The Player Course: Geneva National’s Top Billing

Over the years, Geneva National Resort & Club has become one of my absolute favorite golf resorts in the state of Wisconsin.

And it’s not just me but my family, too – my wife, son and daughter all love our ventures to this Lake Geneva area destination, whether it’s for an afternoon, night or weekend away.

It’s tough to explain but you know it when you’re there – there’s a cool “vibe” about Geneva National. The staff is welcoming and hospitable, the food and drinks are great, there’s 54 holes of really good championship golf, the best [Craig Haltom-designed] putting course around and almost always an incredible view of the lake. Even being a solid hour drive from my house, I’ve actually considered naming Geneva National my “home course” on

I love all my time there. I go for golf, for the occasional lesson with Golf Instructor and Master Club-Fitter Ryan Southworth, to take my family to The Dance Floor and outdoor dining at the Paloma Cantina, and once in awhile to soak up some rays at The Ridge saltwater pool on a hot summer afternoon. My wife and I have stayed over several times for date nights, we take the kids each year for the Ice Castles and Ice Princess Brunch and I never miss their special events like last year’s Putt with Paige / opening of The Dance Floor, and this season’s Beauty vs. The Beast with Paige Spiranac and Jerry Kelly.

Glen Murray, COO of Paloma Resorts and General Manager at Geneva National, runs a top-notch operation and I’ve been proud to partner with him and his teams at Destination GN and Sand Valley (where he was the original GM) on a number of exciting projects over the years. One of those exciting projects recently has been “Wisco Wednesdays,” a collaborative effort to highlight the property’s courses and amenities. Please give Geneva National and WiscoGolfAddict both a follow on Instagram if you’re not already!

I’ve always enjoyed Geneva National, and man has this place changed and grown over the years. In my opinion, it’s gone from a resort that had excellent golf but was a little on the stuffy side ten to twelve years ago to one that’s now full of energy, unapologetically welcoming and program-heavy with exciting things to do for the entire family.

For golf, their three 1990s-developed courses have received a lot of love, as well. Leadership has put special focus on tree management, for example, to let the turf breathe better and open up incredible views across the property.

And when it comes to golf, to me their Gary Player-designed course takes top billing.

The Player course is rock solid from start to finish with a bunch of really good golf holes and a handful of incredible ones like the par three 4th, par four 5th, par four 7th, par five 10th, par three 13th and par five 16th.

The course opens with a friendly handshake – a downhill par four with plenty of room to miss and very little limitation on distance.

The second is a long par five that bends right-to-left toward the end. A great drive will afford a shot at the green, but the approach is over water and well uphill. Not an easy green to hit in two!

The third always has a way of getting me on the Player course. With tees that set up straight toward the green, the fairway is fairly narrow and toward the green falls off dramatically on the right side. While sand traps to the left will influence shots that direction, do not be short-right or risk a potentially lost ball.

The fourth, to me, is one of the most sneaky-good holes on the entire property. A short par three, Player’s architectural guise hides almost all the trouble, presenting the hole simply as a long wedge or short-iron in. Upon leaving the tees, though, you can plainly see it’s anything but.

This is a great golf hole that’s found it’s way into my Top 33 Par 3’s in the State of Wisconsin rankings:

If there was an encyclopedia of golf, under the topic of “Risk/reward” you might find an image of the fifth hole on the Player course.

This hole is beautifully designed, providing options for all players while presenting one giant, gleaming beacon straight away in the distance for those whose internal thought processes beat with sayings like “I didn’t drive to Lake Geneva to lay up.”

Players can take the sensible route and hit a shot 150 to 250 yards down the right-side fairway, or they can aim over the canyon and green-side bunkers for a chance at putting for eagle. I’ve hit this long but narrow green – a 260- to 300-yard shot – three of the last four times I’ve played it, and I also three-putted two of those times for par.

A gorgeous golf hole, I find the fifth exhilarating to play.

A beautiful downhill par three, the sixth tees off from beside the Hunt Club steakhouse (which has phenomenal food, by the way! Check out more on it in my 2020 article “Geneva National Resort: Great Times and Golf in Wisconsin’s Summertime Destination“), over water with long views out toward Lake Como.

Seven’s a really cool golf hole, played over marshland to a right-to-left laterally running fairway that acts a bit as a road hole. The smart, conservative tee shot here is obviously straight away over the hazard, while taking on the left edge of it will afford a much shorter, more manageable approach in to a fairly narrow, well-protected green.

