The 2nd Annual Friends of Frank Wisconsin Dells Golf Weekend

This weekend was our second annual “Friends of Frank” golf trip to the Wisconsin Dells. “Who’s Frank,” you’re asking? Frank is my cousin who lives in the Dells area and is an avid golfer, much like myself. Frank loves great food and courses, and spending quality time with friends and family. Needless to say, we get along well and his golf vacations are must-attends.

This year, we had a group of 20 total golfers between Friday and Saturday, and played Wild Rock and Castle at the Bay. We got in 63 holes of golf, and stayed in a beautiful golf course condo at the Wilderness Resort.

Wild Rock was almost exactly as I remembered it: An absolutely breathtaking golf course with amazing scenery, one of the best clubhouses I have ever set foot in, and an incredibly challenging track that requires every club in the bag. The one thing that did change, however, was the staff and customer experience. In their defense, a number of our players showed up not completely ready to start, and we were a bit disorganized with regards to who was playing with who, and at what time. The staggered arrivals caused a reduction to four tee times, and two guys showing up after everyone had already teed off. Two other canceled last minute. This caused us to have to split up in to one twosome and a threesome to avoid having a fivesome together (17 total golfers). The marshall followed us the majority of the front nine to make sure we did not group up, even though we saw a sixsome playing several times on neighboring holes.

The beverage cart girls were rude to several of our groups, and made people close out their tabs by the 13th hole, implying they would leave without paying their bills. When we set out to play the Woods executive course afterwards, we were warned sternly by one staff member that if we “even approached the first tee of the regular course we would be charged the full rate.”

To a person, everyone was aghast at the poor level of customer service. My brother said he felt as though we were a tremendous burden on the staff for being there. I asked the bartender, who was actually terrific, afterwards if she heard of anything bad going on with our group, and she said no. There was a wild bachelor party playing earlier than us, though, and she figured that might have given us a bad image. There were also a couple of guys who played before us who she said were drunk and rude in the bar, but they were also not part of our outing. Either way, it was disappointing.

Now that I’ve got that off my chest, let’s get to the golf! Wild Rock was in magnificent shape, and was just as beautiful and challenging as I remembered it. We had a perfect day for golf – 75 degrees and sunny, with about ten mile per hour winds swirling. Everyone agreed it is one of the best golf courses they have ever played, if not the best. The course conditions were absolutely perfect, with the greens rolling lightning fast, and true.

Sometimes it is interesting playing a course again that I give high ranks. Sometimes I remember things differently. Not here. Not the awe-striking par five sixth hole – it is still one of the best par fives I have ever played. And definitely not the awesome par three fifteenth – I still contest it is my favorite par three in the state of Wisconsin.

Wild Rock hole 15: Par 3 (179/166/134/130/118)
Wild Rock hole 15: Par 3 (179/166/134/130/118)

I will give the staff the benefit of the doubt with regards to their service level. Maybe the rude groups before us put them in a bad funk, or maybe I do not really know what happened with the groups before mine, even though everyone claimed to have been well-behaved.

After our Wild Rock experience, Castle at the Bay could not have been more satisfying. The staff was accomodating and friendly, we had another gorgeous May day for golf, and even the breakfast was fantastic. I got the tall stack of blueberry pancakes before hitting the range.

As we always do, my foursome got in 36 holes on Saturday. The Castle Course is the kind of place that I cannot get enough of, and that was certainly the case this weekend.

So what was everyone else’s takes on the courses? The majority of our players agreed that Wild Rock is a better course, but that Castle is incredibly fun and also a fantastic track. The favorite holes at Wild Rock were the par three fourth and fifteenth, as well as the par five sixth and par four seventh and thirteenth holes.

Wild Rock hole 6: Par 5 (588/551/525/504/457)

Everyone loved the classic “Island Hole” at Castle (TPC Sawgrass number seventeen), of course, but agreed that the third (Augusta sixteen) and seventeenth are also outstanding par three holes. Most people also mentioned the thirteenth, which is not a replica but is one of the most charming holes at Northern Bay. Other holes receiving high acclaim were the par five eleventh (Augusta twelve) and of course the finishing hole that replicates the eighteenth at Bay Hill.

The course is already in excellent shape, although the fairways seem as though they have just recently been aerated. I did not have an issue with it, but one of my friends who hit the first nine fairways said a number of times he felt penalized for hitting great drives and ending up in sandy, aerated lies.

