A Couple of Great Deals to Check Out

– Today’s Milwaukee Groupon features great savings on golf at Broadlands:
  http://www.groupon.com/deals/broadlands-golf-club-milwaukee?c=button&utm_content=all-deals_milwaukee&date=20110909&division=milwaukee&p=5&s=body&sid=10969715&utm_campaign=broadlands-golf-club-milwaukee&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&user=5d93752f29f1a4c0b8813d44c97dab400846a0489c04321eff5d0af7d025dd59

– Free Golf at Milwaukee County golf courses for registering:
http://milwaukeecountygolfcourses.com/golf/proto/milwaukeecountygolfcourses/new_account/new_account.htm

Re-post: How are USGA Course Rating and Slope Rating Determined?

Have you ever wondered what “Slope Rating” and “Course Rating” really mean on course scorecards? I was curious, and found the following article on About.com:

http://golf.about.com/cs/rulesofgolf/a/hfaq_determine.htm

Course rating and slope rating are calculated for a golf course on the basis of a visit to the course by a USGA rating team.

The rating team spend’s time with the facility’s staff going over the course, and spends a lot of time on the course itself taking measurements of various things. The USGA recommends that the rating team play the golf course it is rating either before or after the rating visit, too.
Based on the information gleaned during the visit(s), the course rating and course slope are calculated, certified by the appropriate overseeing golf associations, and given to the club, which then posts the ratings on its scorecard and elsewhere.
Course rating used to be based almost solely on length. The longer the course, the higher the rating. But obstacles (degree of difficulty), in addition to distance, are now part of the consideration.
The USGA rating team goes over the golf course with an eye to how both scratch golfers and bogey golfers play it.
A scratch golfer, in this use, is defined by the USGA as a male golfer who hits his drive 250 yards and can reach a 470-yard hole in two; or a female golfer who hits her drive 210 yards and can reach a 400-yard hole in two (and, of course, plays to scratch).
A bogey golfer, in this use, is defined by the USGA as a male golfer with a handicap index of 17.5 to 22.4, who hits his drives 200 yards and can reach a 370-yard hole in two; and a female golfer with a handicap index of 21.5 to 26.4, who hits her drives 150 yards and can reach a 280-yard hole in two.
So, for example, on a 400-yard hole, the rating team goes 200 yards down the fairway to analyze the landing area for a bogey golfer; and 250 yards down the fairway to analyze the landing area for a scratch golfer. What obstacles were encountered along the way? What is the state of the fairway at each spot for each golfer – narrow or wide, hazards close by or no hazards? What angle is left to the green? What obstacles still await – water, sand, trees? How far is the approach shot from the scratch golfer’s landing area and from the bogey golfer’s landing area? And so on.
Taking into account length and obstacles, and experience gleaned from playing the course, the rating team evaluates the overall difficulty of the golf course under normal playing conditions and issues the course rating for scratch golfers.
But the team also computes a “bogey rating,” something many golfers don’t know exists for each golf course. The bogey rating is similar to course rating, it’s just an evaluation of how many strokes a bogey golfer will take to play the course rather than an evaluation of strokes needed for scratch golfers.
And the bogey rating has in important role: it is used in the calculation that produces the slope rating.
Slope, remember, is a number representing the relative difficulty of a course for bogey golfers compared to scratch golfers. The calculation that determines slope is this: bogey course rating minus USGA course rating x 5.381 for men or 4.24 for women.
The “effective playing length” and “obstacle stroke value” are the determining factors in course rating and bogey rating.
Effective playing length is exactly that – not the actual yardage on a hole or a shot, but how long the hole plays. A 400-yard hole will play shorter if it is downhill from the tee; or longer if it uphill from the tee. Altitude affects playing length, and does the firmness of the fairways. Does the course produce a lot of roll-out on shots? Are there forced lay-ups?
Obstacle stroke value is a numerical rating of the difficulty presented by obstacles on the course. The course is rated in 10 categories: topography; ease or difficulty of hitting the fairway; propability of hitting the green from the fairway landing area; difficulty of bunkers and probability of hitting into them; probability of hitting out of bounds; how much water will come into play; how trees affect play; speed and contouring of the greens; and the psychological effect of all these things.
The rating team looks at all these things for both scratch golfers and bogey golfers, and from every set of tees. And then following the USGA’s four formulas (male scratch golfer, female scratch golfer, male bogey golfer, female bogey golfer), some adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing, the rating team produces its numbers.

