Golf Course Review: SentryWorld

Ask any avid Wisconsin golfer who has yet to play SentryWorld about the course, and chances are they will say something about the “Flower Hole.” But the course is a perennial top fifteen track in Wisconsin, so there has to be more going on than just one great par three, right?

After finally playing it, I can say with certainty there is.

Okay, because I know you’re clamoring for it, I will go ahead and give you a quick peek at the sixteenth so we can get on with the actual review already…

Hole 16: Par 3 (173/155/127/116/106)
I was passing through Stevens Point on my way home to Menomonee Falls, and seeing as it was the first time I’d ever been in the Point area, figured I should see how close I was to the esteemed SentryWorld. It turned out I was very close (it is very quickly off of Highway 39/51, on the campus of its owning entity, Sentry Insurance). With another three hours left in my travels, I used it as a welcomed break from the road.
I cannot say enough how impressed I was with my experience at SentryWorld. Of the 43 different courses I have visited so far this season, only one can compare to it with regards to a complete golf experience. That other was TimberStone, which was one of three tracks played during a recent Michigan golf vacation. Both courses are mature and impeccably maintained, and feature layouts that seem to flow naturally from one hole to the next.
In talking with the owner of GolfWisconsin and GolfTrips.com, Brian Weis, earlier this year about his own SentryWorld experience, it was apparent to me that this course is anything but a one-hole wonder.
Every tee box at SentryWorld is elevated and like hitting off of freshly shorn fairways. The par threes, especially the sixteenth hole, have a few divots to avoid, but all in all they are as close to perfect as I have seen. Every fairway looks and feels inviting. Divots are replaced and reseeded ritualistically, and I cannot recall more than a blemish or two during my entire round. And the greens… Well, the greens are small and undulating, but roll brilliantly with a complete absence of ball marks.
The conditions are nearly flawless, but what about the course, itself? SentryWorld is a Robert Trent Jones, Jr. design opened in 1982, with a true classic American parkland layout. The trees are stately and mature, the water features and sand traps are nicely structured and fortified, and the hole layouts are interesting and varied.
Shot-making is essential at SentryWorld, and while length is certainly rewarded, it is also often penalized. This is the perfect course to have a solid three-wood game on.
My other two favorite Robert Trent Jones, Jr. courses in the Midwest are University Ridge and ThunderHawk. Having played these many times, I could pick out a plethora of Jones, Jr.’s charming course characteristics at SentryWorld. Simply put, his courses “fit my eye.”
Leagues were going out on the front nine at 4:30, so I was started on the back and found the pace of play as a single to be comfortable. The back nine is a tough way to start, though, with a dogleg left par four that plays about 240 yards from the blue tees to the bend. The approach from there is tight to a minute green that is heavily guarded in front by the legendary designer’s trademark cloverleaf sand traps. A back-right pin location was tough, to say the least, but I managed to get out of there with bogey and felt okay about it.
Hole 10: Par 4 (392/375/343/331/310)

Hole 10: Par 4 (392/375/343/331/310)
Eleven is a man’s par five. At 527 yards from the blue tees, the right side of the driving area is fairly open, while the left side is densely wooded. A large spring-fed pond comes in to play on the right side as the fairway continues, and a marsh-like area on the left leads to a green that is again narrow and defended on both sides by sand.
Hole 11: Par 5 (545/527/492/454/420)
When I pulled up to the tee boxes on twelve, I thought to myself that I can’t believe the only par three people talk about at SentryWorld is the sixteenth. This is a gorgeous, albeit very challenging tee shot over water that plays to 195 yards from the blue tees. The entire distance will have to be hit if going straight at the green, while a bailout area is found short and right.
Hole 12: Par 3 (223/195/179/147/106)

Hole 12: Par 3 (223/195/179/147/106)
The lakes and ponds found at SentryWorld are attractively bordered with large rocks that were left over from Wisconsin’s glacial eras. There is nothing about this course that feels incomplete.
Thirteen is one of my favorite par fours at SentryWorld, and will likely make its way on to my list of Wisconsin’s top ten par four holes. From the blue tees, the lake at the end of the fairway is about 260 yards from the tee boxes, and with a fairway that slopes slightly that way, is in play. My tee shot was directly over the right side sand trap in the rough, and found its way bounding on to the short surface. The approach here is over a narrow fairway area to a green that is fronted by water, and backed by traps. Playing out of this sand runs toward the lake and makes for a tough up and down.
Hole 13: Par 4 (395/379/359/339/305)