There were some really tough pin placements on Saturday. None were tougher than the back-left hole location on the third hole, shown here.

Castle Hole 3: Par 3 (194/170/164/160/158)


Castle hole 11: Par 5 (510/465/455/431/362)


Castle hole 18: Par 4 (462/441/430/417/305)

The hole that played the toughest at Castle was the Island hole. In true Tin Cup fashion, I put three in the water off the tee before finally moving on to the drop zone. I shot a great front nine, and followed it up with a nine on the tenth hole. Ouch!

I learned my lesson our second time around, and after donating one ball to the pond moved on to the drop zone (after putting a “just for fun” ball ten feet from the pin, of course).

You will notice my “awesome” teal Puma pants. I found them on the clearance rack at GolfSmith and could not pass them up. Rickie Fowler was wearing the same pants at the Player’s Championship on Saturday, which brought some laughs and the obligatory, “What’d you guys call eachother this morning?” No, but it made my outfit and presence as a walking cliche feel somewhat validated.

Castle hole 10: Par 3 (146/132/127/95/81)

From past visits and correspondence with the general manager, I do not think the level of customer service that we received at Wild Rock was representative of the course, which I have come to know as friendly and accomodating. I am hopeful that if we go back next year, we will see a return to the level we should expect. As it was, our experience felt a bit rushed and stressful, although we managed to have a great time in spite of their efforts. Have you ever had any issues with customer service at Wild Rock?

Altogether, it was a wonderful weekend in the Dells, and I am already looking forward to next year’s third annual Friends of Frank golf weekend.

For my original reviews of both Wild Rock and Castle at the Bay, please check out the following links:

WiscoSportsAddict Review of Castle at the Bay (2011)

WiscoSportsAddict Review of Wild Rock (2011)

Wisconsin’s Best Par 5 Holes By Paul Seifert

Wisconsin’s 10 Best Par 5 Holes By Paul Seifert

Wisconsin’s 10 Best Par 5 Holes

Too often people look at par fives as the holes they need to survive in order to save their score. Not me. As anyone who has golfed with me can attest to, I love par fives. I love that I can have one bad shot, and still have a good chance for par.

Sometimes it is the challenge that makes par fives great. Sometimes it is the options the hole provides. Sometimes, it has such a spectacular layout and looks so great that my score the first time I play it doesn’t even matter.

Some courses are chocked full of great par fives. Courses like University Ridge, Castle at the Bay, Wild Rock and Horseshoe Bay were built for great par fives. They churn out one after another. Other courses have one or two that are truly spectacular. There is definitely an art to making a great par five, and this article is an ongoing examination of the best.

You will notice that this listing changes often. It is listed as “posted on” October 25, 2011, but will be ever-changing. It is my intention to edit this as often as a great hole is found that deserves to be included.

This list is dedicated to the par five holes that provide the best challenge and options, and oftentimes for me the most memorable experience on the course.

1. University Ridge #16 (554/533/514/434):

From the moment you step up to the tee, the sixteenth at U-Ridge is one of the most fun golf holes in Wisconsin. A large oak tree provides your first choose-your-own-adventure experience: Aim to the right of the tree to hit the lower fairway, but risk finding the woods or fescue if the drive cuts. Aim to the left for a slightly safer play, but doing so will add more yardage to the hole and bring in to play thirteen centrally placed sand traps on the approach.

The second shot will be long regardless of the side you choose, but each has a bailout fairway to help take the bunkers out of play. Aim over the traps for your only chance at hitting this green in two and putting for eagle.

Hole 16: Par 5 (554/533/514/434)

2. Whistling Straits, Straits Course #16 (568/545/535/513/412):

Driving along the coastline of Lake Michigan, “Endless Bite” is a beautiful, demanding par five with the lake as a backdrop to a green perched opposite a multitude of recessed sand traps and waste areas.

While this is the shortest of the par fives on the Straits course, the green is quite possibly the toughest to hit in two, as the left side all slants toward the lake.