And you thought rating a golf course was easy!”

Golf Course Review: Fairways of Woodside

For years, I have considered Fairways of Woodside to be my “home course.” I have introduced probably 30 or more golfers to Fairways of Woodside for their first time since the course opened about ten years ago, and the first thing every one of them mentions is the stark contrast between the front and back nines.
 
The front nine is short (3,031 yards from the tips), with long par threes (229, 204). The back nine, on the other hand, is a whole different animal. While the par threes are more easily managed (149, 166), there are long carries and a plethora of tight fairways that are considerably more difficult to hit. At 3,504 yards from the tips, it is much longer and more difficult than the front.
 
The front nine starts out with a short par four: 295 yards from the tips. Two of the closest tee shots I have had in my life to being holes-in-one have been on this hole – both tap-ins from the opposite side of the hole (both times playing from the 269-yard white tees, I will admit). It is definitely a feel-good hole to get started out on.
 
The second hole does not look tremendously difficult on the scorecard, at only 349 yards, but takes great precision on the approach shot to a green that is highly elevated, guarded in front by sand, and slopes significantly from the front-right to the back. Most approach shots hit by anything more than a wedge will not hold the green. The elevated green drops into the woods to the left and back.
 
The third hole is one of the hardest on the front nine: A long par three with water on the left, a large sand trap on the right side (and homes further right), and a strong slope toward the water. A long iron or wood is necessary here for even the longest hitters.
 
The fourth and fifth each present a lot of options for big draw hitters. Both are short (349 and 338 yards, respectively) par fours that dogleg left, and I have seen draws hit both greens. Of course, the smart play is anything less than a driver on both, which should leave a pitching wedge or less to the green.
 
The sixth hole is probably my favorite hole in the history of golfing to drive on. While the tee shot is blind, aiming over the green conductor to the left of the fairway presents you with a short-cut to the fairway, and potentially to the green. The distance here is measured down the fairway, which makes 391 or 372 yards seem pretty far, but a hugely hit drive over this electrical box can lead you to the lower part of the fairway, and potentially close to the green. I got to my ball yesterday, for example, and had a four-yard chip to the green, which was a pretty awesome surprise.
 
Seven is a tough hole, and I think because it is so easy to over-think the tee shot. Throughout the years, I have probably sliced as many balls in to the woods on the right side of the fairway than I am able to count in one setting, and I feel pretty good about my ability to count. A long iron or wood can set you up for an easier approach shot, as long as you can keep your tee shot straight.
 
The ninth is the only par five on the front nine, and it’s a good one. At 553 yards from the tips, it requires a straight and long enough drive that you can see the fairway as it meanders to the right, and a setup shot that will allow you a good approach to a small, narrow green. I have always enjoyed this hole, and it is a good warm-up for the length that is required on the back nine. Hopefully you scored well on the front, because for most golfers the back is all about survival!

 
The tee shot on the tenth is best played to the left – put your drive out there far, and you will have a shot to the green. I always play to the left, to take the water out of the equation entirely. The tenth has probably my favorite water feature on the course, which they did a fantastic job of remodeling last season. It doesn’t hit you until you’re on the green that this hole, at 404 yards, is longer than any of the par fours on the front nine. It is the second shortest par four on the back nine, though. Like I said, the back is a totally different animal.
 
