North Hills Country Club

I love North Hills Country Club here in Menomonee Falls. Over the last nine years I’ve had the privilege of being a part of NHCC in a variety of ways, including as a full golfing member, participant on several committees and for the last few years with little kids as a social-plus member living on the course.

Before I joined, I lived in the condos across the street, had recently started writing WiscoGolfAddict, and for years played a ton of rounds at almost as many different courses. In 2012, in fact, I got in 124 rounds at 74 different courses. My bank account was leaking like a sieve, and I needed to find a way to enjoy the game I love as much as I wanted without going completely in debt.

That may seem opposite your thoughts on joining a private country club, of course, and it was definitely contrary to what I’d expected. Just in case, I consulted some good friends of mine in the state golf scene, and asked if they knew anything about North Hills. They all did, and they all had glowing things to say about it. The trend, and one I will echo, is this:

“North Hills is a golf course you will never get sick of.”
– Everybody I talked to before joining (and me now)

I would walk by the driving range on my way to and from the Trysting Place Pub (RIP) on random weekend nights and still never gave it any thought. I had almost no experience with private clubs and figured it had to be way out of my reach and affordability.

I decided to set up a meeting with their Director of Membership, though, and when I drove across the street and met with her found out that at my age (early 30’s) it would cost me only a few thousand dollars a year for a full golf membership. I wrote a check for my first year’s dues that night – an act that would change and enhance my life in so many great ways to this day.

It could potentially be a life enhancer for you, too, and this is the perfect time to be posting this article as the club is currently offering its downstroke at half off ($4,000) through June 30, 2022. On July 1, that deal will go away as it returns to $8,000 without any plans for reduction in the near future.

If you’re still with me then hunker down, because this is about to be a long article… I’ve got a lot to say about North Hils Country Club and will try to break it up with plenty of photographs along the way.

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My new member experience

I say “my” because that’s what it is. Any new member experience will be what that person(s) makes of it. Mine was tremendous, though, and I’ll give you some context on why I think it was.

I have seen plenty of people come through the course signing on as young new members, then playing by themselves or with the same small group all the time, never hanging out or getting to know others while trying to find “value” in their membership.

They don’t usually stick around for more than a season or two, and to me that’s because you can’t look at a country club membership as transactional. You obviously want to make sure you love the golf course, and that you’ll be able to afford the dues and any other associated costs, but country clubs are about the community. It’s about having a place that feels like your second home, where you can’t wait to go visit again just to see who’s around to talk golf, sports, business or whatever’s on your mind. It’s about always being able to get a tee time with people you enjoy on a course you love that feels like your very own backyard.

I was a transactional golfer for a long time. I played as much as I could, wherever and with whoever I could, always checking around for available tee times and deals. As a single guy with a small mortgage, very few bills to pay and a good job, it worked for me. Until, of course, it didn’t.

I was nervous about joining a private club. I’d never even seen the course at North Hills and only knew one member there, Kyle, and can’t say we were ever close. We went to the same high school but were a couple years apart. I always thought he was cool, but we’d never spent much time together, had only played one round together at Brown Deer a couple years back, and I wasn’t comfortable reaching out (we’ve since become really great friends).

I was going in blind, but I love meeting new people, building relationships and networks and was really excited about the opportunity. With the golf season still a few months away, I couldn’t wait to be a part of my new community here in the Falls.

I started visiting the club on Thursday and Friday nights for a cocktail or two, sidling up to the bar and talking with whoever was around. Everyone was welcoming and friendly – something I still appreciate so much to this day.

I made a bunch of friendships that first offseason, which led to tee time invites when the season rolled around, and was always willing to put myself out there. That might not come naturally for everyone, but it was easy at North Hills where people were genuinely interested in getting to know me.

North Hills Country Club, from high above Appleton Ave

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There were a lot of new people to meet, and for somebody who’s not always the best at remembering names I made a conscious effort to take notes when I met someone new.

The club had a membership directory they handed out at that time (not sure if they still do or not), and when I’d meet somebody new I’d make a note by their entry to help me remember what they told me about themselves and so on. Nothing crazy, but a way for me to avoid the awkward “What’s your name again?” situations that would otherwise ensue. I’m including that in here as something to think about when joining a new club, company or community – I found it genuinely helpful and it should go without saying that everyone appreciates being remembered.

