Golf Course Review: Grand Geneva, The Brute

What can I say about the Brute at Grand Geneva that isn’t already covered by its name? The Brute is long and tight, and everything about it is “Brute-ish.”

Have you ever seen that beer commercial where the guys are at the tee box and one friend is about to tee off when his buddy says, “Hold on,” and uses his fingers to tighten the fairways and enlarge the sand traps? That is how every hole seems to be on this course. The sand traps are massive, the water features are prominent, and it has a very mature, demanding feel that can be quite intimidating.

I first played and reviewed the Brute 12-15 years ago with a friend of mine, Dane, who used to work there. He was telling me that Jim McMahon and Rollie Fingers always played it barefooted, so we did, too. I remembered it being very nice, but was nowhere near the golf enthusiast I am today, and it was like a whole new experience for me with virtually no recollections of that round and how to play it.

As a side note, it’s hilarious how many times I’ve had people mention Rollie or Jim McMahon as barefooted golfers during rounds with new golf partners.

While WiscoGolfAddict contributing writer John Ziemer and I did not play the course barefooted, we did experience it in a new way: GolfBoarding.

Grand Geneva is currently the only golf destination in the state offering GolfBoards for players to use during their rounds. While the surcharge to use them is minimal – $20 over the standard cost that includes cart – the experience is fun, unique and well worth the added charge (my previous post about GolfBoarding can be found here).

The Brute is one course that I cannot say enough is worth playing from the recommended tee boxes. Similarly to another of my Wisconsin favorites, Wild Rock, everything about the Brute seems massive and accentuated. The course has an awesome look and feel.

Also similarly to Wild Rock, the greens can be really quick and challenging. Many of the greens are crowned, making for really tough downhill putts and a lot of challenging two-putt situations.

The Brute starts with a beautifully elevated par four that, like most holes on this course, features water, sand and a long approach.

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Hole 1: Par 4 (424/395)  Photo credit: John Ziemer

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Hole 1: Par 4 (424/395)  Photo credit: John Ziemer

The Brute uses elevation wonderfully, and especially generously on their par fives. The second hole, for example, features an approach area at least 100 yards long that goes uphill and to the left without any fairway to lay up to. Compounding the challenge of this approach is that the green on two is probably the smallest on the course.

The majority of their par fives are similar, and [at least from the back tees] I would not consider any of them to be easily reachable in two. The sixth hole has a very similar approach area, and both feature greens that are several stories above [and well over 100 yards past] their playable fairways.

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Hole 2: Par 5 (544/509/409)  Photo credit: John Ziemer

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Hole 2: Par 5 (544/509/409)  Photo credit: John Ziemer

The third is a gorgeous downhill par four that narrows to about 15 yards wide between two ponds before going back uphill between greenside bunkers. The water is actually farther away than it at first appears, but driver is likely longer than the landing area will allow.

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Hole 3: Par 4 (374/351/327)  Photo credit: John Ziemer

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Hole 3: Par 4 (374/351/327)  Photo credit: John Ziemer

The fourth is one of those par threes that seems to play much longer than the distance. The elevation is relatively flat overall, but goes downhill from the tee boxes over water, then back well uphill to a very wide green complex.

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Surfing the Brute Course at Grand Geneva on GolfBoards

Last month, WiscoGolfAddict Contributing Writer John Ziemer and I had the opportunity to try something new: GolfBoarding.

Grand Geneva is the first golf destination in Wisconsin to offer this alternative mode of transportation, which got its start in Oregon at the world-renowned Tetherow Golf Resort.

In response to my social media posts, the main question asked was: “What do GolfBoards have to do with golf?” A GolfBoard does not need to be used on a golf course – they would be fun to ride on any terrain – but there are a few benefits realized by utilizing GolfBoards on the course:

  • GolfBoards allow players to go straight to their balls, reducing time spent with both players in one cart looking for the same ball
  • The higher vantage point standing on the GolfBoard helps find balls in the rough
  • GolfBoards allow players to ride right up to the green and teeing complexes
  • GolfBoards reduce the stress put on turf (substantially wider tires that distribute weight more evenly) versus golf carts
  • GolfBoards are fun!

While GolfBoards cost around $5,000 apiece to buy, using one for a round of golf at Grand Geneva costs $20 over the standard round rate for playing with a cart.

First-time users are required to watch a short safety/instructional video and sign an electronic waiver prior to using GolfBoards (which I found helpful), and are then able to practice riding them around before heading to the first tee.

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GolfBoards at the bag drop at Grand Geneva Golf Resort

As a snowboarder, John caught on to GolfBoarding immediately. As a skier, it took me longer to learn how to distribute pressure with my feet. Even so, I was comfortable and on to the faster mode by the time we reached the first green.

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GolfBoarding to my tee shot

I loved the GolfBoarding experience and can’t wait to do it again. The other great thing that came out of our trip to Lake Geneva is that I was able to utilize John’s photography skills to re-shoot the Brute course. Every other time I’ve been there was with terribly inclement and nasty weather; John took full advantage of a perfect Summer afternoon and got some beautiful shots.

I will be following up this post with one updating my 2012 early-Spring review of the Brute course.

Have you had a chance to try out GolfBoards yet? What are your thoughts on the experience and its benefits to golf, in general?

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Setting up for an approach shot in to 18