Hole 10: Par 4 (404/394/339)
 
For  me, the hardest hole on the course is the par five 13th. There are large ponds that run along the first length of the fairway on both sides of the 13th hole, and this tee shot seems to get in my head 90 percent of the time. Take whatever club you can keep straight and hit under 225 yards, and bang it out there. Do that, and you should have an excellent chance for birdie. Don’t do that, and you will be dropping three and either laying up in front of the wetlands area, or else hitting a side lie over 150-plus yards of wetland area to the landing zone that leads uphill to the green. This hole plays much longer than 479!
 
Hole 13: Par 5 (479/442/403)
Hole 13: Par 5 (479/442/403)
 
Fourteen is only eight yards shorter (467 yards from the tips) than the 13th, and features a 220-yard carry over wetlands to a narrow fairway that is hedged by woods on the left side. The right side is mounded, and the approach is always long and can only be bailed out to the right. Anything to the left will not be found.
 
Hole 14: Par 4 (479/442/403)
 
When the course was first revealed, I remember reading an article that named the fifteenth the hardest par five in Waukesha County. I do not disagree with this statement one bit. At 573 yards from the black tees, the tee shot needs to be farther than the trees on the right, longer than the pond on the left side of the approach, and short of the woods that the fairway carves between. The second shot then needs to be long enough to outflank the woods on the left, and the third then comes straight back left for another 150 yards. This double-dogleg requires two great shots, at the very least, for any chance of par. A friend of mine once got a two on this hole (albatross, or double-eagle?), but it has always remained debatable as it seems like it should A) be impossible, and B) his drawn three-wood over the trees in to the hole (from 250-plus yards out) could not actually be seen. It was phenomenal, nonetheless, and was certainly heading in the right directon. I like to think if there was a group in front of us, that they did not move his ball in to the cup.

Looking at the second image below, captured from Yahoo! Maps, you can see the approximate location of the drive, as well as that day’s hole location. This had to be one of the most miraculous shots in the history of golf.

 
Hole 15: Par 5 (573/545/518)
Hole 15: Par 5 (573/545/518)

 

The seventeenth is the fifth handicapped hole on the course, which I think is understated. With a lot of water on the right side, the approach is always long, and has to be absolutely precise in between the trees that are beyond the tiny green, the sand traps in front of it, and the water in front of those. 
 
Hole 17: Par 4 (456/426/279)
 
Just as Fairways of Woodside starts out with a feel-good par four, it ends with one, too. At 303 yards from the white tees, the green is [somewhat] drivable. The black tees are another 80 yards further back, though, which requires a bit more skill, but still two shots to a large, and multilayered green. Make sure to take note of the pin position before hitting your approach shot on this green, as a shot to the back will require at least one more club than a forward pin position.
 
Fairways of Woodside is the kind of course you can play over and over again, and not get tired of it. It is a fantastic value, and has a truly wonderful staff, clubhouse and overall essence.
 
If you have not yet had a chance to play Fairways of Woodside, and live in the Waukesha County area, check out their $35 deals on golfnow.com, or play it after work for twilight rates, and I think you will understand why I consider this fun, diverse track in Sussex to be my “home course.”
 
Course Wrap-up:
Location: Sussex, WI
Yardage: Black-6,535, White-5,992, Red-4,926
Slope/Rating: Black-127/71.3, White-123/68.7, Red-117/68
Par: 71
Weekend Rates (riding): $55
 

