Golf Course Review: Morningstar Golfers Club

Morningstar is quite simply one of the best golf courses in southeast Wisconsin, and is one of my favorite places to enjoy a weekend round.
The topography at Morningstar is beautiful, and elevation plays a big part in it. The highest area of the course’s property is the clubhouse, which is at one of the highest points in Waukesha County at nearly 1,000 feet above sea level.
Thirteen of eighteen holes at Morningstar can be seen from the clubhouse and putting green, which overlooks an old quarry and provides spectacular vistas over the course layout and its natural lakes and well protected greens.
One of the interesting things I thought while looking over this layout from here is how some of the course’s elements remind me of golf in South Carolina: Water-lined fairways and several large, meandering waste areas. That is where the comparisons end: South Carolina does not have 120-foot elevation changes!
Construction began on Morningstar in the summer of 1999, and the course opened in 2001. I have heard there were some issues with the seeding of the fairways in its early years, but that has certainly gone by the wayside. The course has matured beautifully in the past decade into one of the state’s very best golfing experiences. Stately pines, hickory, maple and oak trees abound, and the fescue and quarry walls that line fairways are very nicely composed.
Where is Morningstar, you ask? Technically it is located in Waukesha, but parts of it are also in Vernon and Mukwonago. When asked, I typically say it’s in Mukwonago, as “Waukesha” gives the impression that it is closer to Milwaukee and the Hartland area than it is. Take it from me, though: This course is well worth the drive!
Home of the “Swing Doctor,” as heard on News/Talk Radio 1130 WISN on Sunday mornings, Morningstar is well known as one of the best teaching courses in the state. Jim Frutchey, Jr. (“The Swing Doctor”) is the co-owner of Morningstar, and leads a welcoming and hospitable staff including his son, Jim Frutchey III (“The Professor,” who is the General Manager of the property), and Head Golf Professional Michael Crowley. From the first interactions with bag drop, the ‘Star puts heavy emphasis on providing a wonderful customer experience.
Pace of play is important at Morningstar, as the course tries for four hour rounds. We actually had a ranger hounding us for several holes last weekend, which was my only complaint about the course but probably appreciated by the group behind us. While we were a hole behind the group in front, we played well shooting 80, 81, 82 and 87. Yes, I was the 87.
I always appreciate a course whose tee times include free driving range, and this is the case at Morningstar with their 40,000 square feet of teeing surface, looking out over a sprawling driving area complete with target greens. They also have a good sized short game development complex (aka practice green) to warm up on. This putting green is very true to the course’s conditions, which is always appreciated, as well.
The first hole here is one of the toughest starting holes in the state: A long par five whose fairway ends around 240 yards and continues on a lower level at about 300. The tee shot is intimidating, with fescue and a waste area to the left, and trees and the driving range to the right. Keep straight on this hole for any chance of success. The second shot is tricky, too, and for some reason seems to lead to a lot of lost balls. If you can keep your shots in the fairway, and not get too greedy, this is still a scorable hole.

Hole 1: Par 5 (554/528/510/480/419)
The tee shot on the second hole is best attacked with a 200-yard strike down the middle of the fairway. It is right around this range that the fairway doglegs left to a green fronted by several large sand traps. The greens at Morningstar are spacious, and this one is no exception. Make sure to check the hole signs by the tees to see where the pins are located each day: They will let you know if the hole is in the front, middle or back of the green (they do not use the typical colored flag system).

Hole 2: Par 4 (394/370/342/320/291)

The fourth hole is the first of the real risk/reward scenarios golfers will encounter at the ‘Star. With elevated tee boxes, the fairway narrows around 225 yards with trees on each side. Anything in the middle to left side of the fairway should leave a good approach to the green, but be mindful of the sprawling sand traps short and right. A back pin location will run from left to right on this hole.

Hole 4: Par 4 (369/331/319/283/252)

Five is a nice little downhill par three. Keep in mind that the right side runs downhill to a pond. This is the one area to keep away from at all costs.

Hole 5: Par 3 (204/181/162/138/115)

Six is a deceptively tough par four. The tee shot looks easy enough, but is one of those shots where good golfers somehow seem to get in a lot of trouble. Most of the trouble is to the right, with deep fescue leading to a shallow tree line. The left side is not quite as penalizing, but is lined with fescue, as well.

Hole 6: Par 4 (414/374/366/336/297)

My favorite of the spectacular par fives at Morningstar is the seventh. The tee boxes are extraordinarily elevated, and the eighteenth hole fairway can be utilized as a bailout to the right, if necessary. The left side is trouble, with tons of tall fescue. The right side can be equally as dangerous, with a multitude of waste bunkers and a steep entrance to the right side of the green complex. Keep the second shot in the fairway for the best chance to score on this hole.