While I was one new guy for them to remember, they were hundreds. It obviously helped for me that most members there are like me and golf-obsessed.

When the season came around, I found myself sneaking out at lunch hours for a quick six to nine holes, spending 36/day on the course on Saturdays and Sundays, and of course playing a lot after work. There were always people to play with. If I wanted to gamble, I could find those games, and if I just wanted something laidback there was always an option there, too. People invited me to join their groups constantly, and no one ever balked at me signing up with them when their group had an opening or two on ForeTees.

The other great way I met other avid golfers was by signing up for events. Early-season tournaments like the ABCD Mixer (each team is assigned an A-, B-, C- and D-player based on handicaps), taking part in the annual long drive contest or season-long weekend tournaments all bring out new members.

The start of a typical tournament day at North Hills

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And, of course, there were referrals. Through posting about North Hills on my website I referred or heard about over 25 new members who joined the club. A lot of them have been around my age, and a lot of those younger players have brought in more younger players. The club has gotten much, much younger over the last five or six years, and it’s been awesome getting to know so many great new members and their families.

I’ve built a lot of strong friendships at North Hills since 2012, and any Thursday or Friday night I can make my way to the clubhouse for a well-made cocktail and golf chatter is a highlight of my week.

I got married to my wife, Kelly, at North Hills in 2016, and it was a spectacular event. The food and venue, staff, drinks, dancing, ambience and scenery for photos were all perfect, and having access to the venue as part of my membership saved us a ton of money.

I do.

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Just before we got married, we bought a house on the course – so I moved from across the street from the clubhouse to the sixth hole. I’d get home from work on weekdays and had loops of 2, 4, 6 or 9 holes I could always play depending on my time availability, and took full advantage of it.

We started our family soon after, welcoming our son, Charlie, in July of 2017, and our daughter, Quinn, in January of 2019. I went from playing 100+ rounds/year to 20-40, and with my golf writing taking off had to reconsider my full membership as the rounds I’m able to get in oftentimes need to be used as opportunities to develop content.

I played 38 rounds in 2021, including four at North Hills. It’s still the course I play more than anywhere else, and obviously I wish I could get out there more. As a social-plus member, by the way, I’m allowed to play five times a year.

Being a social-plus member (social status with access to the golf practice facilities), I miss being able to put together a game of golf at a moment’s notice. Finding tee times at public courses is a major challenge these days, so when I can’t get something together with a day or two’s notice I typically end up at NHCC banging balls at the range, working on iron shots, chipping or putting.

And if I’ve got an hour or two off in the evening, I like to spend it with the Trackman simulator in the basement, playing Pebble Beach, Merion or St. Andrews. The club has terrific practice facilities even though the outdoor range is a little on the smaller side.

One of my favorite times of the season, when the apple blossom trees are in full bloom

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I sometimes miss being able to swing by the club after work, though, or any weekend morning and always finding a group to enjoy a loop around the course with. And I miss the camaraderie and getting to spend so much time on the course with all the friends I’ve made over the years, or getting to know the new guys. I’ll get back there again someday, I’m sure, especially if/when my son and/or daughter are in to it.

Speaking of kids, Charlie started their junior golf program this past season, and absolutely loves it. The pros do a wonderful job working with the kids, especially Paul Mindel who co-leads North Hills’ junior golf with Head Pro Eddie Terasa. The program has a ton of kids, but there’s always individualized attention as they graduate from 1 hole (usually 100-150 yards) to 3, then 6 and 9 as they progress with their golf games.

As a 4-year-old and I believe the program’s youngest participant last year, Charlie’s a 1-holer. Each Tuesday he’d learn in a small group rotational session with other kids around his age and ability level before playing one hole on the course and hitting up the lunch buffet in the clubhouse.

Charlie loving junior golf at North Hills

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I can’t wait to continue the junior program with Charlie, and I can’t wait to get Quinn involved, too! Paul, Head Golf Professional Eddie Terasa (one of the top competitive players in the history of the state, by the way) and the other pros understand how kids learn, are patient and observant and know all the pitfalls they [and we as parents] need to avoid to keep them interested in and excited about their growth in the game of golf. I learn as much as he does when I take him.

