The Trevino Course at Geneva National: Lake Geneva’s Dark Horse

Geneva National Resort & Club is well-known across the Midwest as a great summertime destination with fun programming for the entire family and fantastic golf. While the Gary Player and Arnold Palmer designed courses tend to garner the majority of attention in that last regard, it’s the Lee Trevino design that I’d consider its sleeper.

It had been over ten years since the last time I played the Trevino course. All the media days I’ve been a part of, and all the rounds I’d set up with friends since then have all been on the resort’s other two tracks, and with Lake Geneva being an hour drive from my house it’s just always made sense that I’d stick to what I knew and enjoyed. Besides, it’s seemed like the Trevino course has been designated as the property’s members-only option many of the times I’ve visited.

It was on the day we visited a few weeks ago, as well, but I was able to get us on with my friends Adam, Bill and Maddie for an 8:06 tee time.

Staying overnight with my family at The Ridge, I got up early and was able to do full drone photography at sunrise. That’s been a hit-or-miss scenario this summer – many of the sunsets I’ve shot have been muted by haze and smoke from wildfires in Canada and out west – but not that morning. While the sky was primarily overcast, it also featured some nice color that progressed throughout the morning, and the photos turned out great.

I was shocked at how beautiful the land is on the Trevino course. While it doesn’t abut Lake Como or have constant views of the water, it plays over and along dramatic ridges, through tree lines and across prairies.

Much of the layout is wooded, but it’s not restrictive and I certainly would not consider it an overly penal course. The playing corridors are fair, even for a player like myself who can hit the ball a long way but tends to spray it laterally. Trevino designed in plenty of room to miss. While resulting recovery shots may not always be easy, you’ll at least have a chance to get yourself back in the game.

Like the other courses at Geneva National, the Trevino course was in exceptional condition when we played it, especially for as much public play as the resort gets and for the number of trees at the perimeter of many holes. These greens were quick – slippery, even, and they rolled beautifully. I was very impressed with the overall conditioning and golf experience. In fact, the only one negative I heard from our group was that the bunker above/beyond the 16th green needed some fill.

Being the course’s most common option for members-only play, it makes sense that the greens, tees and fairways were in as good of condition as they were.

You can talk to a fade”

Trevino’s design at Geneva National favors a left-to-right shot shape. At least five or six holes, in fact, set up for the fade. That’s not something I thought about until Adam mentioned it. A former Pro at Bullseye (where Billy was Head Golf Professional before he worked for the Wisconsin PGA; they both now work for American Family Insurance, and I’d recommend Adam if you’re in the market) and Northern Bay, he plays an insanely long, significant draw that was very infrequently rewarded during our round.

Lee Trevino, himself, was a famous fader of the golf ball, relying heavily on a cut throughout his 75-win (including six majors) professional career. “You can talk to a fade,” he was quoted as saying, “but a hook just won’t listen.”

Fortunately or unfortunately for me, I’m more the kind of player who goes out there and “sees what I’m working with that day.” Sometimes I’ve got a nice little draw working, and other times a baby cut. I probably shouldn’t even mention the other times when that “nice little draw” is more like a “big banana drop-kick,” but nobody’s perfect.

Local knowledge

While driver will work on most holes, there are a number that require a bit of consideration before teeing off.

As several followers on Instagram advised me ahead of time, you’ll especially need to know about the 14th. Off the tee, hitting driver will result in a lost ball everywhere but down the right side of the fairway.

I admittedly over-heeded that advice, hitting 5-iron off the tee into a pretty substantial wind. Ballooning off the tee, I was left with well over 200 yards to the green. While I still would not hit driver here (which Adam, Billy and Maddie all did successfully down the right), I would hit at least hybrid and aim for the centerline fairway trap.

The par 3’s

Another thing I enjoyed about the Trevino course is its par threes. While there is not a ton of variety in the yardages from the straight back [black and gold] tees, the whites we played on par threes (the course measures just over 6,300 total yards playing those along with the gold/white tees for par fours and fives) gave us some really fun numbers:


There’s more to the par threes than just yardages, though. They all have different aesthetics and are played to very different green complexes and surrounds.

The third, for example, plays to an elevated green with bunkering on both sides and a spine running vertically through the middle.

The 3rd on the Trevino course at Geneva National

The sixth, played for us as a long wedge, features an especially tricky false front on the left side that was accentuated by a pin just past it. The slope in this area of the green was extremely pronounced and made two-putting for our pars a challenge. The putting surface is built into a hillside that falls from left to right.

The 13th, which played the longest for us (~ 175 yards with a tucked back-right pin), has a ton of bailout room to the left but required a ton of guts to go for the right-side hole location.

A downhill tee shot to a shallow but wide green, the 17th was challenging to figure out club-wise. I basically pured one of the best 9-irons of my life 152 yards to find the very front of the green, barely carrying the centrally placed front trap. This might have been my favorite of the bunch.

A shot at redemption

While there’s little easy about the Trevino course, the start of the back nine provides a great opportunity for players to get a shot or two back by way of short fours on the 11th and 12th. With the wind at our back for both, it was the one section of the course my driver was really hot on and I found myself on the fringe of each green (the 11th was playing 283 and the 12th 324 yards).