Hole 13: Par 4 (395/379/359/339/305)

Hole 13: Par 4 (395/379/359/339/305)
The fourteenth hole played straight in to the wind and was one of the day’s most intimidating tee shots. With water running the right side of the driving area, the fairway is actually quite open down the left side. The green is two-tiered with a sharp drop-off from the right side down to the left. I was told this is the most difficult green on the course, and can certainly see why.
Hole 14: Par 5 (523/507/477/455/419)

Hole 14: Par 5 (523/507/477/455/419)
Fifteen is a long par four. At 438 yards from the blue tees, the driving area is quite wide, but will leave a long approach shot that is to one of the narrowest greens on the course. The left side has a huge sand trap that must be considered, as well. If favoring one side of this green, favor the right.
Hole 15: Par 4 (457/438/393/349/280)
Walking off the green of the fifteenth hole builds anticipation for one of the most famous golf holes in the state of Wisconsin: The “Flower Hole.”
As any avid Wisconsin golfer has, I have seen pictures of this hole in the past, and have always thought there is no way it could live up to its high expectations. It did, though, and more. The reason I say more is that it would be a very nice par three even without the flowers!
The green is risen and heavily sloped, and the steep bunkers that front it can be awfully penalizing. I hit the front-left trap on my first attempt with an eight-iron, then re-teed and hit a high draw that wound up less than a foot from my first shot. It wasn’t meant to be, I thought, then hit a 56-degree wedge out of the sand to a few feet to set up par.
There are more than 45,000 flowers on the sixteenth hole at SentryWorld, and while they cannot be played from they do allow for a free drop. I do not have a green thumb, and cannot imagine the effort and care that must go in to the seeding and overall management of this hole on an ongoing basis. The flowers are beautifully patterned, and the colors are vibrant and glorious: Oranges, reds, purples, yellows and whites. This hole certainly lived up to my expectations, and has found its way toward the top of my Wisconsin’s top ten par threes ranking.
Hole 16: Par 3 (173/155/127/116/106)

Hole 16: Par 3 (173/155/127/116/106)
Hole 16: Par 3 (173/155/127/116/106)
There is no such thing as an easy finish at SentryWorld – not on the front, and certainly not on the back nine. Seventeen and eighteen are tough par fours, and both over 400 yards. Seventeen has a narrow driving area that doglegs right and finishes over water. The greenside traps on this hole abound in back, and leave a pitch out that runs toward the pond. I found myself in one of these traps and played toward the front-left entrance to keep water out of play.
Hole 17: Par 4 (412/402/371/340/317)

Hole 17: Par 4 (412/402/371/340/317)
A 416-yard par four, eighteen tees up over a small creek and favors a drawn tee shot. A dogleg left leads to a green that is bordered heavily by sand traps, and breaks heavily from left-to-right.
Hole 18: Par 4 (448/416/400/379/297)
Finishing the back nine, I made the turn to a tough par four that proved to be the only hole I birdied on the day. The tee shot should be less than driver, as I found out when mine found sand at the end of the fairway. With a tough lie and 155 yards to go, I hit a drawn seven-iron out to the left side of the green and then an eight-footer for three. This is a tough looking green area, and one I was happy to avoid during my round.
Hole 1: Par 4 (387/371/349/328/291)

Hole 1: Par 4 (387/371/349/328/291)
Two will bring out the claustrophobia in anyone. The left side is lined with trees and out of bounds, while the right side is just trees. Hit whatever goes straight on this hole and hope for a good look at the green. The hole finishes over a number of bunkers, and is tricky in that the putting surface looks to be much closer than it actually is.
Hole 2: Par 4 (416/404/380/357/328)
Three is my other favorite par four at SentryWorld, and actually sets up similarly to the thirteenth. At 397 yards, the fairway bends right and has a pond that runs the entire left side of the approach area. Favor the right portion of the green to stay dry.
Hole 3: Par 4 (405/397/376/362/335)
Hole 3: Par 4 (405/397/376/362/335) 
The fantastic par threes at SentryWorld continue on the fourth hole. At 170 yards from the blue tees, the tee shot is akin to the one on twelve: To hit the left side of the green means carrying the entire water hazard, while the right side is safe [if not in sand]. The expansive cloverleaf bunker long and right of the green would be horrendous to get out of, but I was fortunate to hit a nice seven-iron pin-high to set up an easy par.
Hole 4: Par 3 (187/170/140/120/91)