New Golf Course Review Rating Scale

Have you ever played a golf course that was for sure a ten? I do not know if I have. The Wilderness at Fortune Bay might be a ten. So could ThunderHawk or Blackwolf Run. But in the hundreds of courses I’ve played in my life, I can’t know for sure.
For this reason, there is difficulty in rating courses on a one-to-ten basis when unsure of perfection, and this creates an entirely too one-dimensional scale when reviewing new tracks.
Over the past few days, I have developed a new rating system for my blog, and with much trepidation have trimmed the deciding factors down from about 20 to five key categories:
  • Value – Given the price, how good of a value is the course?  Rated 0 to 4.
  • Greens – Speed, fairness/difficulty and variety are all taken in to consideration.  Rated 0 to 4.
  • Condition/Upkeep – Is the course well-maintained?  Rated 0 to 6.
  • Overall Challenge/Playability/Layout – Is the course playable to both bogey and scratch golfers?  Rated 0 to 8.
  • Mystique/Wow Factor – Is it memorable, and will you want to pay to play it again?  Rated 0 to 8.
With a maximum of 30 points, the total will then be multiplied by 3-1/3 to get a 0-100 overall score, and then rounded up and/or down to result in a rating between zero and ten. My hope is that this will be a more consistent method of rating new courses.

Golf Course Review: Wild Rock at the Wilderness Resort

Following a day of world-beating at Northern Bay, we figured to ourselves: The granite tees at Wild Rock play to the same length as our last round, so we should have no problems playing back tees. Bad idea. While Wild Rock may be 6,953 from the granite tees, do not compare this to any other 6,950-yard courses you have played. In fact, do not compare it to any of the courses you have ever played!

Wild Rock is long, challenging, and absolutely majestic. Although the 7,414-yard quartzite tees were never entertained, we realized on the third hole how much of a mistake we’d made in our tee selection. For an example of one of the 200-plus yard forced carries at Wild Rock, check out the video of hole three, below:

The par five first hole tells you a lot about this course: It’s long and the greens are lightning fast and difficult. The fairways tend to be wide and fair, but the tee shots themselves remain intimidating. Play the first hole for two shots short of the fairway stream, then keep your approach short of the pond long, left of the stream right, and out of the sand trap left, and you will be off to an excellent start. This game is easy, right?
Hole 1: Par 5 (559/530/497/428/416)
Hole 1: Par 5 (559/530/497/428/416)

Wild Rock has the most dramatic changes in elevation that I have seen on a course in Wisconsin. The first example of this is the par four second hole. Aiming at the narrow fairway uphill, a cut (fortunate slice, as I like to call it) hybrid or fairway wood should put you in the fairway and leave a decent chance for scoring.

Anything hit into the ravine before the fairway, or hill above the fairway, will be difficult to recover from. Trust me, I’ve found this out on my own.

Hole 2: Par 4 (421/399/374/341/309)
Hole 2: Par 4 (421/399/374/341/309)

The third is a tough par four! At 464 yards from the back tees, the drive requires more than 200 of a carry and is sure to leave a long shot in.

Hole 3: Par 4 (464/446/414/306/287)
Hole 3: Par 4 (464/446/414/306/287)

The fourth hole at Wild Rock introduces you to some fantastic par threes. The fourth carries a large pond, and requires precision – essential to all of the course’s par threes.

Hole 4: Par 3 (223/186/164/140/112)
Hole 4: Par 3 (223/186/164/140/112)

Following the par three fourth is a long cart ride (not a walking course!) across the road to where Wild Rock really gets special. The fifth hole tee shot is uphill with a slight bend to the right. The green, hidden from the approach, is narrow and tough to hit, as anything long will fall off the backside.

Hole 5: Par 4 (349/325/300/259/234)
Hole 5: Par 4 (349/325/300/259/234)

The most breathtaking tee shot on the course, and maybe that I have ever seen is on the par five sixth hole. The view from the longest tee boxes here overlooks Baraboo and more than 30 miles of the Wisconsin Dells surrounding area. Being in or around the fairway is essential, as anything right is dead, and there is little room to work with to the left. The fairway narrows as you continue playing uphill, and the blind shot to the green is tumultuous as the approach drops downhill, then into oblivion both long and right. The pin location on this hole has been in the middle of a severe slope both times I have played it, making a two-putt a lot to ask for.

