Hole 3: Par 3 (194, 170, 164, 160, 158)
The two hardest holes on the course are brutally long. The Firestone replica sixth hole tees up from 625 yards of tree-lined fairway, and the 641-yard 15th is a blow-up waiting to happen. Both demand straight and long drives, and well-placed second shots to set up long approaches. The 15th narrows to about 40 yards with 175 to go, and the green proves elusive as it is mostly blind on the opposite side of a hill. This par five is unbelievably difficult.
Hole 6: Par 5 (625, 586, 565, 546, 361)
The 11th hole is a lot of fun. Nicknamed “Azalea,” the 11th finds you teeing off to a wide fairway that gives a tremendous advantage if you can drive to the left side. The final hole of Augusta National’s “Amen Corner,” this is an excellent risk/reward layout that challenges your courage. I found myself with 210 yards to clear the pre-green stream, and thought to myself, “What would Tiger do?” My 3-hybrid to the left-side fringe set me up for my only birdie of the day.
Hole 11: Par 5 (510, 465, 455, 431, 362)
 Hole 11: Par 5 (510, 465, 455, 431, 362)
The 18th is a par four replica of the finishing hole at Bay Hill. Trouble is far enough that you can drive off the tee, but the second shot is going to be a nail-biter regardless of your drive. The green is surrounded by water and three deep bunkers that all aim you back towards the pond in order to hold a long, bending putting surface.
Hole 18: Par 4 (462, 441, 430, 417, 305)
What surprised me most about Northern Bay is the greens. They have slowed them down slightly to make the course more playable for the layman, but they are by no means easy. In fact, several are downright mean.
If you have the opportunity to play Northern Bay, play it. You will not be disappointed. We had so much fun on Friday, in fact, that we got off the 18th green and went straight back to the clubhouse to pay $30 to play 18 more. Get started early enough in the morning and you will probably find yourself doing the same.
Hole 12: Par 4 (433, 426, 392, 329, 321)
Hole 17: Par 3 (167, 150, 131, 109, 98)
Course Wrap-up:
Location: Arkdale, WI
Yardage: Black-7,223, Blue-6,769, White-6,419, Green-5,995, Red-5,197
Slope/Rating: Black-131/74.4, Blue-129/72.9, White-125/72.7, Green-124/70.2, Red-123/69.7
Par: 72
Weekend Rates (riding): $90

Best Way to Play: On GolfNow.com, you can usually find rounds at $55 or $40 after 2:00 pm

2 comments on “Golf Course Review: Castle at the Bay

  1. Pingback: The Country’s Best Golf Courses… That I’ve Played | WiscoGolfAddict

  2. Pingback: Wisconsin’s Best Public Golf Courses | WiscoSportsAddict

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