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These days, most of my time spent at the club comes in a few different forms:

  • Taking the family for golf cart rides around sunset
  • The occasional and random hour or two at the bar, usually on Thursday nights
  • Junior golf with Charlie
  • Dinners with the family
  • Social events
  • Photo sessions on the course

My kids love going for rides in the golf cart, or “GCR” as we call it. I bought one a few years back, and while I can’t use it to play golf we can drive around the course and get to and from our house. Down the hill from the tee on four is their favorite part of the drive – a steep decline that makes them scream and laugh like they’re on a rollercoaster… I always have to make sure no one’s playing nearby.

For dining, North Hills is the best place to bring our family with a 2- and 4-year-old. Their food is the best around, they have good service and it’s a real feeling of community where people generally understand and are okay with it if Charlie and Quinn get a little out-of-hand.

We wish we could keep them from ever throwing temper tantrums or running around like crazy people, but they’re kids. We’ve talked to plenty of other friends there with little kids who say the same thing: It’s the place they feel [by far the] most comfortable having a nice dinner with young children (it’s very stressful for us at most restaurants!).

Social events at North Hills are awesome, too. There are some we can never miss, like the Easter Egg Hunt, Breakfast with Santa, 4th of July celebration, camp-out and movie nights, and as many times as we can when there’s live music on the patio. There is very little I enjoy more than having a drink by the big gas fire pit.

One of my favorite places: The main firepit on the North Hills patio

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COVID obviously put a damper on a lot of these social events the last couple of years, but I anticipate them picking up strength again soon.

And, finally, photo sessions. North Hills is a gorgeous parkland golf course and living on it has allowed me to work on new things with my course photography. I’ve got a total of almost 90 folders from days I’ve been out on the course taking pictures, and I’m currently working with the team there on new content for the club’s website. It will be much improved, that’s for sure!

North Hills Country Club has become a big part of my life over the past nine years, and I’m very grateful for the sense of community I get there. If you’re looking for a similar private club experience, please feel free to reach out to me at paul@wiscogolfaddict.com, and I’ll be happy to talk with you about it. Again, as I mentioned earlier:

If you are interested in joining North Hills, I can tell you the initiation fee is currently at $4,000 and will go back to its normal $8,000 after June 30, 2022. The Board does not anticipate it ever going as low as $4K again.

While I don’t think I’d get anything out of it, I do love North Hills and would love to share it with as many of my readers as I can, especially if they can get in at a good value. Please let me know if it’s something you’re exploring.

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The golf course

North Hills Country Club is a fantastic golf course. It’s the kind of place you feel lucky to play once, and then when it’s your home track it really grows on you. I’ve played it hundreds and hundreds of times and have never loved it more than the last time I was out there.

It’s a parkland gem. Superintendent Paul Towler and his grounds crew keep the greens running as quickly and smoothly as any in the area – NHCC is well-known for having some of the best greens around. The fairways and tees are immaculate and the pace of play is typically phenomenal.

When I hosted fellow golf writer/photographer Patrick Koenig this past Fall, in fact, he said the overall conditions at North Hills were better than any of the 74 other courses he had played to that point in Wisconsin for his WSGA “Internship.” Their attention to detail on the course is incredible.

North Hills needs some tree removal, sure, but that’s a project that’s been in the works for years and will continue with hundreds more [mostly] ash trees slated to be taken out.

Looking at the Fall aerial shot below, for example, I’m told the majority of trees near the Menomonee River will be taken out to open up views of the water. There will also be a ton removed to promote better turf growth and strategic play. It won’t be a Lawsonia Links- or Blue Mound-like transformation, but the change will be noticeable and quite welcomed.

The majority of North Hills Country Club from 1,350 feet up in the Fall

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Originally opened in 1929, North Hills was designed by John Barr and most recently renovated in the 1990’s. The course is tree-lined with tight fairways and incredible green complexes that are mostly defended by bunkers.

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A Rich Heritage

Long-time members like to say you read the greens by memory. As a good example, Sam Snead held a one-stroke lead in the 1951 Pabst Blue Ribbon Open over Joe Kirkwood, Jr. (Hollywood’s “Joe Palooka”) coming down the home stretch.

