It had been eight years since the last time I visited Strawberry Creek in Kenosha, and I remembered loving it but couldn’t recall a lot of detail. The first time I was there we had a hazy day with my friend, Jim, and while I was doing golf course reviews at the time I was significantly less sophisticated. I believe I was taking photos on my iPhone, in fact, with more advanced apparatuses like drones and DSLR cameras not even near my future plans.
I mention that because Strawberry Creek turned out to be an incredible droning experience, even in late Fall. A bit past peak-season for Autumn leaves? No worries – Strawberry Creek’s links-like layout doesn’t have many of them, anyway!
What it does have is fantastic new-age golf with really challenging green complexes – the kind that put a real premium on wedge shots and finding the right sections of putting surfaces.
I was invited out to Strawberry Creek by my new friend, Jason, who I met at WiscoGolfAddict Contributing Writer Gregg Thompson’s place during his 7th annual Par 3 & Fishing Contest at The Pond, his very own backyard golf course across the street from Kenosha Country Club.
I could tell quickly that Jason and I would get along well, and we worked to set up a day to get me reacclimated with his own home course, The Club at Strawberry Creek.
Unfortunately for golfers, a frost delay kept players off the course for an extra hour or so the morning of our round. This worked well in my favor because it meant I had the course to myself for photographing (and continuous cart paths around the property allowed me to take advantage of the course’s emptiness).
Long shadows played off the tree lines and accentuated fairway mounding during the mid-morning, and the day’s stratocumulus (?) cloud cover was just enough to keep the sky interesting.
The leaves that remained on nearby trees were intense shades of orange and yellow, and the fairways were pristine, cut with the club’s signature diamond patterning. While the fescue had already been razed for the season, there was plenty interest in the rest of the property to warrant burning through all four of my Mavic 2’s batteries before hitting the range with Jason and Gregg.
We had a lot of local knowledge in our group, with Jason being a full-time golfing member and Gregg being a former one who literally built the club’s gorgeous clubhouse and facilities. We were all systems go for a fantastic Fall day of golf.
In stark contrast to the majority of Wisconsin’s private clubs, everything about Strawberry Creek is modern. Its 38,000 square foot clubhouse is stately with top-of-the-line amenities, luxurious locker rooms, a spa, fitness center and two pools, and the award-winning Rick Jacobson-designed course is a long, stern test of golf that is quite unique when compared to other top private tracks in the state like Blue Mound, Pine Hills, Milwaukee, Kenosha, Oneida, Ozaukee and West Bend, to name a few.
This modern style works well for Strawberry Creek, allowing the club to draw membership from both Southeast Wisconsin and nearby northern Illinois, a short 7-mile drive south of the property.
It also makes it an incredibly popular reciprocal club. As the only modern option in its general network, Strawberry Creek hosts a significant number of players from other area clubs who visit for a “different golf experience” than they’re used to at their home courses.
Formerly part of the next door Thompson’s Strawberry Farm, Strawberry Creek is on a beautiful piece of land that features rolling hills, tall native grasses, ponds and a wonderful stream that runs through it: Root River. I bet you were expecting me to say Strawberry Creek there.
Tipping out at 7,113 yards, the course gives modern players all they can handle in terms of length and strategic shot making, and has become a mainstay on the WSGA’s tournament schedule including annual Net Partners events, this past year’s state Mid-Am and all the way up to the 2012 State Amateur Championship.
Even with all that length, it’s far from bomb and gouge. In particular, it’s the green complexes that make it such a dramatic challenge. Fast and undulating, most are risen with significant fall-offs in many directions, and some pins can be absolutely diabolical.
Take the hole location on the first, for example. A large enough green, the hole was cut back-left on the opposite side of a swale. Anything hit to the back half of the green was destined to run through and into a small pot bunker that would then have to be played back out downhill and through the same swale. Nasty. The smarter play, of course, was leaving the approach in the swale and then playing for a two-putt.
These greens are quick, and Superintendent Matt Kregel is well-known for keeping them and the entire property perfectly maintained. Even in late-October – when we were just excited to still be able to get out for a round of golf – it was like putting on glass (though both Jason and Gregg said they’re a bit faster in the Summer).
Rick Jacobson designed a lot of really good golf holes at The Club at Strawberry Creek, and a handful of my personal favorites include the par five second, par three fourth, par four sixth, par three 12th and 15th, and the par four 16th, 17th and finishing 18th.
My favorite, though, is the long par five 14th.
A beautiful three-shot hole, the 14th plays downhill to a split-fairway (something about split-fairways gets me) running alongside the property’s central ponds. I think the right side is more of a bailout zone, personally, but will almost always come into play off the tee as the heavily mounded left side tilts so hard in that direction.
Heading back uphill for the remainder of the hole, the elevated green is guarded against long approach shots by a deep central pot bunker and sharp false front, requiring second and third shots be flown all the way on.
A “few” more images of the stunning 14th:
The course has an excellent group of par threes, too, led to me by the short fourth. Stretching to 147 yards, most tee shots will be closer to 125. The challenge, though (as with any great par three), is on the green. Playing uphill and beyond several deep traps, much of it is hidden from the players’ view and makes it look significantly smaller than it actually is.
