Wisconsin’s Best Par 5 Holes By Paul Seifert

Wisconsin’s 10 Best Par 5 Holes By Paul Seifert

Wisconsin’s Best Par 4 Holes

Quite possibly the most beautiful golf hole I have ever played, the 14th at Meadow Valleys is deemed “Nature’s Course.” From the elevated tee boxes, the Pigeon River and on most days teems of fly-fishermen are seen down the hill and to the right. The tree lined fairway plays slightly to the left, and is not advisable to drive. Hit it straight and aim for the middle of the fairway, in hopes of receiving a charitable downhill run.
The hole slants to the right, and further downhill where the green is surrounded on three sides by the river, and a charming bridge made from an old flat-bed train car. The river runs hard to the right, and anything errant will fall dramatically from the playing surface.
Hole 14: Par 4 (423/409/384/376/293)

2. Whistling Straits, Straits Course #18 (520/487/424/420/380):

The finishing hole on the Straits could very well be one of the toughest golf holes in the entire world. Par on this 520/487-yard behemoth, which is set to be four, should be considered a monumental task, but will I’m sure be required on Sunday of the 2015 PGA Championship for whoever hopes to take home the Wanamaker Trophy.

Nicknamed “Dyeabolical,” after Pete Dye, of course, the eighteenth is 520 yards from the black tees and 487 from the blues. A split-fairway is found atop the hill in the driving area, and anything between the fairways may travel too far. 


The long approach from anywhere on the upper-right fairway is best targeted right of the clubhouse in the distance. Anything left of that is likely to find the stream or wasteland between and below. The cloverleaf green on eighteen is iconic to golf, and a fantastic way to finish this incredible championship golf course. 

Hole 18: Par 4 (520/487/424/420/380)
 
3. The Bull at Pinehurst Farms #5 (436/404/388/361/308):
Nicknamed “Follow On,” the fifth hole at The Bull is one of the most intimidating par four tee shots in Wisconsin. Narrow and through heavy woods, a 40-foot deep ravine resides on the left side of the fairway. The club did a great job on the terracing added to the left side drop-off this season.

If you find the bend in the fairway, you will have a shot at the green in two, which is over the back-side of the ravine and directly left. Stay long, if anything, because short is dead. This is a phenomenal par four, with bite.

Hole 5: Par 4 (436/404/388/361/308)
4. Lawsonia, Woodlands Course #2 (341/329/315/315):

The second hole is one of my favorites at the Woodlands. 200 yards down the middle of the fairway lives a huge quarry that drops deep from the hitting surface. A bailout fairway lies to the right, while the more appropriate fairway to the left is narrow and sheltered by trees.A large stone observation tower, known locally as Jutson Tower, looms above the fairway, and a huge oak tree is centered in front of the green, guarding the back-left green location. Playing early on a Sunday morning, chimes and church music provided fantastic ambience to the hole.

Hole 2: Par 4 (341/329/315/315)

5. Geneva National, Gary Player Course #5 (354/310/283/257/255):

Hole five on the Player course is an instant classic! A true risk/reward hole, the fairway in front of the green is drivable, but requires at least 225 yards to carry the waste area and fingered sand traps. The bail-out fairway to the right is much more accessible, although it adds considerably to the hole’s yardage.

The green’s front-right bunker is deep, and woods to the left must also be considered if going for this green from the tee. At 310 yards from the gold boxes, this is one of the best short par fours I have ever seen or played.

Hole 5: Par 4 (354/310/283/257/255)

6. Whistling Straits, Irish Course #10 (398/387/378/361/340):

The tenth hole on the Irish is one of the most awe-striking holes in Wisconsin. With Lake Michigan on the horizon, the wind is always a factor. The fairway runs significantly uphill and to the left, and missing it is catastrophic. The multitude of random bunkers built into the hills on the right side of the fairway are demonic, and will leave little to no chance of reaching this green in two.

Hole 10: Par 4 (398/387/378/361/340)

7. Blackwolf Run, River Course #5 (427/400/388/376/275):

The fifth is the first hole played on the River course that is not part of the Original Championship track – the Original Championship skips five through thirteen and instead rounds Swan Lake to fourteen as its fifth. Three times leading up to our round I was told about the tee shot on five, and it did not fail to impress! 

With highly elevated tee boxes, five is nicknamed “Made in Heaven.” Having played the River many times on Tiger Woods Golf for Playstation 3, I should have known what was coming, but was still awe-struck by such a majestic driving scenario.