Hole 6: Par 5 (588/551/525/504/457)
Hole 6: Par 5 (588/551/525/504/457)

The elevated tee boxes and gorgeous vistas continue on the seventh hole, which is a long par four ending on a hugely elevated green. Aim for the middle fairway bunker and hope you draw or fade (that’s how my game works, anyhow!), and get it out there a long way to have any chance at par. The false front should certainly be taken in to consideration, as well.

Hole 7: Par 4 (493/460/397/360/338)
Hole 7: Par 4 (493/460/397/360/338)

The eighth is short by Wild Rock standards, but requires two exacting shots. With woods right and a massive drop-off on the left side, accuracy off the tee is rewarded with an incredibly less stressful shot than from either other side.

The eighth has one of the smallest greens on the course, which plays over a deep front-side trap. Any time the pin is located on the left side of the green, the smart play is to the right side of the green to keep from the fall-off on the back-left.

Hole 8: Par 4 (433/412/362/313/260)
Hole 8: Par 4 (433/412/362/313/260)

The front nine at Wild Rock ends with an outstanding par three over water and uphill. The green on the ninth hole is so drastically sloped that three-putting becomes acceptable. Make sure to club up if the pin is placed back. I went short and had two long putts go up the hill, then roll back down to leave me longer than I’d started.

A couple of years back, at my friend Nick’s bachelor party, our other friend Nick had a hole-in-one on this hole. To rub it in to all of us avid players, it was the first round he’d played in years and did not buy drinks in the clubhouse. Just sayin’.

Hole 9: Par 3 (211/179/146/127/109)
Hole 9: Par 3 (211/179/146/127/109)
Hole 9: Par 3 (211/179/146/127/109)
Hole 9: Par 3 (211/179/146/127/109)
The tenth features another elevated tee box to another long par five. After taking a beating on the front nine, we decided to take the PGA’s advice and “tee it forward” to the shale tees for a more managable round with better scoring. No matter what tee boxes you utilize, this course will remain challenging. The tenth is no exception. The second shot uphill over sand traps is intimidating and requires a long fairway wood or hybrid.
Hole 10: Par 5 (567/547/533/510/399)
Hole 10: Par 5 (567/547/533/510/399)
If you are looking to feel good about your score, Wild Rock may not be the right afternoon for you. It is one of the most demanding tracks in the state, and is yet another example of the tremendous, and underrated, courses that can be found in the Madison/Wisconsin Dells area. This course was cultivated to provide a tournament environment, and from what I hear should be hosting the state amateur outing and other state events in the near future. In only its fourth year of play, Wild Rock should continue maturing for years to come.

The pin locations can be borderline unfair (“It’s like the head greenskeeper got in a fight with his wife last night,” my cousin told me), but it is truly a fantastic layout that combines prairie, woodlands and quarry/bluff environments into one of the most picturesque golf settings in the state.

The eleventh is the longest of the par threes at Wild Rock, teeing up from 241 yards from the back tees. It is otherwise relatively straight forward: The green is right in front of you without any crazy changes in elevation or false fronts, traps to carry, etc.

Hole 11: Par 3 (241/223/182/156/128)
Hole 11: Par 3 (241/223/182/156/128)

On a course that parades beautiful elevated tee shots out one after another, the tee shot on twelve is one of the most interesting. Driver can be played here, ideally over the traps on the left side, but it is important to keep the tee shot far enough left where the green is in view. This putting surface, which is masked well by the fairway leading up to it, is found along the rock wall beyond the bend in the fairway and is bordered by several small sand traps.

Hole 12: Par 4 (450/424/403/381/364)
Hole 12: Par 4 (450/424/403/381/364)
Hole 12: Par 4 (450/424/403/381/364)
Hole 12: Par 4 (450/424/403/381/364)

Coming out of the woodlands portion of the course, the thirteenth enters in to the quarry section, which has several of Wild Rock’s most memorable holes including thirteen.

