Let’s start out by saying that I (and my fellow buddies from North Hills Country Club) loved the Racine Country Club experience.
The course is classic with small, lightning-fast greens, and the clubhouse and facilities are beautiful. I don’t think I’ve seen a club in Wisconsin with better amenities, in fact.
The food was fantastic. I got a dozen chicken wings before our round (I’m not a warm up on the range kind of guy), and a massive fish filet afterwards. The wings were meaty and the buffalo sauce was perfect. The fish was delicious, as were the sides and drinks.
The clubhouse sprawls. It looks nice from the front, but amazing from inside and behind. It actually reminds me of the clubhouse at Blackwolf Run when viewed from the course, which I consider to be the prettiest clubhouse in the state.
The club’s facilities are plentiful and tastefully done. The pro shop is adequate, and the locker room is world-class. Each locker is dark wood with the RCC inscription engraved. There is a bar in the men’s locker room – a feature I always like – and it is manned by Gene who is a bit of a celebrity, himself. Gene retired from Case more than fifteen years ago, and took the job as the men’s locker room assistant for something to do. He has been there ever since, and provides the experience every country club strives to find someone to deliver.
We were told to make sure we get a drink from Gene, who makes a solid concoction but more than anything provides customer service that is second to none.
After getting to the club, Scott and I went to the bar upstairs and I ordered my wings. Kyle and Nick texted us that they were at the locker room bar downstairs, so we made the journey to the men’s locker room and I told the bartender upstairs and he had them delivered there. When we made our way back to the upstairs bar, my wings were already delivered downstairs. I made my way down there and Gene said, “No, sir I will carry them for you,” to which I told him I was happy to carry it. He gave me every excuse why it would be better for him to carry them, including that it will look better to my friends, and we were on our way back to the upstairs pub. I tried giving him five dollars for his inconveniences, but he wasn’t having it.
Private golf clubs are all about the golf, followed by customer service and experience, if you ask me. Racine Country Club excels on all fronts.
Enough about buffalo wings – I didn’t even mention the huge game room downstairs including a billiards table, four bowling lanes, tons of card tables and lounge areas. I also didn’t mention the awesome lounge in the men’s locker room, the beautiful upstairs bar and numerous dining areas, the fitness center, pool or tennis courts… Let’s just say I was jealous and wish my club had the space to catch up!
We had a great foursome for Saturday’s round, including my friends Kyle, Nick and Scott, who are all 4-handicaps. I got 6 total strokes on the day, and our game du jour was wolf. In wolf, foursomes keep a rotation where the last player to tee off has to decide after each tee shot if he/she wants to partner with that person. If passed, that player cannot be picked. Sometimes it ends up that they pass on the first two and the third player to tee off duck-hooks one in to the water – in that case, they can choose to go alone and risk losing two points, but also have the opportunity to earn three.
I was chosen several times because of great drives. After the majority of those, I hit green-side bunkers next. Normally that’s not a big deal since I pride myself in my sand game, but the traps at Racine Country Club are nothing like the ones I’ve become used to. The traps at Racine are deep and with heavy sand, very similar to the sand at Bandon Dunes. It’s the kind of sand that feels like it was taken from a beach, and swinging with arms will not get the job done.
The course at Racine Country Club starts out in glorious fashion, with steeply elevated tee boxes adjacent to the pro shop and overlooking a narrow but short opening par five. There is a little more room to the left than it looks, and none to the right.
The fairway bends hard right at about 400 yards, so the second shot will either have to carry out-of-bounds to the right or else be played safely left toward the elbow.
The first hole initiates players to the greens at Racine Country Club, which are… Fast. And small. I was told putting here is like putting on concrete more times than I can remember leading up to our round, and the actual experience did not disappoint.
The second hole is a little intimidating from the tee, as the left-to-right dogleg par four is mostly hidden and the river that runs through the fairway mostly blends in to the playing surface. A solid drive over 200 yards should carry the water with ease and leave a manageable approach.
One thing that is immediately noticeable by the second hole is that Racine Country Club has a very large footprint! While it is a shorter course by today’s standards (very typical of older private clubs), it has a massive physical footprint that could be used for a myriad of tee box expansions.