Hole 4: Par 3 (187/170/140/120/91)
The fifth is tough. The tee shot plays over water to the left, and woods right. Fairway bunkers line the driving area of the right and long edges of the hitting surface, and the necessary shot to carry the entire pond straight is probably longer than most players (certainly me) have in their bags. The narrow fairway runs left along the water hazard, which features an island that is densely populated by tall oak trees.
The green on five is sharply sloped from back to front, including a ledge half-way through that leads to the shoreline of the pond. Sand traps are above and beyond the green surface, and the back-left side of the green leaves a challenging downhill putt that plays right to left (away from the water), which was completely opposite of what I’d expected.
Hole 5: Par 5 (507/489/476/464/392)

Hole 5: Par 5 (507/489/476/464/392)
Marcy, who works at SentryWorld, was kind enough to give me that right to left read, and also to keep an eye on my sixth hole tee shot. With the sun staring me down in front, I had otherwise no idea where my tee shot was headed. This is a very deceptive approach shot on six, as anything hit too far over the front side sand trap will run off the back to back-left of the green. The front-left lower level will hold, but the perfect approach for a right-side pin location would be to carry this bunker with a lofted shot just barely flying the sand.
Hole 6: Par 4 (409/380/362/345/304)
The approach area on the par three seventh might as well be a beach. Rambling sand traps live on all sides of this green, which is otherwise one of the largest putting surfaces on the course.
Hole 7: Par 3 (202/186/154/133/100)
Eight is tough. With woods on both sides of the hole’s layout, the fairway is narrow and littered with bunkers. In all, there are five huge cloverleaf traps on this hole, and three of them are in the fairway’s playing area.
Hole 8: Par 4 (368/355/338/324/297)
At 488 yards from the blue tees, nine reads like a short par five but plays considerably longer. A creek runs through the playing surface twice, dividing the fairway. It would be one heck of a drive to carry this first creek area, and laying up is definitely the right play. Glacial rock lines the creek areas, and trees line the fairways both left and right. The fairway ends slightly right before the winding creek, and leads to a small, triangular shaped green that slopes upwards towards the back. This plays as one of the longest short par fives I can remember.
Hole 9: Par 5 (502/488/466/455/410)

Hole 9: Par 5 (502/488/466/455/410)

Hole 9: Par 5 (502/488/466/455/410)
SentryWorld is a world class golf course. For its nearly perfect playing conditions, excellent hospitality and beautiful hole layouts, it debuts high in my rankings of the top golf courses in the state of Wisconsin, and not just for one hole.
Speaking of hospitality, this was one of the nicest golf courses I have visited. When I arrived, Marcy was working bag drop and was there with a smile and ready to help me get my round started. After making the turn to the front nine, I ran in to her and the rest of a woman’s group about half-way through. Each group happily asked me to play through, and Marcy even joined me for a couple of holes to provide guidance and an extra eye in to the sun on six. Assistant Golf Professional Katie Kreuser was incredibly accommodating, providing me with help on getting through the course in the minimal amount of daylight I had, and the starter Tom came out to meet me several times to offer guidance with this, as well. SentryWorld has a wonderful and helpful staff that certainly caters to their guests.
While the flower hole is certainly a site to behold, there are an abundance of strategic and picturesque holes at SentryWorld, and the layout plays wonderfully from each of these to the next. If you find yourself in central Wisconsin’s Stevens Point area, I strongly recommend a stop at this classic golf course.
Course Wrap-Up:
Location: Stevens Point, WI
Yardage: Black-6951, Blue-6634, Gold-6182, White-5798, Green-5108
Slope/Rating: Black-138/73.9, Blue-135/72.4, Gold-126/70.9, White-122/69.3, Green-115/66
Par: 72
Weekend Rates (including cart): $85

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