Golf Course Review: Hawks Landing
Please note that while this article is dated March 2012 (date of the original post), it was updated in August 2019After an 8:00 tee time at University Ridge last week, I found myself in the mood for more golf. Strange, huh? With a high school tournament being played on both nines, I decided to check out their neighboring course, Hawk’s Landing. Hawk’s Landing looks magnificent from the road, and that is certainly representative of the course, itself. I talked with the pro in the clubhouse, and being a Wednesday there was little traffic and plenty of room for a single player to get around without putting too much pressure on other players. As a side note: I sometimes enjoy playing courses I am reviewing on my own. I like to play one ball one hundred percent honestly, and a second like I think someone who is a really strong golfer would play. So on the holes where I would hit 3-hybrid off the tee, I will play that, then driver or 3-wood to try cutting off more distance. I feel like this provides better credibility to my play recommendations. If you’re curious how I hit my clubs and how it might translate to your game, I guess I would sum it up like this: My driver goes pretty long, and I can usually get 250-300 yards out of it. Depending on the day, it will either go straight, slice hard, or I will have issues with my grip and stance and pull my drives frustratingly. Fortunately, I am having many more of the straight days this year. My 3-wood can get out in the 230-250 range. My three and four hybrids are two of my more consistent clubs, and average around 200-225. The best club in my bag is my seven iron, which I hit pretty well in the 165-175 area. I also enjoy playing solo for reviews because it allows me ample time to take plenty of pictures. My regular threesome can get a little tired of all of my photo-taking, otherwise, as it obviously can slow down play. Midweek is fantastic for golf. Not only are rates slightly lower, but courses are typically much more open – nobody pressing you to play faster, nobody in front frustrating you by forcing you to slow down your own game. Back to Hawk’s Landing: I found it interesting that the course this year (2012) flipped their nines. In conversation with the club’s PGA Head Professional, Rich Bartley, the change was made [back to the original way it was built] as a result of members’ recommendations based on a number of factors: The sun setting in the face of last season’s finishing hole, having better visibility of players finishing their rounds, and simply allowing for a slightly less tumultuous eighteenth. That is not to say the new eighteenth, which is a par five finishing over water on a severely sloped green outside the clubhouse’s beautiful restaurant (The Roost). I always enjoy an eighteenth hole where viewers from the clubhouse and/or restaurant/bar are able to watch the approach shots. I was happy there weren’t too many spectators watching when I finished my round with a birdie putt from eight feet that turned into 25, then a four footer that I finally put in for bogey. A semi-private golf club with a private club feel, the front nine at Hawk’s Landing is my favorite. The back nine has more homes – huge, beautiful homes, that are far enough off from the course to not come in to play. The front nine has more open areas, which I enjoy because it promotes the feeling of “time away.” The front nine also utilizes much more elevation. No holes more so than on the fantastic par five fifth hole. The tee shot is well elevated above a tight fairway that is lined on the left by woods. Out-of-bounds and a plethora of bunkers are on the right side, and the fairway funnels downhill and left to a green that is very well guarded by several large oak trees. This is an awesome par five, and one that breaks in to my all-time favorite par fives in the state of Wisconsin. The elevation continues on the sixth. Tee boxes are high above the downward-running fairway, which winds around a huge pond that creates a right-side border for the fairway and green. Out of bounds is dead, so an accurate tee shot here is critical. I put my 3-hybrid in the woods at the bottom of the hill on my “real” tee shot, then hit the front side of the green with my driver. At 336 yards, that made me feel pretty good. This is another beautiful golf hole. Hawk’s Landing has some great par threes, too. The island hole, number eight, is probably the most popular and photogenic, but I think my favorite of their par threes is the 177-yard (black tees) fourth hole. Located on the highest point of the golf course (and one of the highest in Dane County), the wind is a huge factor on this hole, which is wrought with sand traps and a sliver of a laterally running green that is slightly above the normal level of play. A false front and sharp slope add an extra degree or two of difficulty, as well. The aforementioned eighth is the par three seen from the road that passes by Hawk’s Landing (and University Ridge). Seeing this island-like hole, and how well it’s set up – fronted beautifully with railroad tiles – provides significant intrigue to golfers driving by. The green is mercifully huge on this hole, but there is a lot of water to carry… The hardest hole on the course, and one of the hardest I’ve ever played anywhere, is the par five ninth. At 550 yards from the black tees, the ninth is all uphill and extremely tight. A large gray silo resides on the left side, which provides a left-most target to stay away from. The right side of the driving area is sloped toward a creek-like area that drops six feet from the playing surface, then to woods. The fairway itself continues uphill, and finishes right of a deep front-side bunker and left of a gorgeous flowing water feature, complete with waterfalls. As you can see from this picture, it’s hard to get a good idea of the green complex from the fairway because it’s so uphill. A view from the sky shows this much better, as does the look-back from the ninth green.
The split-fairway seventeenth is one of my favorite par fours at Hawks Landing. While the higher, left-side fairway offers a better angle in, the lower fairway right of the central traps provides a perfect bailout and allows players to wail away off the tee.Hawk’s Landing is one of the most well-kept courses (public or private) I have played in the state of Wisconsin. The greens are probably the fastest I’ve played public, and they roll beautifully. The entire course is as green as green can get. I was told by a member who joined me for the back nine that the course’s greenskeeper is probably their biggest asset. That is not a knock on the rest of the course and staff, though, as the property as a whole is very well thought-out and maintained. That being said, Hawks Landing Superintendent Neil Radatz is a very well respected and recognized leader of the Wisconsin turf grass / superintendents community and it’s very easy to see why.
Another fun par four, the eleventh features one of the course’s most well-guarded green complexes:
Another beautiful par three over water, the thirteenth has a two-tiered green that rises toward the back. The bailout here is all left, as you can see below.
The short par four 14th is under 300 yards and drivable from the tees, but beware the middle fairway bunkers.
The hardest par three on the course is the long sixteenth. Teeing up from over 200 yards from the two back tees (239 from the tips!), the green is risen and narrow left-to-right.Hawk’s Landing was a wonderful experience, and I also enjoyed my time sitting with Rich and talking about their property. His passion for the club is evident, as well as in the quality of his course and in talking with their members. If I lived in the Madison area and they have an affordable junior membership, I would join there in a second.
Location: Verona, WI
Yardage: Maroon-7,227, Black-6,678, Member-6,330, Blue-6,066, White-5,395
Slope/Rating: Maroon-134/74.8, Black-129/72.3, Member-125/70.9 Blue-123/69.6, White-122/71.2
Weekend Rates: $74 (with cart)