I chipped (skulled would be more like it) my second shots well past the pin on both holes, scraping my way back for par on the 11th and then dropping a circuitous 35-footer on 12 for a way overcomplicated birdie.

Additional hole-by-hole photos and commentary

Located across the entranceway and parking lot of Geneva National’s palatial clubhouse, the Trevino course tees off from a high point in the woods to a low-lying fairway between trees. At 358 yards, the first is not a long hole but requires a bit of precision to stay inside the tree lines.

The green on one is shallow from back-to-front, but long from left-to-right with a cluster of sand traps waiting to grab approach shots hit long. A slope divides the two sides, dropping from the upper-left to create a small zone in the lower-right that was the target for our round.

Playing parallel to the first, the second is slightly longer with an elevated green that features strong sloping along its right side.

The front-right pin location we had was really tricky, especially for three of us whose approach shots were all hit deep and needed to traverse a massive spine before heading downhill.

A long par four, the fourth is the first hole on the layout that features Trevino’s signature fade route. Playing downhill in the approach area, it rises again near the green and is set against a beautiful, elevated forested backdrop that’s best viewed from the air.

The signature hole of the Trevino course is the par five fifth.

Players start out with an elevated tee shot that needs to be played left-to-right and downhill. Long hitters can cut off yardage by starting over the right-side tree line, but the second/setup will still be a bit nervy as a stone-laden creek fronts the entire approach area and a long green complex that slopes from front-right to back-left.

This is an absolutely gorgeous golf hole.

Another par four that favors a left-to-right shot shape, the seventh brings players out of the woods and into more of a countryside setting.

With the wind at our backs, it was bombs away here and led to three great looks at birdie. None were made.

Seven has one of the largest greens on the course.

With a wide, forgiving fairway, the eighth is plenty simple off the tee but requires a lot more care on the setup shot and especially on the approach if the hole is pinned on the left.

The green here is very narrow from back-to-front, with a lot of break built in. While the yardage is not overly long (516 from the gold tees), it’s not an easy green to get home on in two.

You should have seen the look on my face that Saturday morning when I left the eighth hole and made my way toward the ninth tee boxes… The early light was picture-perfect above the fairway, and I could not have gotten my drone in the air fast enough to capture it!

The ninth is a tough finish to a great front nine. While the fairway is plenty wide off the tee, much of it is hidden by the land’s natural contouring and the right side falls off into forest. Favor the left side for that reason, and swing away to leave as little yardage as possible on the approach.

The green is well downhill, over a deep trench that needs to be carried in order to get home in two.

A par five opening to the back nine, the tenth plays out of a chute of trees to a gently rolling fairway in a prairie-like setting. The deep bunker that fronts this bean-shaped green complex must be carried on the approach.

One of my favorite holes on the entire course, the 15th is a lengthy par four that… you guessed it… plays softly left-to-right. Shallow bunkering runs through the right side of the target driving area and across the fairway, making drives down the left side preferred.

The green on 15 is uphill from a small creek in the approach zone and there are traps short and long of the putting surface.

Something about the 16th on Trevino reminded me a bit of the 16th on the Player course. It’s got elevated tees, a massively wide fairway and all kinds of room to miss… Until the green area.

The large pond that also borders the drivable par four 11th runs along the right side of the green area, putting accuracy at a premium on the approach shot. Don’t pucker up too much, though, as the entire greens surround tilts toward the water. My third shot into the front-left greenside bunker left an incredibly awkward out that I was thrilled to have safely find the putting surface.

The 18th is an awesome finishing hole on the Trevino course. Featuring one of its tightest driving areas, the fairway runs out at a bit over 300 yards, dropping into a deep canyon and natural waste area before climbing significantly uphill to a wide, two-tiered green complex.

If you get the chance, take it

A few weeks before playing it, a reader of my site gave me his rankings of the top five courses in the Lake Geneva area as 1.) Geneva National Palmer, 2.) Geneva National Player, 3.) Grand Geneva Highlands, 4.) Geneva National Trevino, 5.) Hawks View Como Crossings.

Knowing how good Hawks View is, it was the motivation I needed to head back down to Lake Geneva and check out the Trevino course.

My appreciation for golf course architecture and design has grown significantly over the years since I last played it in 2013, and that was part of a buddies trip where we played multiple courses and focused more on having a good time than playing good golf. Playing just the Trevino course this visit, I was able to focus more on the track’s layout and overall golf experience and came away really impressed.

Only a few destinations in the state of Wisconsin can boast three great championship golf courses: Kohler, Sand Valley and Geneva National. It’s the strength of all three that makes Geneva National such a great option for golf trips, as well as all the resort’s phenomenal amenities including The Dance Floor Himalayas-style putting course, great restaurants, bars, pools, fun programming and a wonderful variety of options for overnight lodging.

If you’re looking to set up a great in-state golf trip this fall or next season and want to spend time at a resort that has seriously cool vibes, check out Geneva National. While there, make a point of playing the Trevino course. Like me, I think you’ll come away loving its beautiful setting and enjoyable, strategic playing experience.

Geneva National, Trevino course website

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