Golf Course Review: Lawsonia Woodlands

At the mention of Lawsonia, most golfers immediately default to thoughts of the Links, which is an authentic links-style course currently rated as the 55th best Classic track in the country, and top five in the state. The Woodlands at Lawsonia is a wonderful course in its own right, chocked full of fantastic golf holes and all the charm you expect from a course built on site at this Green Lake property owned by the American Baptist Church.

Through the large brick entryways off of Highway 23, the course’s landscape puts you quickly in a place of calmness and absolute beauty. Lawsonia is Wisconsin golf at its best, in two distinct styles that are in such contrast to one another that it’s amazing they reside on the same property.
The facilities are sufficient, although the practice range can use a relocation. The way it is set up now is on an angle uphill toward the first hole of the Links course. The practice green is true to the course: Lightning fast with cliff-like breaks that require added strength uphill, and serious restraint dowhill. The carts are quiet and feature onboard laser range/distance locators. This provides some assistance on the Woodlands course, and is almost necessary on the Links.
The first impression of Lawsonia is of the famous Links course, which dominates the entrance to the club. A short cart ride from the clubhouse into the forest brings you to the first hole of the Woodlands: A mid-length par five of around 500 yards. The tee shot is one of the least stressful you will play on this track, with ample space to slice and stay in play. The second shot faces a steep drop-off to the woods on the left, while the dogleg right requires touch to stay away from the sand traps and all the trees. I love starting with par fives, which tend to allow for an imperfect shot or two while still providing a chance for par. This is the only par five like that on the Woodlands course.
Hole 1: Par 5 (510/492/395/395)
Hole 1: Par 5 (510/492/395/395)
The second hole is one of my favorites at the Woodlands. 200 yards down the middle of the fairway lives a huge quarry that drops deep from the hitting surface. A bailout fairway lies to the right, while the more appropriate fairway to the left is narrow and sheltered by trees. A large stone observation tower, known locally as Jutson Tower, looms above the fairway, and a huge oak tree is centered in front of the green, guarding the back-left green location. Playing early on a Sunday morning, chimes and church music provided fantastic ambience to the hole.
Hole 2: Par 4 (341/329/315/315)
Hole 2: Par 4 (341/329/315/315)
The third hole is a great example of the fantastic par threes that are featured on the Woodlands course. Perched high above a small green, and well above Green Lake to your right, the tee shot is treacherous with sand traps everywhere. Even the drive down the winding cart path is semi-dangerous – a sign advising drivers to pump their brakes should certainly be heeded.
Hole 3: Par 3 (168/156/145/105)
Hole number four is one of the most deceptively tough holes on the Woodlands course. At 356 yards from the white tees, the dogleg left does not invoke much stress. The approach doesn’t look difficult, either, but the green is unbelievably quick, and getting out of there with two putts is awfully impressive.
Hole 4: Par 4 (383/356/347/247)
The fifth is a beautiful hole that finishes overlooking Green Lake. The tee shot bends left to right, long enough to hit most clubs in the bag.
Hole 5: Par 4 (384/365/314/270)
Hole six is one of the Woodlands’ signature holes: A par three with a large pond front-left and a brook that builds into a waterfall on the right side. The green sweeps from the front to back, and anything on the front side will make for a nasty uphill putt.
Hole 6: Par 3 (162/151/140/105)
Hole 6: Par 3 (162/151/140/105)
Seven is my favorite hole on the course, and one of my all-time favorite par fives. The tee shot is nearly impossible: A large sand trap and woods on the left, forest on the right, and well within distance is a mammoth pond surrounded by tall, thick fescue. Stay safe off the tee and your second shot will be to a wide enough area uphill to set up the approach. The green is two-tiered, so make sure you find the right level. Anything on the wrong level almost guarantees a three-putt, while a top-level hole location is still liable to carry any putt to the lower level (or off the green, altogether). Take a minute to enjoy the look back at this gorgeous hole layout before moving on to the eighth hole.
Hole 7: Par 5 (527/495/479/428)
Hole 7: Par 5 (527/495/479/428)
Hole 7: Par 5 (527/495/479/428)
Hole number eight is a nice par four over water that winds between two uphill tree lines. The tee shot is narrow, so hit anything you feel confident will fly straight. After rounding the left tree line, the approach toward the concession stand is surrounded by sand, and features a long, but true, green.