Snead lost the tournament after three-putting the sixteenth (now seventh), then swore in the clubhouse afterwards that his first putt would never break that way again. Dozens of players and attendees walked back to the green with lanterns where Snead hit putt after putt, each of them breaking the same direction.

One of the game’s all-time greatest simply misread it. Snead (-11) finished two shots back of Joe Palooka, and just ahead of fellow PGA legends Lloyd Mangrum (-10), Jimmy Demaret (-5), Julius Boros (-4), Jack Burke Jr. (-4) and George Fazio (-4). Let’s just say there are a lot of major championships in that group.

Local knowledge is key at a course like North Hills where the greens are tiny, highly contoured and oftentimes need to be played with more break than expected.

Other legends of the game who competed here include Ken Venturi (winner of the 1960 Greater Milwaukee Open, beating out Billy Casper (2nd place)) and Arnold Palmer (T3)), and the following year Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus, who tied for 6th in what would be the Golden Bear’s final event as an amateur. Missing out on a $1,300 payday at North Hills in July of 1961, Nicklaus began his professional career the following week in Davenport and would go on to forever change the game of golf.

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North Hills has a rich history of hosting professional events, including PGA tournaments (Pabst Blue Ribbon Opens and Milwaukee Opens), WSGA and USGA events and qualifiers. Its next big tourney will be the 2029 Wisconsin State Open, in time for the club’s 100th anniversary.

Video from the 1940 Milwaukee Open, including Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Ralph Guldahl (winner at 268 for $1,200 of the $5K purse), Johnny Bulla (who set a 54-hole PGA record 197 before a final round meltdown), and others
Thank you to David Pipp and his great grandfather, Alvin “Allie” Drescher for providing this 8mm footage, and to Gene Haas for his expertise in analyzing it

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The Vince Lombardi Golf Classic

In addition to hosting top professionals and amateurs, North Hills has also been the site of the country’s longest running two-day golf event, the Vince Lombardi Golf Classic.

With the exception of 2020 and 2021 because of the pandemic, the VLGC has been played every year since 1971, raising money (over $14 million!) and awareness for cancer research and education in the name of the Green Bay Packers’ and NFL’s greatest ever head coach.

Packer players, alumni and other celebrities highlight the event, which includes two days of golf with food and beverages, a gala at the Pfister Hotel downtown Milwaukee and cocktail and awards reception following the tournament. It is one heck of a party for an outstanding cause.

Lombardi Classic Chairman Mason Crosby speaking at the 2016 Classic
The Vince Lombardi Golf Classic’s message to Bart Starr during the 45th anniversary

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2022 will mark the 50th anniversary of the Lombardi Classic, and more information should be available soon on their website. A spot in this coveted event has cost ~ $1,500/player in the past, and I’m assuming it should be around there again this year. It’s one of my short-term goals to play in it in the next few years.

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The Course

Tipping out at 6,715 yards, and typically playing closer to 6,400, North Hills is not the longest course in the district but is one of the most challenging. The course requires accuracy off the tee, missing in the right spots and a deft touch on its putting surfaces.

They say North Hills handicaps “travel well,” and that’s because if you can get off the tee consistently and get close to its pins then you should be pretty dialed in at most area courses. North Hills will make you a better player.

The front nine heads out with one of the course’s shortest par fours: A 330-yard first hole that plays shorter if driven over the left-side tree line. The smart play is to hit long iron or hybrid off the tee toward the trap on the fairway’s elbow, but long hitters can wail away.

While I’ve still never actually hit this green off the tee, I’ve been in the bunkers on both sides of it and within a few yards of the front quite a few times. Maybe in 2022 I’ll see my first eagle putt.

The opening tee shot at North Hills is a welcoming handshake (plus breakfast balls)

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Pro tip: The first green tilts heavily from left to right. It doesn’t look like it, and in fact I’ve hosted several low-handicap friends who’ve played this green both on the approach and first putt to break right-to-left. It’s ok, they’re in good company with Snead and others who’ve also read these greens all wrong.