Hole 16: Par 5 (568/545/535/513/412)
3. Geneva National, Palmer Course #17 (573/530/485/421/406):
Walking off the green of the gorgeous par three 16th hole on the Palmer course at Geneva National, you walk alongside the shore of Lake Como to tee boxes that when looked over cannot help but make you think of the famed 18th hole at Pebble Beach.
One of Arnold Palmer’s “Dream 18” holes of his course designing career, the 17th presents a formidable task: Getting off the tee. Lake Como lines the entire left boundary of the hole, while out of bounds lines the right side. Several large oaks give you a line, while strong winds off the lake make this initial challenge even more difficult.
The hole flows down the shoreline and finishes with a flurry of sand traps. This is the signature hole on the Palmer course, and one of the most beautiful holes I have found in the state.
Hole 17: Par 5 (573/530/485/421/406)

4. Wild Rock #6 (588/551/525/504/457):

The most awe-inspiring tee shot on one of Wisconsin’s most majestic courses is Wild Rock’s par five sixth hole. The view from the quartzite tees 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 left. The fairway narrows as the sixth plays uphill, and a blind shot to the green becomes guess-work as the approach drops downhill, then into oblivion both long and right. The pin location has been in the midst of a severe slope each time I have played it, making a two-putt much to ask for.
Hole 6: Par 5 (588/551/525/504/457)

5. Blackwolf Run, River Course #11 (621/560/538/522/446)

While it looks fairly elementary from the tee boxes, the eleventh hole at the River is anything but. The views from the second and third shots are picturesque, to say the least, while the distances over the Sheboygan River are deceivingly long.

Do yourself a favor and avoid looking at the hole flyover prior to teeing off. The optimal tee shot is the left side of the fairway, although a sand trap is found left 260 yards out. The river runs the full distance of the right side, and narrows the fairway between it and the reservoir found to the left at about 300 yards. The second shot will bring the river in to the equation no matter where the tee shot is played to, and the distance to safely carry the river can be tough to judge.

To me, the eleventh is the most scenic hole on the River course, which is a bold statement. I am told that it is Herb Kohler’s favorite, as well.

Hole 11: Par 5 (621/560/538/522/446)

6. Lawsonia, Links Course #13 (568/556/489/489):

Thirteen is one of the most awe-striking par fives you will find anywhere. The tee shot is pretty self-explanatory: Try to find the fairway and set up your second shot. From there, it gets interesting.
The mounding on this hole is absolutely beautiful, and is the quintessential example that should be used for any American links-style course. The second shot has to be long, and absolutely needs to be in the fairway. Why? The finish is surrounded by woods, and features a massive depression that falls steeply from the fairway. It then climbs again for 150-plus yards to the green, which looks heavenly from the fairway depression before being mounded even higher for the green itself.
Hole 13: Par 5 (568/556/489/489)
7. Erin Hills #18 (660/637/620/539/506):
The eighteenth at Erin Hills is one of the most beautiful finishing holes I have played, and at 620 yards from the green tees (660 from the tips), it is also one of the longest.
Listening to Director of Golf, Rich Tock, tell me about this hole before our round got me excited to play it. With a good drive, the fairway bends right at around 250-300 yards out. Trying to hit the green in two from this area will inevitably result in a lost ball in the forced carry over fescue that serves as a wetland. The second shot has to be played far right toward the central fairway sand trap. The fairway on eighteen extends considerably in that direction, and leaves a wedge in to a green that is risen and lined on the left with deep sand traps. Long and left runs off the green quickly.

The view on this approach is breathtaking, with the clubhouse, village, and American and Erin Hills flags in the near distance, and Holy Hill on the horizon. It is so memorable that a friend of mine from my Thursday night golf league hired a painter to capture the vista with him on the eighteenth green.

Hole 18: Par 5 (660/637/620/539/506)

8. SentryWorld #5 (526/510/475/435/370)

It was a great decision by Robert Trent Jones, Jr. not to change much on the par five fifth hole at the renovated SentryWorld.

Driving over water, the fairway meanders around the lake and finishes on a peninsula well under 400 yards from the tee boxes, but is completely unreachable. While this crescent-shaped layout provides a wealth of risk/reward options, the smart play is to make sure the fairway is hit off the tee, then “Walk the line” greenward.

Keeping it as the fifth hole does not mean improvements were ignored: The new fifth has an opened up driving area, and less trees in the fly zone over the inland lake means long hitters will now be further provoked to try daring approaches over and along the shoreline.

