Wild Rock is long, challenging, and absolutely majestic. Although the 7,414-yard quartzite tees were never entertained, we realized on the third hole how much of a mistake we’d made in our tee selection. For an example of one of the 200-plus yard forced carries at Wild Rock, check out the video of hole three, below:
Wild Rock has the most dramatic changes in elevation that I have seen on a course in Wisconsin. The first example of this is the par four second hole. Aiming at the narrow fairway uphill, a cut (fortunate slice, as I like to call it) hybrid or fairway wood should put you in the fairway and leave a decent chance for scoring.
Anything hit into the ravine before the fairway, or hill above the fairway, will be difficult to recover from. Trust me, I’ve found this out on my own.
The third is a tough par four! At 464 yards from the back tees, the drive requires more than 200 of a carry and is sure to leave a long shot in.
The fourth hole at Wild Rock introduces you to some fantastic par threes. The fourth carries a large pond, and requires precision – essential to all of the course’s par threes.
Following the par three fourth is a long cart ride (not a walking course!) across the road to where Wild Rock really gets special. The fifth hole tee shot is uphill with a slight bend to the right. The green, hidden from the approach, is narrow and tough to hit, as anything long will fall off the backside.
The most breathtaking tee shot on the course, and maybe that I have ever seen is on the par five sixth hole. The view from the longest tee boxes here overlooks Baraboo and more than 30 miles of the Wisconsin Dells surrounding area. Being in or around the fairway is essential, as anything right is dead, and there is little room to work with to the left. The fairway narrows as you continue playing uphill, and the blind shot to the green is tumultuous as the approach drops downhill, then into oblivion both long and right. The pin location on this hole has been in the middle of a severe slope both times I have played it, making a two-putt a lot to ask for.
The elevated tee boxes and gorgeous vistas continue on the seventh hole, which is a long par four ending on a hugely elevated green. Aim for the middle fairway bunker and hope you draw or fade (that’s how my game works, anyhow!), and get it out there a long way to have any chance at par. The false front should certainly be taken in to consideration, as well.
The eighth is short by Wild Rock standards, but requires two exacting shots. With woods right and a massive drop-off on the left side, accuracy off the tee is rewarded with an incredibly less stressful shot than from either other side.
The eighth has one of the smallest greens on the course, which plays over a deep front-side trap. Any time the pin is located on the left side of the green, the smart play is to the right side of the green to keep from the fall-off on the back-left.
The front nine at Wild Rock ends with an outstanding par three over water and uphill. The green on the ninth hole is so drastically sloped that three-putting becomes acceptable. Make sure to club up if the pin is placed back. I went short and had two long putts go up the hill, then roll back down to leave me longer than I’d started.
A couple of years back, at my friend Nick’s bachelor party, our other friend Nick had a hole-in-one on this hole. To rub it in to all of us avid players, it was the first round he’d played in years and did not buy drinks in the clubhouse. Just sayin’.
The pin locations can be borderline unfair (“It’s like the head greenskeeper got in a fight with his wife last night,” my cousin told me), but it is truly a fantastic layout that combines prairie, woodlands and quarry/bluff environments into one of the most picturesque golf settings in the state.
The eleventh is the longest of the par threes at Wild Rock, teeing up from 241 yards from the back tees. It is otherwise relatively straight forward: The green is right in front of you without any crazy changes in elevation or false fronts, traps to carry, etc.
On a course that parades beautiful elevated tee shots out one after another, the tee shot on twelve is one of the most interesting. Driver can be played here, ideally over the traps on the left side, but it is important to keep the tee shot far enough left where the green is in view. This putting surface, which is masked well by the fairway leading up to it, is found along the rock wall beyond the bend in the fairway and is bordered by several small sand traps.
Coming out of the woodlands portion of the course, the thirteenth enters in to the quarry section, which has several of Wild Rock’s most memorable holes including thirteen.
The tee shot is most intelligently played to the bend in the fairway with less than driver. From there, a long shot in to the green is best played with right as the bailout. To the left is a gigantic quarry that falls off the faith of the earth some forty-plus feet. Anything in that area is more than likely gone. The hole finishes right of the tall oak tree behind the green complex, which is divided in half by a substantial ridge.
The fourteenth is the shortest of the par fives on the course, at just 535 yards from the back tees. The fairway is wider than it looks, but trouble does lurk on both the right and left sides of the fairway.
The approach is the shot that will require all of your attention, with a quarry residing on the right side of the approach area and green. Anything near this area is sure to be gone. The green slopes heavily from back to front, though, which allows for long approaches to bite.
My favorite of the par threes at Wild Rock, and one of my favorite one-shotters in the entire state, is the 15th hole, which tees off from isolated tee boxes over a large quarry to a green which appears almost as an island set above an enormous dead zone. Play the quartzite tees here for the most exceptional vista. The green seems too far to reach, but is deceptively closer than expected. A low-to-mid iron is actually the right club. Long can result in a lot of trouble, and the green is as difficult as they come.
The sixteenth is another long par four, driving out to the right before coming back left with a slight dogleg.
The seventeenth is a great risk/reward par four hole. Very short for Wild Rock, the green is reachable to long hitters, but anything short will be well below the putting surface or potentially in the woods. The smart play is less than driver to the right, finding the fairway and leaving a wedge in.
I was unfortunately not able to find any pictures of the seventeenth on my computer, so will have to make sure I take some new ones this season!
The course ends with a long par four that plays much shorter, given the tremendous downhill run that can be utilized if hit straight. The bailout on eighteen is to the right, as anything left is likely lost in the woods.
The most important shot on eighteen is the approach. Featuring one of the shortest greens on the course from front-to-back, a very tricky sand area is found just beyond the putting surface. Anything that goes in there can give even the best golfers fits.
I personally think Wild Rock is one of the absolute best golf courses in the state of Wisconsin, and in fact think it deserves to be put ahead of a lot of the perennial top tens that have been listed by GolfWeek and Golf Digest.
For a pure golfing experience, for the beauty of the course and its layout, and for the variety of golf shots that have to be made in order to play this course well, there is not much in the state that compares.
For your next bachelor party or Wisconsin Dells weekend trip, if you are looking for a side-trip to a golfing experience you will not soon forget, check out Wild Rock at the Wilderness Resort.