The approach shot on one from the fairway trap at the elbow
The dogleg left par four 1st, from above

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The second hole is a medium-to-long par three played significantly uphill. That uphill part is important, as you’ll want to take plenty of club to not only make up for the change in slope but also to cover the massive false front.

Even if you hit the green, keep that front section in mind when putting. There’s not much worse than hitting a tough par three in regulation, then putting off the green and chipping back up for par (not easy to do).

The par three 2nd at dusk

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The number one handicapped hole on the course, the third is a long par four with a whole lot going on. Playing over 430 yards, the tee shot goes downhill and bends left. Long hitters can take on the left-side tree line to minimize their approach, but the smart shot is toward the fairway trap at the crux of the hill.

The approach shot on three plays well uphill, and to a heavily canted left-to-right green that is maybe 15 yards wide at most. Out-of-bounds lines the left past the green-side bunker, while anything right of the sand trap on that half might as well be considered jail, having to pitch back up to a narrow green complex defended by a deep bunker.

Par on three is tremendous. Birdie is even better, and I’ve only had two of them in all my rounds at North Hills.

A look back from the 3rd green complex toward St. Anthony’s steeple

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Speaking of birdie on three, the cannon at the front-left corner of the fourth tee boxes used to hold a bottle of scotch. Anybody who birdied three was allowed a swig from that bottle, until of course a member’s daughter and her high school friends got into it one night… Still, it’s a tradition I’d like to see rekindled.

A short par five, the fourth is risk/reward golf at its very best. With as inaccurate of a driver as I am, I can’t get myself to hit driver off the tee anymore. I pull hybrid so I can’t possibly hit the right-side tree line, but every time I think to myself how amazing it would be to crank driver down the middle and have a short-to-long iron in. Some day!

The demanding tee shot on four at North Hills CC
A more elevated view of the tee shot on four
An 1,100ft view showing the fifth fairway’s hourglass shape

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The miss off the tee on four is to the left, which will allow for a recovery shot utilizing the fairway’s downhill, right-to-left slope to cuddle up to the approach area for a simple wedge in. Anything right off the tee is going to bring in the possibility of very big numbers, forcing players to hit high wedges or irons over the tree line.

The fairway climbs uphill and narrows around 250 yards, goading long hitters to risk disaster for a chance at hitting this green in two.

A more elevated view of the fourth from above the fifth tee box

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Updated in the 1990’s, the green on four is surrounded left, right and in front by deep traps that require the approach here to be all flight – there’s just a sliver of fairway at its front-left that will let anything run on to the putting surface.

Pro tip: Especially in the Fall, a look back from beyond the green on four is one of the course’s best photo opps.

A look back toward the tees on four
One more look at the fourth green complex, from the opposite side

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The fifth at North Hills is my kryptonite. With out-of-bounds left and a slim fairway, I tend to get tight on this tee box and my historical Arccos numbers show it, hitting the fairway here ~ 30% of the time and averaging a full stroke over par.

“Nothing to worry about here – just swing away”

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If you can hit the fairway, especially on the right side, this 385-yard par four is gettable. A decent drive should set up a mid-to-short iron or wedge in, so take aim over the front-right trap and watch your shot bend in right-to-left on this severely sloped back-to-front putting surface.

The 5th near sunset

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The sixth is one of the true signature holes at North Hills. The play here is driver or three-wood off the tee, right of the St. Anthony’s steeple on the horizon but left of the tree line.

Aim right of the steeple on six…

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Anything left of the steeple is bound to hit the fairway and carom left into the trees. Almost everything is findable there, but you’ll be navigating branches to recover and will have very little chance of getting on this green in two.

A good drive toward the right side of the fairway, though, will occasionally hit the right-to-left slope and bound all the way down the fairway, leaving a short wedge in on the #3-handicapped hole on the course.

The sixth finishes well downhill and to the left, adjacent to the seventh tees

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My family and I live on the sixth, and I like to think of it as my home hole.

Pro tip: The green on six is unique at North Hills in that it runs away from the fairway, toward the Menomonee River (and slightly left-to-right).

I think the seventh is one of the most beautiful holes on the entire golf course at North Hills, especially when played from the white tees. From the whites, it’s a manageable 135-150 yards with probably 25-35 feet of uphill climb. From the blues or blacks, you’re looking at 175 to 200-plus with a really tough green to hit, out-of-bounds left and right plus the river and a steep hillside leading to it short.