The drive on five is to a wide fairway that is bordered long and left, as well as on the right side by a large sand trap, and right of that trap by the Sheboygan River. The tee shot is relatively simple on this hole. The approach, however, is not. High uphill, the approach plays to a plateau that is cut out of the tree line and drops straight down twenty feet on the right side. This drop is reminiscent of the right side of the green on the “Boxcar Hole” at Lawsonia’s Links course, if that helps you picture it.

Hole 5: Par 4 (427/400/388/376/275)
8. Blackwolf Run, Meadow Valleys Course #18 (458/395/383/373/303):
The finishing hole at the Meadow Valleys course, nicknamed “Salmon Trap,” is the first hole I have seen with two separate greens. The women play to a shorter distance, around 300 yards, that finishes before the Pigeon River. The men play across the river, just short of the Blackwolf Run clubhouse.
With about 250 yards to the river, the tee shot can be played farther left to allow use of a driver. The approach over the river is fairly long to one of the largest greens on the course. This is a gorgeous finishing hole at a gorgeous golf course.
Hole 18: Par 4 (458/395/383/373/303)

9. Brown Deer Park #1 (461/447):

Bown Deer Park starts with probably the hardest opening hole in the state: A 461-yard beast of a par four that doglegs right and is well guarded by trees, a large pond on the left side of the fairway, and deep sand traps all around the green. Score a par or bogey on this hole, and consider your round off to a great start.
Hole 1: Par 4 (461/447)

10. Erin Hills #12 (466/432/388/388/317):

At a course where the norm is large, elevated greens, the twelfth at Erin Hills goes oppo. At 388 yards from the green tees, fescue will envelop anything errant whether off the tee or from the fairway. In contrast to the majority of the course’s greens, the one on twelve actually resides in a small hollow that is blind from most approaches.

Sand traps line the right side of the green, while the rest is defended by tall fescue that shrouds it from view from the left.

Hole 12: Par 4 (466/432/388/388/317)
 

Honorable Mention:

11. University Ridge #4 (467/398/354/304):

With a tee shot over water, a cut drive is necessary to give yourself a chance at the uphill approach to an elevated green that requires at least a club or two of extra distance to reach. The left side of the driving area is lined with trees, while the right side falls off into fescue and an unreachable pond.
Hole 4: Par 4 (467/398/354/304)

12. Ironwood, Meath Course #3 (278/273/235):

Another short par four, the third on the Meath is as fun of a hole as I have ever played. Playing downhill from elevated tee boxes, the green is reachable from the tee, but good luck at stopping the ball there!

The green is surrounded on three sides by water, and two large sand traps. There are approach areas on both the left and right side, but the right side plays much more difficult. The left side fairway will allow an unimpeded shot to the green, which slopes severely toward the water on the right side. This is a fantastic par four, and my favorite of Ironwood’s 27 holes.

Hole 3: Par 4 (278/273/235)
13. Grand Geneva, Brute #18 (464/437/335):
Eighteen is a wonderful finishing hole at the Brute, and plays slightly less intimidating than the onboard GPS shows. The bunkers lining the right side of the fairway should help keep shots out of the water, but will leave a long way to go. With the pin residing on top of a huge crown during our round here, the eighteenth provides a tremendous putting challenge for finishing the round.
Hole 18: Par 4 (464/437/335)
14. The Oaks #14 (435/403/352/347/307):
The fourteenth on The Oaks is almost visible from I-94, and is my personal favorite par four on the course. It is a tough hole, primarily because of the long forced carry over wetlands on the approach. The drive can be up to around 250 yards from the tee, but the further right the ball is driven, the longer the approach will be. This hole sets up great with a drawn 3-wood or driver off the tee.
Hole 14: Par 4 (435/403/352/347/307)

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.

IMG_8708
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 GolfWisconsin.com!