The tee shot is most intelligently played to the bend in the fairway with less than driver. From there, a long shot in to the green is best played with right as the bailout. To the left is a gigantic quarry that falls off the faith of the earth some forty-plus feet. Anything in that area is more than likely gone. The hole finishes right of the tall oak tree behind the green complex, which is divided in half by a substantial ridge.

Hole 13: Par 4 (453/430/403/364/304)
Hole 13: Par 4 (453/430/403/364/304)
Hole 13: Par 4 (453/430/403/364/304)
Hole 13: Par 4 (453/430/403/364/304)

The fourteenth is the shortest of the par fives on the course, at just 535 yards from the back tees. The fairway is wider than it looks, but trouble does lurk on both the right and left sides of the fairway.

The approach is the shot that will require all of your attention, with a quarry residing on the right side of the approach area and green. Anything near this area is sure to be gone. The green slopes heavily from back to front, though, which allows for long approaches to bite.

Hole 14: Par 5 (535/514/487/458/407)
Hole 14: Par 5 (535/514/487/458/407)
Hole 14: Par 5 (535/514/487/458/407)
Hole 14: Par 5 (535/514/487/458/407)

My favorite of the par threes at Wild Rock, and one of my favorite one-shotters in the entire state, is the 15th hole, which tees off from isolated tee boxes over a large quarry to a green which appears almost as an island set above an enormous dead zone. Play the quartzite tees here for the most exceptional vista. The green seems too far to reach, but is deceptively closer than expected. A low-to-mid iron is actually the right club. Long can result in a lot of trouble, and the green is as difficult as they come.

Hole 15: Par 3 (179/166/134/130/118)
Hole 15: Par 3 (179/166/134/130/118)
Hole 15: Par 3 (179/166/134/130/118)
Hole 15: Par 3 (179/166/134/130/118)

Hole 15: Par 3 (179/166/134/130/118)
Hole 15: Par 3 (179/166/134/130/118)

The sixteenth is another long par four, driving out to the right before coming back left with a slight dogleg.

Hole 16: Par 4 (456/415/381/352/329)
Hole 16: Par 4 (456/415/381/352/329)

The seventeenth is a great risk/reward par four hole. Very short for Wild Rock, the green is reachable to long hitters, but anything short will be well below the putting surface or potentially in the woods. The smart play is less than driver to the right, finding the fairway and leaving a wedge in.

I was unfortunately not able to find any pictures of the seventeenth on my computer, so will have to make sure I take some new ones this season!

The course ends with a long par four that plays much shorter, given the tremendous downhill run that can be utilized if hit straight. The bailout on eighteen is to the right, as anything left is likely lost in the woods.

The most important shot on eighteen is the approach. Featuring one of the shortest greens on the course from front-to-back, a very tricky sand area is found just beyond the putting surface. Anything that goes in there can give even the best golfers fits.

Hole 18: Par 4 (436/412/371/337/302)
Hole 18: Par 4 (436/412/371/337/302)
Hole 18: Par 4 (436/412/371/337/302)
Hole 18: Par 4 (436/412/371/337/302)

 I personally think Wild Rock is one of the absolute best golf courses in the state of Wisconsin, and in fact think it deserves to be put ahead of a lot of the perennial top tens that have been listed by GolfWeek and Golf Digest.

For a pure golfing experience, for the beauty of the course and its layout, and for the variety of golf shots that have to be made in order to play this course well, there is not much in the state that compares.

For your next bachelor party or Wisconsin Dells weekend trip, if you are looking for a side-trip to a golfing experience you will not soon forget, check out Wild Rock at the Wilderness Resort.

Course Wrap-up:

Location: Wisconsin Dells, WI
Yardage: Quartzite-7,414, Granite-6,953, Shale-6,393, Limestone-5,746, Sandstone-5,132
Slope/Rating: Quartzite-141/76.5, Granite-135/74.5, Shale-134/70.8, Limestone-124/67.5, Sandstone-124/69.6
Par: 72
Weekend Rates (riding): $89
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