As with most greens at Racine, bunkers protect both sides of the green, which is small and heavily undulating. A false front is almost unrecognizable until rolling a ball over it, which made the front-right pin a challenging one.
If I have one complaint about Racine Country Club, it is that it is not well marked. The fairways are well marked, but there are no signs by tee boxes and for four first-time players finding the next hole got confusing a few times.
The third hole was our introduction to this. We had to call back to the couple playing behind us to make sure we were at the right spot.
The third hole is a par four dogleg right that tees up from 403 yards from the blue tees. There is plenty of room to hit any club in your bag off the tee, so wail away.
We caught a group on four, who quickly waved us through on this tricky uphill par three.
The tee shot plays from 184 yards from the tips, and was in to the wind. I hit four-iron to the front of the green, and everyone else went left off the tee. The left side of the green is canted hard toward the front-right, which can be seen in the picture below.
A back-left pin was hellish for the other guys who missed to that side.
As a general rule of thumb, trust everyone who says to keep shots below the hole. Consider me one of those people giving you that same advice!
The fifth is a tough, although short dogleg left par four. Several ponds on the left side are well hidden from the tees, and even though the far trap down the middle looks unreachable, we had two guys reach it. I snap-hooked my drive left in to the second of the ponds on the left.
The sixth at Racine Country Club is a very, very cool golf hole! A classic reachable[ish] short par four, this hole tees up straight away from 311 yards on the blue tees.
Pretty simple so far, right? Stepping out of the cart, though, it is immediately evident that smashing driver as hard as you can may not be the smartest play. Going left will lead to a lost ball through the trees and down a ravine, and humongous trees guard the right side, as well.
The sixth is probably the narrowest hole I have ever played, competing against the tenth on the Meadow Valleys course at Blackwolf Run and well ahead of the eleventh at Big Fish.
The green is elevated and has traps both left and right. It is shallow from front-to-back, a collection trap lies about 25 yards short-left, and the massive clubhouse looms large on the horizon behind it.
Driver is not the smart play here, but we didn’t drive all the way to Racine to lay up on a 311-yard par four! Kyle got closest to reaching this hole off the tee, rolling just short of the green-side bunker right of the putting surface. My provisional tee shot cleared the left-side bunker, but was still 20 yards short in three.
Even though our group lost two balls here, we all agreed the sixth at Racine Country Club is a phenomenal golf hole!
The seventh is another hole that was confusing to find. We originally went to the tee boxes on thirteen before realizing we were in the wrong place.
Difficult for non-members to find or not, it’s a tough and long par four. The right side is tree-lined while water lingers left. Nick’s golf watch told us it was 255 from the blue tees, so everyone hit driver… And well. We were all right of the pond and in the fairway, and three of us were on the green of this 422-yard par four in regulation. Kyle made his putt for birdie, while the rest of us settled for standard pars.
The approach over water on the par four seventh hole – hazards linger everywhere on a green that slopes hard from back-right to front:
The eighth proved to be a tough par three for us. Over water and dead in to the wind, it’s all carry to a wide green where everything short winds up in the water.
I miss-hit my tee shot badly, skipping it across the pond and almost in to the sand trap – it got up on the grass, then rolled backwards in to the water. The layup here is short-right, but with a front-right pin there is nothing easy about that, either.
Similar to my home course North Hills Country Club in Menomonee Falls, Racine Country Club does not feel short. There is plenty of challenge, although the par fives are on the shorter side at 473, 524, 485 and 554. The 473-yard first hole is the only three-shotter I would consider to be reachable in two from playing the course once. The others, including the ninth, would require either incredible precision on a blind second shot or else a drive that will not let players get close enough to be inside 250 from the putting surface.
The ninth is an excellent front nine closing hole. We had some long hitters in our group, and nobody had issues hitting driver off the tee. The large tree in the distance is the target, which splits the approach area over the river and directly right another 250 or so yards.
Right is the wrong way to miss this tee shot, while bailing out left off the tee will leave an even longer second shot in.
The second shot plays long over water to a tiny green that you do not want to be above the pin on.
Take a minute at the turn to grab a Johnsonville brat at the half-way house, which abuts the tennis court facilities, and make your way to the par three tenth hole.