Sharp internal contours, and fall-offs short and right make aiming for the middle of the green the only responsible target. With a middle-right hole location, I actually made about a 30-foot downhill sidewinder on this hole for birdie… Had it not hit the cup, of course, it would have probably rolled off the green. But, still.
The rest of the par threes at Strawberry Creek are about as strong, including the stunning 12th, the dramatically downhill 8th (another birdie hole for me during our round) and the tremendously challenging 15th.
A long tee shot over water and fescue, the 15th plays into the prevailing wind to an off-centered green site set against the tree line.
The 12th plays long to a perched green that runs left-to-right. With a false front, it’s important players take enough club to reach the putting surface.
The eighth has a dramatically downhill tee shot with water left. Depending on the tees played, elevation can affect club selection pretty significantly here.
Strawberry Creek has two really good short par fours, too, highlighted by the 17th. While the smart play is obviously mid-iron to the fairway, it’s really hard not to go for it when you’re teeing off from just over 260 yards.
As it should be on a design like this, all the trouble is found near the green as the kidney-shaped complex wraps around a brutal front-side bunker.
The other short four, the sixth, is the second in an interesting stretch of four holes that reside on the property’s southeasternmost tract of land.
The series starts with a long par four with one of the course’s smallest and hardest to hit greens, then continues on to the drivable sixth. Tipping at 299 yards and under 275 from the other tees, this is another tough hole to keep driver in your bag!
Like the 17th, too, this is a really tough green to hit – it’s well-elevated and with trouble all around.
The seventh, a long par five, wraps around Strawberry Creek’s eastern perimeter and finishes on another challenging, elevated green.
The second is probably the most scorable par five on the course. With back tees at 518 yards and under 500 from the rest, a good drive over the right-side mounding should leave a long iron or hybrid in. As is the case with a lot of the putting surfaces at Strawberry Creek, the green has a subtle yet discernible false front.
The next par four is a really fun one, on three (on the left in the image above). Tall mounding covers the right perimeter of the hole’s layout, while steep-faced bunkers reside on the left. This is one of the highest elevated greens on the course, probably about 10 feet above the fairway surface, and has a heavily sloped green that runs left-to-right.
Along with the drivable seventeenth and eighteenth that I’ll hit on later, the stretch of 16-18 is an outstanding finishing run, and the sixteenth just might be the most picturesque of the bunch. With staggered tee boxes that play to a left-to-right fairway (similar to the eighteenth), this is a fairly long par four that plays just over 400 yards from the back sets of tees.
The sixteenth has one of the property’s toughest greens with bunkers flanked back-left and to the right, and a pond on the right side. This green has a ton of internal contouring – it was one of a handful of 20-30 footers Gregg made on the day, leading to a tidy card of 75.
The other really cool area of the course that I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention is the start of its back nine. The enth is an incredibly intimidating hole, playing over water and wetlands that look like they engulf the entire fairway. When looking back, it’s clear that there’s much more room to miss than originally feared, but it’s an intimidating tee shot, nonetheless. The entire hole plays uphill with water lining the left edge.
Coming back, then, is the long par five eleventh. The tee shot can go a long way before running into its laterally running hazard, and this hole has one of the course’s most interestingly designed green complexes.
Jacobson designed the green here to allow for really long approach shots, but heavily penalizes misses left and, of course, right. My second shot settled just short of the front-left greenside bunker, for example, and left me a delicate pitch from a tight lie over sand to a short-sided pin. Following two really solid shots, I was elated to escape with par.
The finishing holes at Strawberry Creek are among the toughest in the state, especially the par four ninth.
Depending on tee selection, driver might be too long on this hole as the impending tree line comes into play on the left side. For fun, though, I hit driver after flubbing my hybrid off the tee and cranked one right down the middle, just in front of the hazard and in perfect shape with about 130 yards in. I wished that was my real tee shot, of course, as I’d go on to triple the hole en route to a front nine 40.
So, club selection is important on nine, and my advice would be to hit something you can hit straight and with as much distance as possible (when is it not?), because the second shot will also not be easy.
A little easier than the ninth, the 18th is still far from a cakewalk and I think is a terrific finishing golf hole.
The tee boxes are offset slightly to the right, which sets up nicely for someone like me who likes to try shaping the ball a little left-to-right. Hitting the right side of the fairway is preferred as it will help get you the most distance.
The Club at Strawberry Creek is a great modern golf club and a wonderful change of pace compared to most private Wisconsin country clubs.
Along with SentryWorld, Green Bay and Horseshoe Bay, Strawberry Creek provides one of the state’s premier modern golf experiences with an excellent new-age track and incredible amenities. The course is chocked full of challenge and intrigue, has superb conditioning and would be a delight to play on a regular basis.
I have Strawberry Creek in my Top 15 Private Courses in the state of Wisconsin, in fact, a little behind some of the perennial favorites like Milwaukee, Pine Hills and Blue Mound yet still inside the top ten.
Kenosha has awesome golf, in general, and if you ever get the opportunity to I’d think a 36-hole day spent at Strawberry Creek and nearby Kenosha Country Club would be about as good – and diverse – a single-day trip as you’ll find in the state – up there with Stevens Point Country Club and SentryWorld, Kohler combined with Pine Hills and several others.
The Club at Strawberry Creek website
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