Golf Course Review: Whistling Straits, Irish Course

The Straits course at Whistling Straits, site of the 2004 and 2010 PGA Championships and future site of the 2015 PGA Championship and 2020 Ryder Cup, is slated as the number three course in the United States (according to GolfWeek and Golf Digest), and is the perennial number one track in the state of Wisconsin. At $340 for an 18-hole round [plus caddy fees], I cannot afford to play this mecca of the golf world.
Whistling Straits also features another gem: The Irish. Having challenged the Irish several times, I wonder how highly it would be rated if it were not for the Straits. Like any big brother/little brother relationship, the Straits is unquestionably more impressive – nobody can argue that.
That being said, the Irish is the best golf course I have ever played, and also receives plenty of acclaim in its own right. The Irish is 2011’s number 35-ranked course in the country (Golf Digest), and is in everybody’s top five in the state. Taking a look at the photographs below, you will see some of the reasons why. The Irish is unparalleled in Wisconsin, with the exception of the Straits.
Whistling Straits is impressive from the moment you enter the property. The beautiful white stone clubhouse overlooks much of the Straits, including the tenth tee at which I will never forget watching Vijay Singh hit the most majestic tee shot I have ever seen during the 2004 PGA Championship event.
Whistling Straits clubhouse
The practice area is immaculate. You will find no divots on the practice tees, nor on the course itself. From what the clubhouse manager told us, Pete Dye would not accept that. Interestingly, he also told us that Mr. Dye was not happy with the play of the 2010 Championship, and is re-structuring several of the holes on the Straits’ back nine to arbor a 2015 winning score between one and four under par. If they have anything like the wind we experienced on Sunday, anything under par seems like a major stretch.
Bordering Lake Michigan, the courses are wide open and rarely unaffected by the elements. We had steady winds over 25 miles per hour, and gusts higher than 40-50. The back nine holes with views of the lake were so highly influenced that we were hitting shots angled at 45 degrees from targeted areas. See the video of hole number 11 for a terrific example of this. While it is interesting and in some ways fun, it makes scoring next to impossible.
The first hole of the Irish course provides your first breathtaking view of Lake Michigan on the horizon. This is a beautiful hole, especially around the green where the bluffs and randomly placed sand traps blend harmoniously with the terrain, but make for treacherous short game. This carries over to all holes on the Irish.
Hole 1: Par 4 (400/387/369/359/301)
Hole 1: Par 4 (400/387/369/359/301)

The second features an intimidating tee shot, with a huge pond that runs along the left side of the fairway. The green is surrounded by sand, and is very tough with regards to the slopes and overall run. Whistling Straits’ greens are unbelievably fast, and I can only compare them to the Links at Lawsonia in difficulty. As one of my friends explained, though, the greens are more fair: They are easier to read and roll true, but are lightning quick and break abundantly.

Hole 2: Par 4 (372/360/347/340/309)
Hole 2: Par 4 (372/360/347/340/309)

The third hole is a tough par three. At under 140 yards from the blue tees, I was the only one to hit the green… With a 6-iron. The wind howled so strong that I clubbed up four times, aimed over the middle of the pond, swung, prayed, and found myself on the front side of the green, thankfully not landing beneath the railroad ties that buttress the green from the wide front-side bunker.

Hole 3: Par 3 (147/138/128/118/87)

The fourth promotes a true risk/reward tee shot. How much of the sand area are you willing to risk trying to cut? It runs more than 250 yards straight in front of the tee boxes before the fairway rolls left and uphill to a green that has a massive bunker along the right side. A back-right hole location made the approach and putting conditions laughable. After reaching the green in three strokes, for example, I took a seven after four-putting. I was not alone.

Hole 4: Par 4 (489/443/432/405/336)
Hole 4: Par 4 (489/443/432/405/336)
Hole 4: Par 4 (489/443/432/405/336)

The fifth is a beautiful par five. Keeping your tee shot in the fairway will give you a chance for a green in regulation, but heed the waste area on the second shot as it will attract anything errant. From before the waste area, the approach will be long and carry more sand. What were the odds? If the Straits course has 967 sand traps, the Irish cannot be far behind.

If there is one relief to the bunkers at Whistling Straits, it is probably that most are unnecessary to rake. Whether Kohler was unable to afford that many rakes, or the traps are meant to be played as hazard areas, it does help speed up play significantly.

The Irish plays as efficiently as you are able to. During the times I have been there, it feels as though we are the only ones on the course. The holes are well-spaced, and the only factor holding back play is you and your companions… And me, snapping pictures of the course.

Hole 5: Par 5 (570/517/501/477/430)

Hole six, nicknamed “Mulligan’s Watch,” is the narrowest of the par threes on the Irish course. With extreme mounding and bunkering engulfing the entire layout, it is no wonder why. If this hole had any more sand, it would be coined “Mulligan’s Beach.”