Hole 5: Par 5 (526/510/475/435/370)

9. The Bull at Pinehurst Farms #8 (568/556/500/487/435):

All you need to know about this hole can be seen in the aerial layout. With water seamingly everywhere, the tee shot needs to be played to the fairway. The parallel rivers separate split fairways on the second shot, and the green is mercilessly small and breaks relentlessly. While the fairway on the left side makes for the easiest setup, the one in the middle allows the greatest margin for error on the approach. Choose your own adventure on this spectacular par five.
Hole 8: Par 5 (568/556/500/487/435)

10. Blackwolf Run, Meadow Valleys #16 (590/544/487/478/415):

The longest par five on the Meadow Valleys course, the sixteenth is nicknamed “Rolling Thunder.” The tee shot from the tips requires a whole lot of length to clear the hill that fronts the fairway and landing zone, then fires right green-ward. Stay well right of the small barn off the tee.

Be smart on the second shot to avoid the largest sand trap at all of Blackwolf Run, and maybe the largest greenside bunker in the state, lingering short-right and along the entire right side of the elevated putting surface.

Hole 16: Par 5 (590/544/487/478/415)

Honorable Mention:

11. Geneva National, Gary Player Course #10 (552/511/495/462/405):

The opening hole on the back nine of the Player course features highly-elevated tee boxes with woods to the left and a hugely downhill drive. 

Find the fairway on the drive and get great roll to set up a chance at hitting this green in two. The shot over the pond is long, and the landing area is largely populated with sand. The finish of this hole reminds me of the 18th from Castle at the Bay, requiring a long shot over water and staggered bunkers. The green is multi-tiered, as many of the greens at Geneva National are. 

Hole 10: Par 5 (552/511/495/462/405)

12. Big Fish #13 (525/487/475/440/401):

The back nine at Big Fish is absolutely beautiful, and is highlighted by this phenomenal par five. Following a straight tee shot, the setup is played over a gigantic crest in the fairway that drops significantly toward a lower fairway before playing back uphill to a small green guarded by several pot bunkers left, and a line of trees to the right.

Hole 13: Par 5 (525/487/475/440/401)
13. Washington County #7 (545/524/505/431):
The seventh at Washington County is a brutal par five. At over 500 yards, water lines almost the entire left side of the hole, and the fairway funnels toward it. The tee boxes are in line with the pond, so it is essential to stay right.
The approach is over a small creek / waste area, and fescue runs along the right side of the rough by the cart path.
Hole 7: Par 5 (545/524/505/431)
14. Brown Deer #18 (557/477/353):
The eighteenth at Brown Deer begins with one of the most demanding tee shots I have ever played. From the tips, this hole plays at 557 yards, and the tee shot needs to be at least 225 and straight to cross the pre-fairway stream.
Heading uphill, the hole is lined with trees. A former PGA Tour event finishing hole, it is fun to think to yourself on the tee boxes: “What would Tiger do?”
Hole 18: Par 5 (557/477/353)

15. Hawk’s Landing #5 (561/512/482/445):

With elevated tee boxes driving downhill, out of bounds left and tons of sand traps and OB right, this is a tight driving hole that can reward straight shots with a lot of roll-out. The par five fifth at Hawk’s Landing plays downhill to a green that has to be run on to.

Hole 5: Par 5 (561/512/482/445)

16. Whistling Straits, Irish Course #8 (555/542/501/459/392):

After parking the cart and walking back to the tee boxes, there is a carry to the tee shot of a little over 100 yards to the fairway. The right side drops about 15 feet off the playing surface, so if you land there then take your medicine and re-find the fairway. The setup shot is played over an inland stream and uphill to one of the most beautiful green areas I have ever seen. Littered with sand and an almost impossibly sloped green, a par here would feel like a birdie on almost any other hole.
Hole 8: Par 5 (555/542/501/459/392)
17. Castle at the Bay #6 (625/586/565/546/361):
The Firestone replica sixth hole at Northern Bay tees up from 625 yards of tree-lined fairway. The fairway is tight, and the setup shot aims downhill to a creek that starts on the right side and builds in to a pond before the green. The green is next to impossible to hit in two, so play it smart to avoid this blow-up hole waiting to happen.
Hole 6: Par 5 (625/586/565/546/361)
18. Hawk’s View, Como Crossings #10 (600/550/539/515/507):
Ten is Hawk’s View’s longest par five, and my favorite hole at Como Crossings. The tenth sets up similarly to the eighteenth hole at one of my favorite Wisconsin courses, The Oaks. The fairway sets up laterally with hundreds of yards to short grass to hit from the tees. The farther left you drive, the shorter the drive will be.
If the tee shot is long and left, there will be a chance to hit the green in two, but it will likely be 200 yards or more. If the middle or right side of the fairway is hit off the tee, the only option will be to lay up before Como Creek. A beautiful wooden bridge crosses the creek and leads to a short layup area that fronts an elevated green. This is an awesome par five that for almost all players will require three shots to hit.
Hole 10: Par 5 (600/550/539/515/507)

