Golf Course Review: Washington County Golf Course

Washington County Golf Course has received huge acclaim since opening in 1997, and there is good reason why. Its world-famous course architect, Arthur Hills, is well known for creating tracks that reward the smart golfer, including Oakmont, Inverness, Chaska Town Course, and more locally, Nagawaukee and [interestingly enough] Wanaki.
Washington County is a thinking man’s course, with pin locations that will make you switch approach clubs, quick and sloped greens, and several blind tee shots that require drive placement versus laying up.
As a links course, 15 of the holes can be bailed out from most errant tee shots, as long as you can find a ball in fescue. The fescue on this course can grow very long, and I have seen miss-hit shots drown in it from five to ten yards away with no chance of finding the ball.
Most golfers in the Milwaukee metropolitan area know Wash. Co. as a reputable course, but think of it as being so far out in the boonies that it is nearly inaccessible. Hartford is not exactly a northern suburb, but is within 30-45 minutes of Milwaukee, and is well worth the drive.
Probably my favorite aspect of Washington County is the greens. The greens here are mostly large, and well taken care of. They roll quickly and have subtle elevation changes, but are quite fair in comparison to courses like Wild Rock and Lawsonia. The breaks are readable, and the speeds are consistent.
The fairways feel the way fairways should feel: Short and without blunder. You will not find areas under repair at Washington County. I was told there is a guy whose job it is to drive around for four hours a day replacing divots and repairing tee boxes, and I am told he plays free golf for his efforts.
Ever-present winds prevail over the open layout and seem to change constantly, making club selection and shot targets an ongoing experiment. From the clubhouse, first and tenth tees, you are given a beautiful panoramic view of the course, and Holy and Powder Hills beyond. It seems you can see for miles from these vantage points, and you can.
The first hole is meant to be a feel-good par four to start your round: Downhill and manageable, at around 400 yards, the fairway narrows slightly around 200, where both sides fall off in fescue.
Hole 1: Par 4 (417/396/373/311)
The second has proven to be one of the hardest holes on the course for me. A long par four, the second is lined by the eastern border of the course, with houses on the left that will take anything miss-hit there. The right side is always playable, including the 11th fairway, but will add distance to the hole.
 Hole 2: Par 4 (449/426/399/354)
The first par five on the course is the par five third hole. From the tee boxes, the drive looks slightly left to right, but plays more difficult with the degree at which the fairway doglegs around the drive’s landing area. Heading right, the third plays downhill and drops off to a wooded area on the left, and the green is above a large front-side sand trap.
Hole 3: Par 5 (535/513/494/423)
Hole number four is Washington County’s first par three. Slightly uphill, this is probably the easiest of the par threes at Wash. Co., although club selection always presents issues. The green runs severely uphill from the front to the back, with several breaks that make putting a challenge.
Hole 4: Par 3 (183/169/156/120)
The fifth is one of my favorite par fours on the course. At just over 300 yards, the green is almost reachable from the tee boxes, but well-placed fairway sand traps and difficult fescue areas to the right make it a trickier hole than expected. The green, uphill, is small and slopes considerably on all sides making it essential to hit and hold your approach, and the severity of slope on the green makes for difficult two-putting.
Hole 5: Par 4 (350/323/300/256)
At 176 yards from the blue tees, the green on the sixth is narrow, and lined on the left side with sand. I have had some near-makes on this par three, so my heart always skips a beat or two when teeing up.
Hole 6: Par 3 (189/176/163/143)
Seven is the signature hole at Washington County, and for obvious reasons. At over 500 yards, water lines the majority of the left side of the hole, and the fairway tunnels significantly toward it. The tee boxes are in line with the pond, so it is essential to stay right.
The approach is over a small creek / waste area, and fescue runs the length of the right side of the rough along the cart path.
Although I have had little success on this hole in the past, it makes my list for all-time favorite par fives, landing at number 15.
Hole 7: Par 5 (545/524/505/431)
Hole 7: Par 5 (545/524/505/431)
Hole 7: Par 5 (545/524/505/431)
Water continues on the eighth, which is a short par four with trouble lurking everywhere. I have seen this green driven several times, but it is a delicate drive that must be played right to left. Several sand traps are located just off the right side of the fairway, while the pond on the left will take most shots hooked. The eighth has the most delicate approach shot on the course, slim and surrounded by water, sand and out of bounds long.
Hole 8: Par 4 (334/310/294/246)
Nine is a sharp dogleg right. A big driver can attempt cutting the waste area, but the risk pays off rarely. The smart shot is a low wood to the fairway, but hit far enough right to avoid the fescue-lined hill that abuts the fairway. The approach is between a number of sand traps, and deep bunkers make precision on the drive a must.
Hole 9: Par 4 (450/425/404/359)
Hole 9: Par 4 (450/425/404/359)

The back nine begins with an awesome par four. Probably my favorite driving hole on the course, there are very few miss-hits that cannot be played on this hole. Strongly downhill with a slight turn to the right, this is one tee shot you can really wail away on.