When I lose balls at North Hills, it tends to be on this tee shot.

Tee shot on seven from the back tees
An aerial view of seven from above the Menomonee River

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I also had my only hole-out from the tee ever from back there, though! Back in 2017, a couple months before our son was born, I walked out on the course to play a few holes before my wife got home from work. After playing the sixth, I absolutely flushed a 5-iron on seven. It had a tight little cut and hit the green right where you’d want it to hit to tidy up close to a back-left pin.

Being so far uphill, you can’t see where your ball rolls out on seven, but I knew it would be good and had a feeling it was in. The shot, though… The shot felt so good I had to hit another. The second felt even better, but with a nice little draw action almost on the same line. I was pretty sure there were going to be two balls in the hole when I got up to the green, so I took my phone out and recorded the walk.

When I got there, there was just one ball on the green, about ten feet past the pin. The other was the Bridgestone B330S I hit with my second swing, and it was at the bottom of the cup.

Great par!

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It never would have counted anyways, since there were no witnesses and I wasn’t playing an actual round, but it was still awesome. Like most golf enthusiasts, I’m still chasing my first hole-in-one.

The green on seven is probably the largest on the course, which doesn’t say much. North Hills can be target golf, and even though this green is massive it still requires some precision to hit the right section. A substantial spine runs up and down the putting surface, making front-left putts especially interesting.

Why is the seventh green uncharacteristically large at North Hills, you ask? The answer as I know it is that it’s the one green that wasn’t original to the 1929 design.

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Overhead view of the seventh at North Hills and its huge ribboned green complex

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During his time working for the PGA, the great AW Tillinghast (architect of at least eight of the country’s top 100 courses) traveled the country visiting tournament courses at the behest of the Tour’s President, George Jacobus.

Tillinghast, at the request of North Hills PGA member John Bird, was called to North Hills in November of 1935 to examine the course’s “troublesome” seventh hole.

At the time a 127-yard uphill par three, the green was originally built into the hillside 20 yards short of where it is today. The “violently sloping green was most objectionable,” Tilly wrote, so he helped redesign it in a more natural location atop the hill that would be susceptible to receiving tee shots while adding helpful distance to the scorecard.

The Menomonee River flowing through the [from top to bottom] 3rd, 15th, 12th and 7th holes

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While Tillinghast also consulted on the second and perhaps other greens at NHCC, those were simply recontoured while [I’m assuming] maintaining their original shapes and dimensions.

Pro tip: The look back over the green and down the hill toward the squared-off tee box on seven is my other favorite photo opportunity on the course. Have your camera ready.

Probably the easiest hole on the course, eight is a straightaway par four measuring just 341 yards. The green has some slope to it, but the key here is to avoid the fairway bunkers on the right while not giving in to the tee box’s suggested aiming point well left.

Take note of the way the tee boxes align – I have hit plenty of shots straight into the woods left of seven. Something about it messes with my head.

A view down the eighth fairway at NHCC

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Back down the fairway of 8

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The second of three par fives at North Hills, the front nine ends with the course’s longest hole at 550 yards from the tips or 520 from the blues. As with the majority of the front nine, which travels the 120-acre club’s property line, out-of-bounds lingers to the left.

A good tee shot on nine will be left of the traps at the left-to-right bend in the fairway. From there it’s a long way home. I’ve still never hit this green in two, though I’ve come close and been both left and right of it. The entrance to the green on nine is one of the narrowest, and both sides are bunkered (“Duffer’s headaches,” as Tillinghast called them) while the green runs primarily from the right to left and uphill.

The restrictive tee shot on 9
A look back down the fairway on 9

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Grab a drink and a hot dog at the turn because we’re heading to the back nine!

The inward nine kicks off with a stern challenge: A long par four with a sharply tilted back-to-front green that runs right-to-left. Again, traps are on each side and I’ve found the miss here is short; the green is otherwise so narrow that unless I’m inside 130-140 yards I’ll take hitting the right-side trap completely out of the equation. Not many others are going to par here, either!