19. The Oaks #18 (547/510/483/479/460):

The eighteenth at The Oaks is a fantastic finishing hole. The last of their five par fives, the fairway runs slightly downhill and is probably the widest on the course. The hole bends left and over a large waste area, with woods left. Beyond these woods is about 30 yards of open fairway and sand traps, while the front-right side of the green area will result in a lost ball or deeper bunkers.

Play to the left side of the green for your best chance of staying safe, and realize that there is plenty of fairway and layup area left of the green over the trees that front the approach area.

Hole 18: Par 5 (547/510/483/479/460)
20. Lawsonia, Woodlands Course #8 (527/495/479/428):

Seven is my favorite hole on the Woodlands course, and one of my all-time favorite par fives. The tee shot is nearly impossible: A large sand trap and woods on the left, forest on the right, and well within distance is a mammoth pond surrounded by tall, thick fescue. Stay safe off the tee and your second shot will be to a wide enough area uphill to set up the approach.

The green is two-tiered, so make sure you find the right level. Anything on the wrong level almost guarantees a three-putt, while a top-level hole location is still liable to carry any putt to the lower level (or off the green, altogether). Take a minute to enjoy the look back at this gorgeous hole layout before moving on to the eighth hole.

Hole 7: Par 5 (527/495/479/428)
21. Fire Ridge #10 (532/528/489/443):
The tenth at Fire Ridge has one of the most exciting par five approach shots in Wisconsin. At over 500 yards, a forest lines the left side of the hole, and the fairway is wide enough with the exception of a large tree that can lock out shots cut right.
The approach carries a wide river (shown below), then flies a long sand trap that fronts this kidney bean-shaped green.
Hole 10: Par 5 (532/528/489/443)

Wisconsin’s Best Par 3 Holes

There is no more exciting hole in golf than a well-made par three. Great par threes begin with imagination, and are cultivated to provide a challenging one-shot experience interlaced with fantastic aesthetics, and occasionally options.

This article is dedicated to the par threes that I will never forget, and will be an ongoing examination of the greatest one-shot holes in the Midwest. Much like my all-time greatest courses list, it will be ever-changing and updated as necessary when I find one that deserves a spot in the rankings.

1. Whistling Straits, Straits Course #17 (249/223/197/165/131):

The legend of the seventeenth goes like this: At every course that Pete Dye designs, he allows his wife, Alice, to design one par three. This was the seventeenth for the Straits course, and she must have been angry with him that day!

The seventeenth, quite possibly the signature hole on the Straits course and one of the most beloved par threes in the state of Wisconsin, is a brutally long par three with very few spots to miss. The lake lingers left of the playing area, and huge mounds front the right entrance and entire right side of the putting surface.

The misses here are short and/or long-right, as the mounds right of the green can help carom slightly wayward shots toward the putting surface.

Hole 17: Par 3 (249/223/197/165/131)


2. Wild Rock #15 (179/166/134/130/118):

With six individual tee boxes separated by the trees and cliffs, the fifteenth hole is one of the most picturesque holes on one of the state’s most picturesque golf courses. A large stone quarry lives between the elevated tee boxes and the elevated green, and anything hit short will be claimed by the waste area that lies beneath.

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

3. Lawsonia, Links Course #7 (161/146/140/109):

The seventh on the Links course is famous for the “Boxcar hole” and its steep embankment short and right of the green. Opened in 1930, the Links is rated the number 55 classic course in the country, and the seventh is its signature hole.

Legend has it that course architects William Langford and Theodore Moreau used an actual train boxcar to create the elevated green on seven – if that’s true, then we can reasonably assess the drop in elevation on the right side to be at least 11 feet. In person, it feels like 15-20 – not an easy recovery when missed!