Hole 8: Par 4 (402/377/338/262)
Nine is a fun par four. Much more open than most of the course, the tee shot has plenty of bailout area to the left. The fairway is obviously preferred, but stay clear of the right side if at all possible. The elevated green is surrounded by deep sand traps, but the green is large enough to hit with relative ease.
Hole 9: Par 4 (394/367/349/295)
The back nine starts with a dogleg left. The fairway traps look forever away, but prove to be more than reachable with a long iron or fairway wood. The green is revealed uphill to the left, with a multitude of sand traps and severe uphill slope, adding more than a degree or two of difficulty to this par four.
Hole 10: Par 4 (336/319/319/269)
Eleven is a very tough par five. The landing area for most drives is primarily water and sand, with a small strip of fairway lying in between. The fairway runs skyward, with water lining much of the left side.
Hole 11: Par 5 (495/471/452/402)
Enjoy hole number twelve as a short par four. Keep the drive straight for a great opportunity to hit this green in regulation. The fairway runs initially downhill, then slopes back upward to the green.
Hole 12: Par 4 (356/337/330/267)
Hole 12: Par 4 (356/337/330/267)
Making the turn to the 13th brings much of the Links course into view. From the woods, it is a gorgeous vista of bright green with the contrast of abundant golden fescue. Soak it in, but make sure you choose the right club on this par three. With a back-left hole location, it is a solid club or two up to carry the large sand trap front-left, and anything right leaves a long approach up the green.
Hole 13: Par 3 (183/162/145/145)
Fourteen is one of the best, and most challenging, par fours on the course. At over 400 yards, the green is almost unreachable in two. The initial tee shot can be shaped from left to right, and gets good run downhill. Aim left of the large oak tree on the right side of the fairway, but try your best to stay on the short grass. The second shot is long regardless of your tee shot, and a huge depression in the fairway sucks up anything short. This area is brutal to chip from, and the climbing fairway makes solid contact with a high wedge difficult.
Hole 14: Par 4 (438/418/377/377)
Fifteen allows for anything but driver off the tee. This hole reminds me a lot of the second hole at Wild Rock: A fairway wood should result in a fairway hit, and the dogleg straight right is only then possible.
Hole 15: Par 4 (418/385/365/297)
One of the most picturesque par threes on the Woodlands course, sixteen calls for a demanding high iron over water. This hole plays much like a similar par three at Washington County. Anything left is in the water, and so is anything short. Some bailout is provided short and right, but not much. The sand trap on the right is not impossible, but tough to get out of without running your sand shot downhill to the pond.
Hole 16: Par 3 (189/157/145/105)
Hole 16: Par 3 (189/157/145/105)
Turning the corner to the seventeenth hole provides one of the most visually stunning views on the course. Overlooking seventeen and the fantastic seventh hole, this par four is best attacked by a drawn tee shot. The majestic pines lining the left side of the tee box will not allow for a cut, and the woods to the right take anything hit errantly. A multitude of sand traps in both the fairway and around the green make this a very challenging hole.
Hole 17: Par 4 (376/345/323/323)
It is always nice to finish a difficult round with a somewhat easy hole. At over 500 yards, this par five is not the easy hole you are looking for. It is not the length of the eighteenth that makes it so tough, but the layout. A snug driving area leads to a long second shot. Hitting two good shots will not guarantee you a shot at the green, which is well-hidden around a corner to the right, and littered with sand traps. Think it was difficult to get there in the first place? Try putting on this hole. My sand shot came out above the hole, looked to be stopped, then rolled at a snail’s pace more than 50 feet to the bottom of the green and then ten feet off. My friend’s putt from the bottom rolled 15 feet past the pin before falling back to within four feet. Keeping this in mind will help you finish your round in style!
Hole 18: Par 5 (524/504/504/416)
Hole 18: Par 5 (524/504/504/416)
Hole 18: Par 5 (524/504/504/416)
Course Wrap-up:
Location: Green Lake, WI
Yardage: Blue-6586, White-6186, Gold-5782, Red-5023
Slope/Rating: Blue-132/71.9, White-128/70.1, Gold-124/68.0, Red-120/70.5
Par: 72
Weekend Rates: $90 (with cart)
Best Way to Play: $30 rate on GolfNow.com
Notable Ratings: Golf.com: #13 course in Wisconsin (2010); Golf Digest: 4-1/2 stars

One comment on “Golf Course Review: Lawsonia Woodlands

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

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