Hole 10: Par 4 (386/362/341/284)

To me, eleven is the most classically links-styled hole on the course. At just over 300 yards, the fairway is narrow, and has a number of sand traps that will make a green in regulation difficult. The toughest bunkers live on the right side, which act as birms from the fairway and make long sand shots difficult.

Hole 11: Par 4 (395/329/310/272)
Hole 11: Par 4 (395/329/310/272)

Twelve is a par four with bite. The tee shot is primarily blind, and cuts right. From the drive’s landing area, the green is deceptively far. I have hit many shots on this hole that I was sure landed on the green, only to walk up and find them short.

Hole 12: Par 4 (455/433/414/362)

Thirteen is a beast of a par five. At 548 yards from the blue tee boxes, a rock wall guards the left side of the fairway, and a steep upward slope adds a club or two to the third shot, making hitting this green in two next to impossible. The right side is lined with fescue, as is the case with most of the course.

Hole 13: Par 5 (570/548/528/457)
Hole 13: Par 5 (570/548/528/457)

Fourteen makes my list of all-time favorite par threes. From elevated tee boxes, fourteen tees off over a pond that fronts and lines the left side of the green. The green slopes toward the water, making the sand trap on the right side difficult to play from. There is a small bailout area short and to the right, but the only safe play here is to the green, itself.

Hole 14: Par 3 (197/175/147/92)
Hole 14: Par 3 (197/175/147/92)
Hole 14: Par 3 (197/175/147/92)

Fifteen plays over a large fescue area that runs the length of the left side of the hole. Playing slightly uphill toward the green, a large pot bunker fronts the green, adding at least one club to the approach.

Hole 15: Par 4 (411/369/341/248)

The par three sixteenth hole is another great par three. Long, at 200 yards from the blue tees, a deep sand trap guards the left side of the green, well below the putting surface. The bailout area is short and to the right, but plays well uphill and delicately from this location.

Hole 16: Par 3 (222/200/171/152)

Seventeen plays similarly to the tenth. The tee boxes are highly elevated, and make the drive a lot of fun. There is plenty of room to slice, and the fairway is massive and turns right. Several fairway mounds can create difficult lies, but the green is certainly reachable if played perfectly. The green lies on the far side of large green-side mounding, and is long, narrow and sided by sand on the right.

Hole 17: Par 5 (555/533/514/432)
Hole 17: Par 5 (555/533/514/432)

Washington County finishes with a mid-range par four playing uphill toward the clubhouse. The fairway features two deep sand traps, and a rock wall on the left and sand on both sides of the approach area make the approach demanding.

Hole 18: Par 4 (405/376/344/258)
Washington County is an excellent golf course, made better by fantastic greens fees. Prime time rates reach into the $60-75 range, but they have excellent twilight rates that start early enough to make finishing 18 holes a non-issue. During the summer months, for example, golfers can get out for all-you-can-play, including cart, for around $30. Early- and late-season rates dip to $20-24, including cart.

The number 35-rated municipal golf course in the country for several years running, Washington County offers much in terms of links-style golf, fair but challenging play, a world-class practice area [featuring three “practice holes,” a driving range and chipping/sand/putting areas], and affordable rates.

It would be foolish for any Milwaukee-area looper to avoid this course for being too far away. If and when you do, I can assure you will be back again for more.

Course Wrap-up:
Location: Hartford, WI
Yardage: Black-7048, Blue-6587, White-6198, Red-5200
Slope/Rating: Black-134/73.6, Blue-130/71.5, White-126/69.7, Red-120/69.6
Par: 72
Weekend Rates: $72.50 (with cart)

One comment on “Golf Course Review: Washington County Golf Course

  1. Pingback: Wisconsin’s 18 Toughest Par 3 Holes: The Long Holes | WiscoGolfAddict

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