Hole 7: Par 3 (161/146/140/109)

4. SentryWorld #16 (173/155/127/116/106):

As any avid Wisconsin golfer has, I had seen pictures of SentryWorld’s famous “Flower Hole” prior to playing it. Needless to say, I did not expect it to live up to expectations. It did, though, and more. The reason I say more is that it is an excellent par three even without the 45,000-plus flowers!

The green on sixteen is slightly risen and heavily sloped, and the steep bunkers that front it can be awfully penalizing. While shots in to the flowers cannot be played or looked for, the course does allow for a free drop. The flowers are beautifully patterned, and the colors are vibrant and glorious: Oranges, reds, yellows, purples and whites.

Hole 16: Par 3 (173/155/127/116/106)

5. Castle at the Bay #10 (146/132/127/95/81):

A beautiful replica of the world’s most famous golf hole, number 17 at TPC Sawgrass, the tenth at Northern Bay is intended to challenge your mettle at the 132-yard distance that is played on the PGA Tour.

Hole 10: Par 3 (146/132/127/95/81)

6. Erin Hills #9 (165/150/143/138/135)

Previously billed as the course’s “Bye hole,” the ninth at Erin Hills is a phenomenal downhill par three that plays between a multitude of greenside bunkers and a false front that protects the entrance to the putting surface. Deep rough abounds, and the craggy sand traps are hellish to play out of.

Hole 9: Par 3 (165/150/143/138/135)

7. Blackwolf Run, River Course #4 (219/195/185/146/117):

Narrow and well-guarded, Swan Lake is one of the most charming holes on the world-famous River course.

The two biggest stars on this hole are the swans that live in the pond, who seem to be avid golf enthusiasts, themselves: When you’re on the tee boxes, they’re by the tee boxes. When you’re on the green, they are by the green. This will be one of the holes receiving a lot of attention during the 2012 US Women’s Open, and my guess is these two swans (pictured below) will be quite popular with the national media.

At 195 yards from the blue tees, the tee shot is long and intimidating. Anything hit right is dead, so zero in with a long club that you can hit straight, and pray to stay dry.

Hole 4: Par 3 (219/195/185/146/117)

8. The Bull at Pinehurst Farms #6 (193/183/173/163/153/80):

On an unbelievably difficult golf course, the sixth at The Bull does not let up. Narrow and guarded by trees and sand, this hole requires absolute precision. This is a gorgeous hole, and follows one of my all-time favorite par fours, “Follow On.”

That being said, this is a beast of a par three. With a downhill tee shot, I have felt every time that I’ve teed off on this hole that I’ve hit it pretty well. Alas, I have found sand, I have found forest, and I have yet to find the green. The bunker on the right is particularly difficult, and anything overhit from there will likely be lost in the woods [or in the traps] on the left side of the green.

The green is two-tiered, and slopes from the back to the front. Nicknamed “Elation,” I will certainly be elated if I ever find a way to mark par on this par three.

Hole 6: Par 3 (193/183/173/163/153/80)

9. SentryWorld #12 (161/139/123/86/76)

One of the newly designed holes on the Robert Trent Jones, Jr. renovated SentryWorld, I think a lot of Wisconsin golfers will be excited in 2015 to see that the “Flower Hole” may no longer be the most beautiful par three on the course. It might be top three, in fact!

Twelve is a brand new par three, created in an area that had previously never been used by the course. Teeing off from a laterally running tee box over the course’s inland lake to a peninsula that runs hard toward the water, twelve requires the precision of an island tee shot, with a slight backboard on the left side to help hold approaches.

Hole 12: Par 3 (161/139/123/86/76)

10. Blackwolf Run, Meadow Valleys Course #15 (227/196/189/150/103):

The hole pictured on the Meadow Valleys scorecard, the fifteenth is a seriously PGA-caliber par three. Playing from 227 yards from the tips, and 196 from the blues, the tee shot is typically straight in to the wind and must carry almost the entire distance. Anything short is dead. Anything left is dead. Anything right is dead. Anything long will require a good touch downhill to keep from hitting the aforementioned “short” dead zone.

With one of the widest greens on the course, though, it is not impossible.

Adding to the mystique of this hole is maybe the most gorgeous vista in all of golf from the fifteenth hole’s tee boxes: Over the green and up the fairway of the “Nature’s Course” 14th hole.

