Geneva National, Arnold Palmer Course

Golf season has come early this year, and that brings a lot of happiness to golf enthusiasts like myself. It also means an extended period of time for early-season rates, and one of the best early-season rates in the state can be found at Geneva National Golf Club, in Lake Geneva.

Located an hour south of Milwaukee, Lake Geneva is a bustling border town from Memorial Day through Labor Day. During the off-season, though, it is a near ghost town, leaving world-class courses with tee times to fill. This is great news for those of us who cannot afford to pay over $100 per round, and a perfect excuse to make your way toward the Wisconsin/Illinois border to play one of Wisconsin’s most prestigious golf resorts.
Geneva National features a trio of 18-hole championship courses designed by three of golf’s all-time greatest players and designers: Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, and Lee Trevino. I am utterly infatuated with the designs of the Palmer and Player courses, but have yet to play the Trevino. I am told it is more heavily wooded than the other two, though, and it has been open for members only the times I have been on-site.
What kind of deals can you expect at Geneva National this time of year? Through the end of April, you can play any of their three courses for just $40, including cart, from Monday through Thursday. Weekends go up to $60, which is still a far cry from their $120-130 regular season rates.
Both the Player and Palmer courses are already in fantastic shape, and each course has a number of extremely memorable individual holes.
With as impressed as I was with the Player course, I was even more so with Palmer, which was named the state’s tenth best course by GolfWeek for 2012. Arnie’s use of the land on this track is fantastic, and creates several very different feels within one round: From a wide-open, strategic feel toward the beginning, to some very challenging forested holes in the middle, and then several difficult water holes interspersed.
No “water hole” is more beautiful, maybe in the entire state (I have to remind you that I have yet to play the Straits Course), than Palmer’s signature 17th. Following a long, heavily guarded par three 16th that finishes on the shoreline of Lake Como, the 17th sets up much like the 18th hole at Pebble Beach. The tee boxes are alongside the shoreline, and anything hit left will find the lake while the right side is out of bounds. Take it from me, who was putting together a pretty good round until I found the lake three times off the tee. The hole finishes some 530 yards down the shoreline, and the lake guards it all.
Hole 17: Par 5 (573/530/485/421/406)
Hole 17: Par 5 (573/530/485/421/406)
Hole 17: Par 5 (573/530/485/421/406)
From the first tee boxes, with a short tee shot and dogleg right, the Palmer course demands accuracy off the tees. A long iron or fairway wood will set up an approach that is well-guarded by a small creek and heavily sloped green. The homes along this hole and much of the course are absolutely beautiful, but far enough from the playing surface to not impose on the actual golfing.
Hole 1: Par 4 (387/365/330/287/268)
The second hole is beautiful this time of year, with spring time showing its early style in white budded trees. The fairway rolls downhill and right just left of these trees, and leads to a green that is very difficult to hold. One of the most impressive features of this course is how true the greens roll. They are quick, but can be read decisively.
Hole 2: Par 4 (407/379/367/280/247)
With tee boxes currently under repair, the third hole has become a short par three by any standards. At 110 yards uphill, a short wedge should do the job, but make sure to get enough distance to carry the deep front-side sand traps.
Hole 3: Par 3 (171/161/151/107/90)
The fourth is a fun par five that is quite reachable in two. A cut drive can get great fairway position, while hitting anything too long and straight is likely to find out of bounds.
Hole 4: Par 5 (539/504/471/409/401)
Hole 4: Par 5 (539/504/471/409/401)
I remember watching Tom Sutton play the beautiful sixth hole at the Player course on Midwest Classic Golf several years ago, and thought to myself that I have got to play this course. From highly elevated tee boxes, fairway position is absolutely crucial on this hole. The dogleg left leads to a tight green area heavily shrouded in trees.
Hole 6: Par 4 (387/364/332/291/254)
Hole 6: Par 4 (387/364/332/291/254)
Hole 6: Par 4 (387/364/332/291/254)
Eight is one of the Palmer course’s four spectacular par threes. With water lining the entire right side, the eighth is long and in an open area that is heavily influenced by wind.
Hole 8: Par 3 (227/195/177/148/142)
The eleventh hole has one of the narrowest fairways on the course, but leaves plenty of room to miss without going out of bounds. The large swale in the fairway approach area leads to an extremely elevated green that adds at least a club to any second shot.
Hole 11: Par 4 (428/400/360/318/290)
The twelfth hole is a short par four, but one of the most demanding on the Palmer course. With two separate sets of tee boxes, each requires a long iron to get through the trees and up to a crowned, blinded fairway. Hitting driver here can hit the downhill slope and find the pond that fronts the green, while hitting too short can leave a long uphill approach that is liable to roll back downhill toward the hazard.
Hole 12: Par 4 (395/367/334/290/267)
Leaving the twelfth hole and rounding the corner to thirteen gives a glimpse at another gorgeous par three. With water front, right and long, the smart play is to the left side of the green.
Hole 13: Par 3 (184/173/157/139/97)
With another demanding tee shot, the fourteenth is the most heavily wooded hole on the Palmer course. To add to that difficulty, it is also long – 578 yards from the black tees, and 540 or 471 from the golds or whites, respectively. With a sharp dogleg left after the tee shot, this is a three-shot par five for anyone.
Hole 14: Par 5 (578/540/471/442/404)
The fifteenth through eighteenth holes here are three of my absolute favorites, and one of my favorite collections of consecutive holes in the state. The tee shot on fifteen is highly elevated, and has water on the right side of the dogleg right’s bend. This was the only hole I birdied the last time we played the Palmer, so I am obviously a big fan of it.
Hole 15: Par 4 (393/371/347/325/285)
The tee shot on the sixteenth hole is absolutely gorgeous, and shows signature Palmer style. A long par three that plays from 204 yards from the gold tees, the sixteenth goes straight to the Lake Como shoreline, with the back of the green dropping off sharply in to the lake. The first time I played it I actually hit the middle of the green, only to get to the green to find it in the water.
Hole 16: Par 3 (218/204/177/156/141)
Hole 16: Par 3 (218/204/177/156/141)
Eighteen is an excellent finishing hole. At “only” 402 yards from the gold tees, it plays nicely for a last hole of the day. The driving area is absolutely littered with sand, but anything not on the beach will leave an excellent opportunity for a birdie putt.
Hole 18: Par 4 (435/402/357/336/272)
Not only does Geneva National offer a fantastic early season rate for some of the area’s best golfing, but it is also probably the friendliest course I have ever visited. Every staff member, from the bag drop to the guys who clean your clubs afterwards, has been incredibly welcoming and helpful.
If you are looking for some outstanding golf courses to check out this early season, take my recommendation and pay a visit to Geneva National. It is a bit of a trek from the Milwaukee area, but their early-season rates are some of the best values I have found in a while.
Course Wrap-up:
Location: Lake Geneva, WI
Yardage: Black-7,171, Gold-6,638, White-6,057, Gray-5,372, Red-4,904
Slope/Rating: Black-140/74.7, Gold-134/72.2, White-128/69.4, Gray-127/70.8, Red-122/68.5
Par: 72
Weekend Rates (riding): $130

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