Hole 7: Par 5 (534/512/476/451/424)

Eight and nine are probably the toughest holes on the course. The eighth seems to get me every time. With a tee shot over water, the left side is heavily wooded. The right side of the fairway drops off to waste bunkers and an area that is about six feet below the intended playing surface, and can make the approach shot almost completely blind. Play this tee shot smart, and hit the straightest long club in your bag. At all costs, do not pull the ball left, or else risk dropping for three while still having no straight angle to approach from.

Hole 8: Par 4 (356/331/324/299/274)

The ninth features another intimidating tee shot. The pond runs alongside the majority of the right side of the hole, and requires about 175 yards to carry from the blue tees. The left side is mostly dead, with high fescue along the hillside that separates this layout from the first hole. This hillside can be used at times, though, to get a favorable bounce back towards the fairway area. The raised green always seems to play a little longer than the eye suggests.

Hole 9: Par 4 (383/366/336/302/272)

We had the opportunity to play Morningstar last weekend in a members-only shotgun. Starting on the tenth hole was a wonderful way to begin, with a much less demanding tee shot than the first. The tenth runs uphill, with three large fairway bunkers on the right side. Find the fairway and add an extra club to the approach to compensate for the elevation.

Hole 10: Par 4 (367/346/329/318/282)

Eleven is the first of the par threes on the back, and features a very accessible green. At 178 yards from the blue tees, the right side is safe, while the left side falls off in to the woods.

Hole 11: Par 3 (189/178/168/159/151)

I really enjoy the short par five twelfth. This is a great hole to drive on, and gives a good chance at reaching in two. The green is tricky, though, as the front is mostly uphill, and the long green can offer a number of tricky hole locations. Keep the drive on the left side or middle of the fairway, if possible, to keep the large tree on the right side of the driving area out of play. I actually hit this green in two using a three-hybrid and five-iron, but left a long uphill bender that I managed to four-putt for bogey.

Hole 12: Par 5 (534/512/496/465/423)

Thirteen is a tough par four. With an elevated tee shot, it is not terribly long (362 yards from the blue tees), but the encroaching woods on both sides seems to really pinch the driving area.

Hole 13: Par 4 (381/362/335/308/279)

One of my favorite aspects about Morningstar is that the course rewards good shots, and does not too heavily penalize shots that are only slightly errant.

The fourteenth is a terrific example of this. A long par three, measuring to 207 from the blue tees, the tee shot is downhill with a large green that is heavily surrounded by sand traps that are five-plus yards from the green. Miss the green by just a little, and you’ll have an easy chip on. Miss the green by a lot, and par will become considerably more challenging. This is a wonderful par three.

Hole 14: Par 3 (222/207/169/159/136)

Fifteen is a pretty straight forward par four. To the left of the fairway is the subdivision’s property line, so feel free to favor the right side to stay in bounds. If right, though, the approach can be very difficult over four very deep sand traps that front to this elevated green.

Hole 15: Par 4 (380/361/347/322/287)

At 438 yards from the blue tees, the sixteenth is the longest par four on the course. The tee shot is mostly blind, running initially uphill with only sand traps on the left side visible from the tee boxes. After these tees, the fairway runs downhill and slightly left. Long hitters can go over this trap, but right of these would be an optimal target area and will take the left side out-of-bounds out of the equation. There is a pond right of the green, but the putting surface is quite large and hittable.

Hole 16: Par 4 (463/438/427/394/361)

The tee boxes on seventeen provide a spectacular view of the course, and a highly elevated tee shot to a straight running fairway. My biggest issue on this hole always seems to be the property line on the left, but most players should consider the fairway traps that populate the right side of the hole’s narrow layout. Following a downhill tee shot, the approach runs uphill to a green bordered by bunkers on the left side.

Hole 17: Par 4 (429/402/385/370/343)

Eighteen is another gorgeous par five. The tee boxes look over the seventh and eighteenth fairways, and as the eighteenth hole fairway can be used on the seventh hole tee shot, so can the seventh be used on the eighteenth. Distance is most important on this first shot, so get rid of as much of it as possible with the drive. The second shot should be played toward the end of the fairway, which then bends right to a highly risen green complex overlooked by Morningstar’s impressive clubhouse.

Hole 18: Par 5 (525/506/486/460/438)

Hole 18: Par 5 (525/506/486/460/438)

Following your round, make sure to enjoy lunch at “Hickory Sticks,” the course’s fine eatery and pub, where golfers and non-golfers alike are able to watch those on the course finish up their front and back nines from above.

In an area with very few premium level public courses, Morningstar is certainly one.
Course Wrap-up:
Location: Waukesha, WI
Yardage: Black-6,875, Blue-6,458, Green-6,118, White-5,682, Red-5,162
Slope/Rating: Black-134/72.6, Blue-128/70.6, Green-124/69.2, White-121/67.1, Red-120/69.1
Par: 72
Weekend Rates (riding): $84

2 comments on “Golf Course Review: Morningstar Golfers Club

  1. Pingback: Course Review: RTJ Golf Trail at Ross Bridge (AL) | WiscoGolfAddict

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

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