Hole 15: Par 3 (227/196/189/150/103)
Image from the course website, from the closer tee boxes

The Honorable Mention List:

11. Trapper’s Turn, Canyon Course #7 (158/140/126/93):

The seventh on the Canyon course is a very intimidating tee shot, but actually plays a little easier than expected. Both sides of the approach area are slanted upward, which funnels shots slightly left or right in to the green area. Both times I have played it I have found myself on the green by way of the friendly bounce, which is much appreciated when playing on a course as tight as the Canyon.

Hole 7: Par 3 (158/140/126/93)

12. Whistling Straits, Irish Course #11 (208/193/177/169/125):

Nicknamed “Lamb Chop,” the 11th at the Irish course is a long, and usually heavily wind-influenced hole chocked full of treachery. The cliff on the left side of the approach air zone provides a lot of character to the hole, and even that is wrought with sand traps. A sand trap from those areas would probably be best [or only] struck by the old “hand wedge.”

That was a [bad] joke, but this hole is not. It is absolutely gorgeous, with views of Lake Michigan and glorious mounding and bunkering.

Hole 11: Par 3 (208/193/177/169/125)

13. Geneva National, Palmer Course #16 (218/204/177/156/141)

The start of one of the best combinations of back-to-back holes in the state, the sixteenth at the Palmer Course is a beautiful and challenging par three. The tee shot is long, at 204 yards from the blue tees, and plays to the shoreline of Lake Como. The backside of the green drops off to the lake, while the left and right sides are bordered by sand.

Hole 16: Par 3 (218/204/177/156/141)
14. Hawk’s View, Como Crossings #17 (169/153/136/120/91)

Perched atop the former Mt. Fuji Ski Hill, the back tees afford a view of much of the surrounding Lake Geneva and Delavan area, and 87 feet down to the putting surface of this gorgeous par three. At 153 yards, the wind was swirling for our round, and club selection proved to be quite difficult. My eight iron looked to be on the back of the green, but showed up in the back-side sand trap, making for a tough out that would finally be holed for bogey.

Hole 17: Par 3 (169/163/136/120/91)
15. Castle at the Bay #3 (194/170/164/160/158):
A fanatastic replica of the 16th hole at Augusta, known as “Rosebud,” the third at the Castle course is absolutely gorgeous to look at, but very tough to play!
The long water hazard down the middle of the layout on this hole replaces what would otherwise be fairway, and cozies up to the bottom of the green area. The green is rather narrow, but long. It slopes severely downhill from the back to the front, and three strategically placed sand traps will make for a hellacious shot on to the green. Anything hit above the pin will roll downhill fast, and is almost likely to roll off and into the pond.
Hole 3: Par 3 (194/170/164/160/158)

16. Edgewood, Oaks Course #14 (178/153/141/104):

Featuring another fantastic island layout, the fourteenth is the signature hole of the fantastic back nine on Edgewood’s Oaks course. From elevated tee boxes, the green is absolutely huge, and is affronted by a long sand trap and water on all sides.

Hole 14: Par 3 (178/153/141/104)

17. Hawks Landing #17 (164/135/135/114/97):

Another fantastic island hole, the 17th at Hawks Landing is visible from the road that leads to both Hawks Landing and University Ridge. This is a gorgeously done green area, with a railroad-tied face holding the green above the pond in front. The pond creeps all the way to the front of the green, so carrying the water is absolutely essential on this hole.
Hole 17: Par 3 (164/135/135/114/97)

18. Washington County #14 (197/175/147/92):

The fourteenth at Washington County begins on elevated tee boxes, and tees off over a pond that fronts and lines the left side of the green area. The green slopes heavily toward the water, making the sand trap on the right side quite difficult to play from. There is a small bailout area short and to the right, but the only safe play is to the green itself.

Hole 14: Par 3 (197/175/147/92)
Click here to view this original article on!

