The Wisconsin Dream 18: The State’s Best Golf Holes

Several influential Wisconsin golf enthusiasts, Jerry Rossi and Keith Robel, recently posted their All-WI 18 on Twitter – the 18 best holes in Wisconsin with the following rules:

  • Each hole has to be where it lives on the actual course’s scorecard
  • Only one hole can be used per course

While the idea behind my post is not original, it is a fun practice, and one I’ve tried a dozen or so times in the past but got too frustrated to actually finish. I decided to give it a go again, though, especially as I reflect on what was a great season of golf in Wisconsin and look forward to 2023.

Note: Only courses I’ve played and photographed have been considered.


My Wisconsin Dream 18

1st Hole – Par 4
Green Bay Country Club (Green Bay)
Yardages: 381/364/349/319

11 others considered:
Brown Deer (par 4), Racine (5), Ozaukee (4), Erin Hills (5), Blackwolf Run/River (5), Sandbox (3), Milwaukee (4), University Club (4), West Bend (4), Tuckaway (4), Mammoth Dunes (4)

Green Bay CC has an incredible lineup of memorable golf holes, and the first bucks the trend of warm handshakes to start a round. With an elevated tee shot and water left, right and long, players better have dialed in the right tee shot on the range before heading out… Or be cool with a breakfast ball [or two].

Green Bay Country Club: Wisconsin’s Best New-Age Private Course

2nd Hole – Par 4
Erin Hills (Erin)
Yardages: 358/338/316/316

12 others considered:
The Club at Lac La Belle (4), Whistling Straits/Straits (5), University Ridge (5), Grand Geneva/Brute (5), Lawsonia/Woodlands (4), The Sandbox (3), Sand Valley (4), Mammoth Dunes (4), North Shore (4), Westmoor (4), Washington County (4), University Club (5)

A hole that some may look past on such an incredible golf course, the short second at Erin Hills has so much built into it including a mostly blind tee shot, crazy fairway contouring and one of the property’s smallest and hardest to hit greens.

Erin Hills Golf Course: A Legend at 15

3rd Hole – Par 4
Glen Erin Golf Club (Janesville)
Yardages: 366/345/319/258

12 others considered:
Blue Mound (3), Kenosha (3), North Shore (4), West Bend (5), North Hills (4), Whistling Straits/Straits (3), Hawks View (3), Westmoor (4), Wild Rock (4), Blackwolf Run/River (3), Mammoth Dunes (5), Wildridge (5)

The Greg Martin-designed Glen Erin is one of Wisconsin’s true hidden gems, and the third is probably my favorite hole on property with its extremely elevated green complex and intense front-right bunkering.

Glen Erin Golf Club: Wisconsin’s Best Hidden Gem?

4th Hole – Par 3
The Club at Lac La Belle (Oconomowoc)
Yardages: 192/169/169/151

16 others considered:
Westmoor (4), University Club (4), University Ridge (4), The Baths at Blackwolf Run (3), Ozaukee (3), Geneva National/Player (3), Stevens Point (3), Ozaukee (3), Strawberry Creek (3), Nakoma (3), North Shore (3), Hawks Landing (3), Hidden Glen (3), Whistling Straits/Irish (4), Kenosha (5), Horseshoe Bay (5)

With one of the largest, most undulating green complexes in all of Wisconsin, the mid-range fourth at La Belle is a Craig Haltom masterpiece with an exhilarating hole-in-one pin location in the back-right.

The Club at Lac La Belle: Craig Haltom’s Home Run

5th Hole – Par 4
Geneva National, Player (Lake Geneva)
Yardages: 361/322/300/270

12 others considered:
Blackwolf Run/River (4), Sand Valley (3), SentryWorld (5), Ozaukee (5), Hawks Landing (5), Pine Hills (3), Tuckaway (3), Westmooor (3), Stevens Point (4), Kenosha (4), Mammoth Dunes (4), Whistling Straits/Irish (5)

I love choose-your-own-adventure par fours, and the fifth on the Player course at G-Nat is risk/reward at its finest.

Geneva National Resort: Great Times and Golf in Wisconsin’s Top Summertime Destination

6th Hole – Par 5
Wild Rock (Wisconsin Dells)
Yardages: 588/551/525/504

11 others considered:
Abbey Springs (3), Mammoth Dunes (4), Lawsonia/Links (4), Sand Valley (4), North Hills (4), Green Bay (5), Wildridge (3), Ozaukee (3), Hidden Glen (3), Horseshoe Bay (4), University Club (4)

With views for days peering out over the Dells and Baraboo, the sixth at Wild Rock is a high-low-high adventure.

Wild Rock at the Wilderness Resort

7th Hole – Par 4
Kenosha Country Club (Kenosha)
Yardages: 350/349/319/335

12 others considered:
Lawsonia/Links (3), West Bend (4), Green Bay (4), Pioneer Pointe (3), North Hills (3), Trappers Turn/Canyon (3), Pine Hills (3), Blue Mound (3), North Shore (3), Horseshoe Bay (4), Mammoth Dunes (5), Washington County (5)

The green on seven at Kenosha is the star of this hole – a half-bowl that ushers approach shots from the left side careening toward the middle-right. This is a fun Donald Ross beauty.

Kenosha Country Club: Wisconsin’s Top Ross

8th Hole – Par 3
West Bend Country Club (West Bend)
Yardages: 159/138/138/130

12 others considered:
Blue Mound (4), The Bull (5), Oconomowoc (5), The Sandbox (3), Mammoth Dunes (3), Sand Valley (3), Milwaukee (3), Hawks Landing (3), Pine Hills (4), Ozaukee (4), Glen Erin (5), Westmoor (5),

The par three 8th at West Bend highlights so much of what’s great about Langford/Moreau golf architecture, especially through its use of mounding to play with players’ depth perception and its elevated and extremely back-left to front-right canted green complex cut before the ridge.

Golf Course Review: West Bend Country Club (updated review in progress)

9th Hole – Par 4
Milwaukee Country Club (River Hills)
Yardages: 325/325/300/214

12 others considered:
Pine Hills (3), Sand Valley (4), Blue Mound (4), Bullseye (4), Tuckaway (4), Stevens Point (3), Grand Geneva/Brute (4), Glen Erin (4), Green Bay (4), University Club (4), The Bog (5), Westmoor (5)

A challenging finish to the front nine, the ninth at MCC is short par four perfection.

Milwaukee Country Club: Wisconsin’s Ultimate Private Golf Experience

10th Hole – Par 4
Sand Valley, Mammoth Dunes (Rome)
Yardages: 339/323/296/279

15 others considered:
Whistling Straits/Irish (4), Blue Mound (4), Sand Valley (5), Milwaukee (5), Northern Bay (3), Pioneer Pointe (3), The Sandbox (3), Whistling Straits/Straits (4), North Hills (4), Kenosha (4), Abbey Springs (5), Mammoth Dunes (5), Hawks View (5), Green Bay (5), Pine Hills (4)

Position off the tee is key on the opening hole of the back nine at Mammoth. While driver can get you close to the green, do you really want a 40-yard wedge off a tight lie to a green way over your head with a massive false front?

Sand Valley, Mammoth Dunes: McLay Kidd’s Midwest Masterpiece

11th Hole – Par 3
Whistling Straits, Irish (Haven)
Yardages: 208/193/177/169

12 others considered:
Blackwolf Run/River (5), Horseshoe Bay (4), Hidden Glen (4), Strawberry Creek (5), Grand Geneva/Brute (5), Hawks View (3), Wildridge (4), Milwaukee (4), Kenosha (4), Ozaukee (4), University Club (5), Whistling Straits/Straits (5)

If Pacific Dunes can feature back-to-back par threes, then so can my Wisconsin Dream 18, especially since we’re keeping the two literally right next to each other. These two beauties on the Whistling Straits property are separated by just a few hundred yards yet offer incredibly contrasting playing experiences.

The 11th on the Irish course, “Lamb Chop,” is a signature Pete Dye design with sand running the interior of the flight path and all around the green. Tall mounds flank the left side, providing cool scenery that’s only bested by the Scottish black face sheep that tend to graze just beyond the green site.

Whistling Straits, Irish Course (2011)

12th Hole – Par 3
Whistling Straits, Straits (Haven)
Yardages: 163/138/118/99

9 others considered:
Strawberry Creek (3), Wild Rock (4), Blue Mound (4), North Shore (4), Sand Valley (5), Milwaukee (3), The Bog (4), Wildridge (3), University Club (3)

I love a good short three, and “Pop-Up” along the shore of Lake Michigan is a gem.

Wisconsin Captured: The Summer’s Sunrise Over Whistling Straits

13th Hole – Par 5
Lawsonia, Links (Green Lake)
Yardages: 568/556/489/489

12 others considered:
Whistling Straits/Straits (4), Mammoth Dunes (3), Horseshoe Bay (5), Washington County (5), Big Fish (5), The Bog (3), Blackwolf Run/River (3), Blackwolf Run/Meadow Valleys (4), Wild Rock (4), Glen Erin (4), North Shore (3), Tuckaway (4)

This is what links golf is all about! A wide fairway with incredible land movement and one of the most challenging greens to hit in the state.

Lawsonia Links: Haltom’s Great Golden Age Restovation of a Langford/Moreau Masterpiece

14th Hole – Par 4
Blackwolf Run, Meadow Valleys (Kohler)
Yardages: 423/409/384/376

8 others considered:
Mammoth Dunes (4), Erin Hills (5), Ozaukee (3), Lawsonia/Links (3), Nagawaukee (5), Ozaukee (3), The Oaks (4), Green Bay (4),

This list’s MVP, the 14th on the Meadow Valleys is to me the prettiest golf hole in the entire state of Wisconsin and highlights a spectacular Kohler back nine.

Blackwolf Run, Meadow Valleys: Wisconsin’s Best Back 9

15th Hole – Par 5
Stevens Point Country Club (Stevens Point)
Yardages: 552/523/501/467

5 others considered:
Kenosha (4), North Hills (4), Blackwolf Run/Meadow Valleys (3), Wild Rock (3), Club at Lac La Belle (4)

I love split fairways, and the high-left/low-right option on the 15th at SPCC gives long hitters the opportunity to play safe (right) or potentially have a chance at hitting the green under regulation by taking the smaller, riskier option left.

(Not yet reviewed)

16th Hole – Par 3
SentryWorld (Stevens Point)
Yardages: 176/168/145/120

8 others considered:
University Ridge (5), Blackwolf Run/River (5), Big Fish (3), Club at Lac La Belle (5), Nakoma (5), Geneva National/Palmer (3), Ozaukee (3), The Bull (4)

While I don’t think it’s even the best par 3 at SentryWorld, the Flower Hole is so iconic that I had to include it.

The Flower Hole: Robert Trent Jones, Jr.’s Mona Lisa at SentryWorld

17th Hole – Par 4
Pine Hills Country Club (Sheboygan)
Yardages: 400/380/364/318

11 others considered:
Stevens Point (3), Whistling Straits/Straits (3), Hawks View (3), Geneva National/Palmer (5), Wildridge (3), Green Bay (5), Milwaukee (3), North Hills (3), Kenosha (3), Glen Erin (4), Strawberry Creek (4)

Love it or hate it, the short 17th at Pine Hills is an incredibly unique hole design with an absolutely diabolical green complex, and opens a memorable left-to-right / right-to-left finish at my favorite private course in the state.

Pine Hills Country Club: Big Things on the Horizon

18th Hole – Par 5
Blackwolf Run, River course (Kohler)
Yardages: 510/470/440/415

20 others considered:
The Club at Lac La Belle (4), Strawberry Creek (4), Horseshoe Bay (5), Erin Hills (5), Whispering Springs (5), Blue Mound (5), Morningstar (5), Bishops Bay (5), Sand Valley (5), Mammoth Dunes (5), North Hills (5), The Oaks (5), Westmoor (4), Whistling Straits (4), Milwaukee (4), Green Bay (4), Pine Hills (4), The Bog (4), Abbey Springs (4), Tuckaway (4)

A fabulously scenic finish to an incredible golf experience, the 18th on the River course finishes with a gargantuan green complex share with the 18th on the Meadow Valleys course. For tournament play, the bunker that lines the left side of the hole is flooded with water to add to the drama.

Golf Course Review: The River Course at Blackwolf Run (2012)

The scorecard

It’s a short course with five par threes and few long fours, but it’s a course I’d love. It would be scorable and fun, and the scenery would be out-of-this-world good.

CourseHoleHCPTips1st In2nd InBackPar
Green Bay133813643493194
Erin Hills293583383163164
Glen Erin373663453192584
Club at Lac La Belle4131921691691513
Geneva National, Player5153613223002704
Wild Rock615885515255045
Kenosha7113503493193354
West Bend8171591381381303
Milwaukee953253253002144
Mammoth Dunes10123393232962794
Whistling Straits, Irish11102081931771693
Whistling Straits, Straits1218163138118993
Lawsonia, Links1325685564894895
Blackwolf Run, Meadow Valleys1464234093843764
Stevens Point1545525235014675
SentryWorld16161761681451203
Pine Hills17144003803643184
Blackwolf Run, River1885104704404155
641960615649522971

Conclusion

The hardest part of publishing a list like this is the great holes and courses that are inevitably left off.

Choosing the eighth at West Bend over the eighth at Blue Mound [or The Bull at Pinehurst Farms], for example, gave me fits, but in some cases I went with what I did for the good of the scorecard or to free me up to include other holes and courses elsewhere.

Using the seventh from Kenosha instead of their all-world fifteenth, similarly, allowed me to bring in Stevens Point at 15 without going too par 3/5/3/5 heavy on the back nine if I included SPCC’s gorgeous par three 17th (or the 17th at Whistling Straits!) and/or the quarry hole 15th at Wild Rock. And, of course, that 15th kept me from including the 15th at North Hills, too – my favorite hole on my beloved home course. But I really wanted to include the Flower Hole.


Probably the toughest of these situations for me was with the fifth. The River course at Blackwolf Run, SentryWorld, Mammoth Dunes, Pine Hills, Tuckaway, Sand Valley, Westmoor, Stevens Point, Ozaukee, Hawks Landing and the Irish course were all considered here, but for the sake of a fun golf hole I had to go with Player.


Additionally, not being able to squeeze in some of my favorite courses in the entire state pains me, especially in the cases of Sand Valley, Blue Mound, Strawberry Creek, University Ridge, Horseshoe Bay, Ozaukee, North Hills, Hawks Landing, North Shore and a handful of others.

Overall, though, I’m pleased with the results and think I’m putting one hell of a golf course out there.

Would your Wisconsin Dream 18 look similar? Wildly different? I want to know. If you’re brave enough, leave your thoughts in the comments below for all to critique!

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3 thoughts on “The Wisconsin Dream 18: The State’s Best Golf Holes

  1. It would be interesting to see a rubric that explained your selections. Many of the holes selected lack architectural interest and are merely visually interesting or on the wild/penal side involving water hazards or forced carries. GCA is a subjective and all opinions are valid, but a number of these picks are head scratching.

    1. You’ll need to get the ball in the air for a few of these (especially on uphill finishes), and scenery/aesthetics obviously play a role. Only 3 have water in play (1, 17 and 12 where Lake Michigan runs parallel), and the only significant forced carries are on 4 (par 3), 5 (par 4 with bail-out right) and 11 (par 3).

      Can you put together 18 architecturally significant holes in Wisconsin within the same guidelines?

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