The tenth looks much longer than it is. We felt we were in to the wind, and three of us took too much club. Scott was the only one to hit the green, and recorded the only par in our group. The putting surface runs from back-right to front-left, toward the left-side sand trap.
The eleventh is a long par four at 444 yards from the tips, but can be attacked a multitude of different ways off the tee. Long and down the middle is a good start, while long and over the right side of the trees can leave a shorter approach through an aisle of ponds to an elevated green.
There is water left, as seen below, but the pond right is less evident and the one to worry more about. It runs almost to the back-right greenside bunker.
Two massive swans live in this area of the course, and this was my attempt to pretend I was petting one from well in front of it. It obviously did not work out as well as I’d hoped.
A look back from the top of the eleventh green:
The twelfth is a narrow, mid-length par four that plays between giant treelines.
A view from the fairway:
The left side of the green is heavily risen, and well-protected by the all oak tree that fronts it.
Thirteen was another tee box we had a hard time locating. It is a little behind, uphill and to the left of the twelfth green.
The tee shot here is beautiful, with a right-to-left veering fairway. A drawn tee shot started at the right-side fairway bunkers is ideal.
The fourteenth is a beast of a par four! We all still thought it might be a par five after our tee shots, in fact. It plays over a massive depressed area (pictures do not do the change in elevation justice) to a fairway that runs uphill.
A look back at the tee boxes shows the elevation change a little more effectively:
From the uphill fairway, the green is still mostly hidden:
The fifteenth at Racine Country Club is a crazy par five! While the tee shot is straightforward enough, things get really confusing from there.
The view from a long tee shot:
Driving up to the approach area reveals what’s going on here. The fairway falls heavily to the left and a pond fronting the putting surface makes reaching this green in two a monumental task. The player would have no idea if they hit it until driving over the hill, and if they missed then locating their ball among the trees, bunkers and pond would be a challenge in and of itself.
A look back from the green on fifteen:
I really enjoyed the fifteenth hole, but would have to play it a few more times to come up with any kind of strategy. All four of us bailed out to the left on the second shot to stay safe.
The sixteenth is the longest par three on the course, teeing up from 204 yards from the back tees. Trees line the left side of the flight zone, and the green is heavily canted from back to front.
The seventeenth plays between trees to a fairway that runs hard from right to left. At just 373 yards from the back tees, less than driver may be preferred here to catch a piece of the fairway and set up a reasonable approach.
The eighteenth is a big finishing hole at Racine Country Club. The tee shot has to stay right of the fescue and shrubbery that lines the left side, but ideally will stay left of the right side to make sure a long enough shot can be played for the setup.
This is not a two-shot par five by any means. The green is much farther back than we’d envisioned, and is in a tight space that requires precision. Traps surround the green and tall trees will make any long shot have to be hit awfully straight.
There is a deeply recessed area in the rough and trees to the right side of the approach surface that should also be avoided by any means.
Lunch on the back patio overlooking the eighteenth hole is the perfect way to end a day at Racine Country Club, and the food service and drinks did not disappoint.
I am looking forward to getting back to Racine again, and certainly understand why so many people have told me it is a must-play among the private clubs in the state of Wisconsin.
While I loved the Racine Country Club experience and am quite jealous of their facilities, especially, there is one factor that would not be ideal to me as a potential home club: The clubhouse is perched so high above the course that there would not be options for “Walking a few holes to waste some time,” or after settling up bets heading back out for a quick one-club tournament or “Emergency nine.”
The tenth tee is down the hill and adjacent to the tennis courts, and the first tee is so highly elevated that if you were to start there and walk a few holes you would then be tasked with a long and arduous uphill walk. There are numerous “Heart-attack hills” that would make walking the course a challenge, which is how I prefer to play. Because of its massive physical footprint, my initial impression is that Racine is likely a riding-only course.
It is a tremendous riding-only course, though, that’s for sure.
Location: Racine, WI
Yardage: Blue-6656, White-6477, Gold-5735, Red-5362
Slope/Rating: Blue-133/73.2, White-130/71.7, Gold-125/68.8, Red-121/67.1
Weekend Rates: N/A (private club)