A look back from the tenth green toward the clubhouse

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Eleven can be sneaky difficult. The fairway looks wide, but in effect anything right of the center fairway bunker is going to make for a really tough green-in-regulation.

The eleventh – anything right of the central sand trap will be tough to get on
The approach area from a lower angle

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For that reason, I always either swing as hard as I can toward the green with driver or else try to hug the left tree line, which will afford the best look on the approach.

With traps left and right of the putting surface, it’s easy to over-read the eleventh green, so take my word for it: Almost nothing breaks. This is by far the flattest putting surface on the entire golf course. Ever since I realized that, which took me a long time to figure out, I’ve started dropping bombs on eleven.

Its position as the eighteenth-handicapped hole at North Hills is deceiving – there’s not much easy about twelve, especially from the black & blue (see what I did there?) tees.

The par three 12th from the tee
A more elevated view of the 18th-handicapped 12th

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Typically playing around 165-180 yards from those (155 from the whites), the shot plays like the distance you shoot with your rangefinder. Even though it looks downhill, trust the number.

One of the few holes on the course without traps on both sides of the green, the twelfth is instead elevated with a pair of bunkers on the left (the green runs away from them) and two massive trees on the right. A back pin, especially, is almost impossible to get to on twelve, while a front-right pin is the most accessible.

Flowers on the 12th; photo credit: Patrick Koenig (pjkoenig.com)
Early Spring on the par three 12th

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Thirteen is why I got into electric golf caddies, and I’m pretty sure will end up being Charlie’s first job: Giving players rides up the hill for tips 🙂

Featuring the actual “North Hills” of the property, thirteen has the only significant hill players need to climb. It’s a bit of a beast, and probably the main reason members can opt for a cart versus walking. Other than this one hill, NHCC is as good of an everyday walking course as you’ll find. I hate riding in a cart there, in fact – the walk is too enjoyable, especially with a caddy or electric cart like my Bat-Caddy X4R.

The tee shot on thirteen needs to carry a steep hill for a good look, and players should hug the right-side tree line for the best approach to a tricky green that’s always been tough to read.

The thirteenth green at NHCC
The 13th from above the halfway house

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The number one handicapped hole on the back nine, fourteen gives me nightmares. Similar to the fourth, the target driving area narrows the farther out you hit, then drops off the face of the earth as an accurate shot in the fairway will get an extra 50-plus yards of roll down the hill. Inaccurate shots [like most of mine] will find the tree line on either side (usually left for me) and require a solid punch-out game. My punch-out game, by the way, has gotten really good since joining North Hills!

Because it’s so hard to picture the layout of this hole from the tee, I put together this video to show the dramatic drop-off half-way down the fairway:

An elevated view of 14 “flattens” out the hole, allowing a view to the green
Overhead view of the narrow green on 14

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The fifteenth is my favorite hole on the entire course. A short four, the green is reachable (not easily, but I’ve seen it done a few times) from the white tees. Unless you’ve got a 290-yard carry with a really tall draw, though, chances are you’ll be playing over the river to the bend in the right side of the fairway.

I typically hit hybrid off this tee, and if I find the shoulder bunker will never complain.

Tee shot on fifteen, played across the Menomonee River
The Menomonee River intersecting the 15th
Overhead view of the 15th hole south of the Menomonee River

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Where fifteen gets really special is on the green. This huge (for North Hills) putting surface is the wildest one on the entire course, and players should feel great anytime they leave it after two-putting.

A peak around the corner on fifteen; photo credit: Patrick Koenig (pjkoenig.com)
As much of the 15th hole as can possibly fit into a camera frame

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One of the most sneakily challenging holes at North Hills, the sixteenth is around 400 yards and plays to a fairway that runs subtly from left to right.

The green is probably the toughest to read on the entire course, with most of it breaking right-to-left but subtle mounding contoured throughout that influences putts in different directions.

Green reading is an art at North Hills, and can save players a lot of strokes.

The approach area on 16 at North Hills

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The sixteenth plays as one of the two hardest to par every season at North Hills (along with the third).

Members both love and fear the three finishing holes here. Beginning with the challenging sixteenth, the seventeenth doesn’t let up as players are faced with 200-plus yards uphill to an elevated green on what’s arguably one of the hardest par threes around.