A dogleg left par five, the eighth is a drawer’s dream as it plays slightly uphill while bending left and finishing downhill around a pond. As with all the par fives on the Player course, the layup is strongly encouraged as even small misses can be penalized on long, aggressive approaches to get home in two.

The ninth is a ball-buster of a golf hole and a suitable finish for a tournament course layout. Teed up over marshland, the fairway bends left-to-right to a green site that’s slightly elevated and surrounded on all sides by sand. Even after good drives I somehow always seem to have 190+ yards in on this approach shot.

Playing to the same pond that’s carried on six, the tenth is another great risk/reward hole that forces players to make strategic decisions. A downhill par five, there’s plenty of room left-to-right to swing away but going for it in two is made challenging by the fact that you’ll almost always have a downhill lie hitting over water.

While the green complex and several traps abut the pond in front, there’s run-off on all sides with room to miss long and still recover.

As an aside, I think it’s worth mentioning the front nine does not finish at the clubhouse. In fact, it’s a long way away (but there is food and drinks available out back of the Hunt Club by the tenth green). Make sure you don’t forget anything in your car at the start of your round because you won’t be able to grab it from the parking lot at the turn.

A classic example of this was during the recent Beauty vs. The Beast event where Contributing Writer/Photographer Rich Bauer and I were the day’s principle photographers. Hoofing it in intense heat, I was carrying three cameras and three camera bags, and had no room for my drone case. I realized around the seventh hole we would need drone shots of the crowd at ten and walked ahead. Eventually realizing how far we were from the clubhouse, I couldn’t find a cart to get back to the parking lot and ended up somehow borrowing the Food & Beverage Director’s car to hustle there and back. As a side note, I now aspire to get my own BMW – that thing was awesome!

I got back just in time to catch most of the crowd before it dispersed for the eleventh hole:

One of the shortest holes on the course, the eleventh plays right-to-left to a fairway that’s mostly hidden from view due to its elevation. A fairway wood or hybrid is typically best hit off this tee, but beware the way the green complex falls off in back towards the woods.

What players need to know about twelve is that the right side of the driving area will lead to lost balls. I remember the first time I played this course I hit a really nice looking drive over what I thought was a great line over the dogleg. When we got up there, it was an abyss. This whole section of the course drops down to the path and woods that lead to the fifth hole tees – trust me and aim well left here, where shots should carom left and roll out.

I love a good downhill par three, and the Player course at Geneva National has a great one! Highly elevated, the tee shot here plays several clubs shorter than the distance with a back-to-front green designed to receive balls coming in steep.

The fifteenth is one of many holes on the Player course where recent tree removal now allows lake views to take center stage. A mid-range par three, the hole plays slightly downhill to a green that’s tilted from back-left to front-right.

Emerging from the woods, the sixteenth is another really good par five with wonderful views of Lake Como. From highly elevated tee boxes, this fairway is wide enough you could land an airplane on it.

Like the other par fives on the course, players are given a consequential risk/reward choice to make here: Going for it in two will require an incredibly long carry over water while laying up to a responsible distance will afford an easy wedge in.

Players better be confident in their final tee shot because the course has an excellent finishing hole with water to contend with on the right and almost always some to be carried on the approach.

The pond was just recently added in 2019, adding challenge to what was an otherwise fairly simple finishing hole. I love the back tees near the road, though they do make this a really long par four.

The Player course at Geneva National is not only among the best of the championship courses in the Lake Geneva area, but also in the state of Wisconsin.

There’s not a bad hole on the entire course, and if I was to say 17 is maybe its weakest link then it’s only because it’s a bit more basic and straightforward of a hole on a course that’s otherwise littered with incredibly interesting designs (it’s still not a bad hole). The fourth through tenth, especially, is an outstanding stretch of golf.

Do you spend time in Lake Geneva? What’s your favorite of the golf resorts there (Geneva National, Grand Geneva, Abbey Springs? Your favorite actual course? I’d love to hear in the comments below, and…

Question: If you could play ten rounds at Geneva National, how would you chop them up? I would probably go 5 on Player, 3 on Palmer and 2 on Trevino – but only because I haven’t played the Trevino course in about ten years, which I’ll need to change soon.

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