Hole 6: Par 3 (160/149/135/123/97)

At 363 yards from the blue tees, the seventh is one of the shortest par fours on the course. The fairway flows to the right following the sand traps that run along that side, but trying to fly these traps will most likely lead to the out of bounds area just beyond. This is a great hole to play smart.

Hole 7: Par 4 (372/363/344/339/320)
Hole 7: Par 4 (372/363/344/339/320)

The eighth is one of my all-time favorite par fives. 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)
Hole 8: Par 5 (555/542/501/459/392)

The front nine ends with a short, but difficult, par four. “Last Gaspe” features a wide fairway, but the right side can lock out a clean shot at the green.

Hole 9: Par 4 (484/409/322/308/263)

The tenth hole on the Irish is one of the most awe-striking holes in Wisconsin. With Lake Michigan on the horizon, the wind is always a factor. The fairway runs significantly uphill and to the left, and missing it is catastrophic. The multitude of random bunkers built into the hills on the right side of the fairway are demonic, and will leave little to no chance of reaching this green in two.

Hole 10: Par 4 (398/387/378/361/340)
Hole 10: Par 4 (398/387/378/361/340)

With a high cliff on the left side of the approach, the eleventh hole is a phenomenal par three. The wind here was so strong that the 160 yards was played with 3-woods over the cliff on the left side. It is unfortunate the ball is not more visible in the video below, because the flight path was incredible to watch.

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

The wind on the twelfth was blowing steadily in excess of 50 miles per hour, and straight toward the lake. Good luck!

Hole 12: Par 4 (413/396/373/349/290)
Hole 12: Par 4 (413/396/373/349/290)
Fortunately for our group on Sunday, the back tees were moved downhill on the thirteenth hole. From up top, the wind would have left an impossible [and blind] tee shot, but from below the wind was at least slightly blocked out by the trees bordering the tee boxes. At 160-plus yards, it remained anything but easy, and this hole is nothing short of spectacular.
Hole 13: Par 3 (183/160/152/145/111)
Hole 13: Par 3 (183/160/152/145/111)
Hole 13: Par 3 (183/160/152/145/111)

A “fun” par five, the fourteenth has a wider driving area than most on the Irish course. A stream fronts the approach, so getting to the opposite side in two provides a significant advantage on this hole.

Hole 14: Par 5 (564/520/508/469/380)
Hole 14: Par 5 (564/520/508/469/380)
Hole 14: Par 5 (564/520/508/469/380)
Hole 14: Par 5 (564/520/508/469/380)

Fifteen is the number one handicapped hole on the Irish. At 459 yards from the blue tees, it is easy to see why. The tee shot is simple enough, but the approach will always be long and to an area that is surrounded by deep greenside bunkers.

Hole 15: Par 4 (479/459/416/370/335)

The tee shot on the sixteenth reminded me of the same swing on the previous hole. Another lengthy par four (436 from the blues), the tee shot is mostly blind and falls significantly to the right. Try to stay left if you can, but take heed of the monstrous pond that lines the final three holes of the Irish course. The green area contains a number of individual plateaus that make for a challenging approach.

Hole 16: Par 4 (474/436/425/383/333)
Hole 16: Par 4 (474/436/425/383/333)

The seventeenth is scenic and narrow. With the same lake running the distance of the hole, the mounds along the right side of the fairway and cart path will actually provide assistance if your drive cuts. Outside the fairway, though, there is little opportunity to fly the lake and find the green in two.

Hole 17: Par 4 (375/355/335/325/272)

The Irish finishes with a fantastic par five. With a tee shot over the inland lake, the fairway falls right and downhill following the sand traps on the right side. Half-way through this downhill section of the fairway is a stream that will take anything hit short. The fairway then rises upward to the green. A deep bunker lies along the left side of the green, so if you’re going to miss, at least miss right.

Hole 18: Par 5 (558/536/523/493/388)
Hole 18: Par 5 (558/536/523/493/388)
Sheep on hole 11
View of hole 16 on Straits course
View of hole 15 on Straits course
Bathroom following hole 4
Course Wrap-up:
Location: Haven, WI
Yardage: Black-7201, Blue-6750, Green-6366, White-5992, Red-5109
Slope/Rating: Black-146/75.6, Blue-141/73.5, Green-137/72.0, White-133/70.3, Red-121/65.6
Par: 72
Weekend Rates: $210 (with cart)