The miss on seventeen is short or left – never right into what we lovingly refer to as “Weber’s Woods.” Anything right of the green will be next to impossible to get up and down, while recovery shots from the left allow players to use the green as more of a backstop to get their approach shots close.

The long, challenging par three 17th

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The eighteenth is a great finishing hole, with the opportunity to swing out of your shoes both off the tee and on the second shot.

The green is highly risen, though, and its entrance is about as narrow as the one that caps off the front nine with zero opportunity to run shots on because of its sizable false front.

The dramatic false front on the narrow right-to-left green complex on 18
The 18th at sunset, offset to show the stark dropoffs around the green

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The bunkers both left and right of the green complex are deep – well below the surface of the green and next to impossible to hold if you’re in the one on the right side.

The typical tournament pin position is front-right, which is the hardest to get to and forces players to consider their pace to avoid rolling putts past the hole and back off the green entirely.

A look back toward the tee on 18 at North Hills
The finishing green complex at NHCC

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If you’re still with me, you can probably tell I love and am passionate about North Hills Country Club. I love this golf course, I love the membership, its staff (especially General Manager Joe Coan, who is the perfect person to be leading its operations during these challenging times) and the great sense of community I’ve come to know so well over the years.

North Hills’ Clubhouse at the start of the golden hour

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If you’re in the Falls area and on the lookout for a great golf club to join in 2022, I can’t say enough good things about NHCC and will stress that if I was looking to join I’d do it sooner rather than later, both to start building relationships that could turn in to golf buddies come Spring and especially to take advantage of the currently reduced initiation fee (mentioned earlier) that will go up July 1, 2022.

If you are interested in joining North Hills, feel free to reach out to me with questions or get in contact directly with the Club’s Membership Director, Jennifer Rehl, at (262) 251-5750 or via email at jennifer@nhccwi.com (and please let her know you read this review). I’d love to see you out at my favorite place in 2022!

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Course Wrap-Up:
Location: Menomonee Falls, WI
Yardage: Championship-6,715, Blue-6,424, White-6,208
Slope/Rating: Championship-133/73.2, Blue-130/71.9, White-127/70.7
Par: 71

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North Hills Country Club website

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4 thoughts on “North Hills Country Club

  1. Paul I agree 100% with my friend and constant competitor Mr Barranco. I’m sending your exquisite review to my brother Bill who travels to North Hills once a year for the Men’s Invitational in July, something he has done since the event was revived shortly after The Queen & I joined some 23 years ago. As further testimony to the accuracy of your review the Men’s Invitational and the “North Hills Experience” is my brother’s number activity on his calendar every year. He is a much more accomplished golfer than me and loves everything about the course, as do we all. North Hills is quite frankly the center of our social universe. You absolutely nailed it with your comments about camaraderie, fantastic dining experience, and unparalleled golf. Thank you for such a comprehensive review…the photography is outstanding! JD

    1. JD like I said to Don, I can’t say thank you enough for your comments on this post. Like you guys, I love North Hills and it’s certainly become a huge part of our social universe over the years, as well – even becoming friends with folks like yourself and Gaylene and your kids!

      The toughest part of the photography on this review was cutting down on the number of images used – NHCC is always a beautiful subject, but as you’d say, “I may not be good for much, but…”

  2. Paul, I thoroughly enjoyed the article on North Hills and your analysis of why we love playing there is “spot on”. I never, and I repeat, never get sick of this golf course. It is a pleasure to play and a privilege to be a member. I have played this course hundreds of times and now that I am approaching a super senior in age, can say that it has been the best bargain I have ever had for playing golf at an outstanding Golf Club. Every course I play, I compare to North Hills and find few if any that compare to it in quality of play and course conditions. I will see you in the Spring, most likely near the 6th tee or in the lounge. Don

    1. Don I can’t say enough how much I enjoyed your and JD’s comments on my post. I’ve always felt the same way about North Hills – I feel like I will only ever love it more, and every time I play it I’m happy to be there, even during rounds I’m playing TERRIBLY for 17 holes then drop my 3rd shot from 126 out for eagle on 18 🙂 Like “whipped cream on…” my friend! Looking forward to seeing you, JD and the rest of the gang out there come Spring.

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