The Anticipation of a Great Golf Weekend: Northern Bay Preview

Have you ever had a weekend planned that you were so psyched for, you could barely contain your excitement? This is one of those weekends for me. Ask the guys on my sales team, and they will probably tell you that I have not contained my excitement well at all.
Tomorrow, a couple of friends and I will be heading to the Wisconsin Dells to play two of my top six courses of all time: Castle at the Bay (aka Northern Bay), and Wild Rock.
I don’t want to give too much away for my friends who have yet to play Wild Rock [and writing doesn’t do it justice, anyhow], so my writing on that course will be left for the post-round review. 
For Northern Bay, I thought it would be fun to compare – at the lowest possible level since I have not played any of Augusta, TPC Sawgrass, Oak Hill, Oakmont, Bay Hill or Firestone – their replica holes versus the ones that make them worth replicating.
We will go in order of the holes as they are played at Northern Bay (all pictures of the course were taken this past spring, which explains the lack of foliage)…

3. Augusta National, Hole 16:

The real thing: 170 yards
NB blue tees: 170 yards
Difference in  yardage from recommended tee box: 0
Hole 16 at Augusta National (170, 145)
 Hole 3 at Northern Bay (194, 170, 164, 160)
This is a very difficult par three! A friend of mine was the assistant pro at Northern Bay and was telling me they actually had to keep a ranger on the third to keep players from taking too many tee shots. Go short, and you’re in the water. Go long, and face an almost impossible task of holding the green. It is not uncommon to putt the ball from the top into the pond at the bottom. The front-left sand trip almost seems like a treat.
Proposed hole contest: Closest to the pin from the rough above the green
4. Oakland Hills Country Club, South Course, Hole 5:
The real thing: 490 yards
NB blue tees: 465 yards
Difference in  yardage from recommended tee box: -25 yards

A very long par four, this is the number one handicapped hole at Northern Bay. The fourth is played from slightly elevated tee boxes with the road on the left and two large bunkers on the right side of the fairway. It feels like a par five from the tee box to the green, which is huge but sloped.

Proposed hole contest: closest to the pin in two
6. Firestone Country Club, South Course, Hole 16:
The real thing: 667 yards
NB black tees: 625 yards

Difference in  yardage from recommended tee box: -42 yards

Fortunately, this hole plays mostly downhill, but it is still tremendously long. A calming stream runs alongside the end of the hole and builds into a pond guarding a small green. With trees engulfing the length of the fairway, the course’s recommended tee shot is long iron or wood.

Proposed hole contest: Closest to the pin from the fairway 200-yard marker
10. TPC at Sawgrass, Stadium Course, Hole 17:
The real thing: 132 yards
NB blue tees: 132 yards

Difference in  yardage from recommended tee box: 0

Hole 17 at TPC Sawgrass (132, 128, 115)
Hole 10 at Northern Bay (146, 132, 127, 95)


Hole 10 at Northern Bay (146, 132, 127, 95)
Probably the most famous par three in all of golf, the 17th at TPC Sawgrass is known simply as “The Island Hole.” The pond on this single hole collects over 8,000 balls every season.
Proposed hole contest: Closest to the pin (tee shot)
11. Augusta National, Hole 13:
The real thing: 510 yards
NB black tees: 510 yards
Difference in  yardage from recommended tee box: 0
Hole 13 at Augusta National (510, 455) 
Hole 11 at Northern Bay (510, 465, 455, 431)
A picture-perfect tee shot. There is plenty of room to play with in the fairway, but getting out far enough and left enough for an iron approach over the stream to the green is not an easy task – nor is finding a spot in the fairway that is not on an up-, down-, or side-slope. Take a minute to enjoy the scenery around the green on the 11th.
Proposed hole contest: Longest drive in the fairway
12. Oakmont Country Club, Hole 3:
The real thing: 428 yards
NB blue tees: 426 yards
Difference in  yardage from recommended tee box: -2 yards
Hole 3 at Oakmont (428, 390, 378)
Hole 12 at Northern Bay (433, 426, 392, 329)
The famous “Church pew” sand traps on the left side are for the most part out of the picture except for in the case of a quite errant tee shot. What makes this hole tougher is the deep sand traps on the right, and the considerable uphill approach.
Proposed hole contest: Closest approach to the pin from the last of the church pew bunkers
18. Bay Hill, Hole 18:
The real thing: 440 yards
NB blue tees: 441 yards
Difference in  yardage from recommended tee box: +1 yard
Hole 18 at Bay Hill (440, 414, 391)
Hole 18 at Northern Bay (462, 441, 430, 417)
The 18th is a fantastic finishing hole. Keep dry off the tee and do your best to hit the green between a substantial pond short and right, and deep green-side bunkers left and long. This green has one of the most drastic changes in slope at Northern Bay, which does not bode well for players “trying to break 90” – or 80, 100, or whatever the final score they have in mind happens to be.

Proposed hole contest: Lowest number of putts

Northern Bay website:

Wild Rock website: