Geneva National: The Perfect In-State Getaway

Yesterday, my friend, Ross, and I had the opportunity to head to Lake Geneva for an amazing day of golf and dining.

Last year, Geneva National closed down their main on-site restaurant for major renovations, updating it to become the area’s premier steakhouse and a culinary destination for foodies from the Chicago and Milwaukee areas.

In the afternoon, we were treated to some of Wisconsin’s best golf on their feature course: The Gary Player signature course. Player was named the tenth best course in the state this year by GolfWeek, replacing the Palmer course which broke in to the top ten in 2013.

Both courses, as well as their Trevino course, are well-regarded as top tracks in the Lake Geneva area, and in the state of Wisconsin.

The Player course has a terrific mix of short and long par fours, reachable and unreachable par fives, and par threes that range from 148 to 223 yards. I always appreciate a course that understands that making all the par threes over 200 yards is not the best and most enjoyable way to lengthen it.

Player Course Hole 3: Par 3 (148/132/118/104/90)

Ross and I were up for a challenge, and decided to play the 7,000-plus yard black tees. We had a great start, getting in eight holes while hearing thunder all around, but seeing no lightning. Through eight, Ross had a two-stroke lead at 35, with one to play on the front.

Gary Player Course Hole 16: Par 5 (556/534/514/462/429)

One of Geneva National’s rangers, Jim, informed us before getting to the ninth tee box that we would have to return to the clubhouse and wait out the area’s severe weather.

We could tell it was coming, but the hour and a half spent in the rain delay meant we would be hard-pressed to finish the round and get to play one of my favorite stretches of golf holes in the state: The Palmer course’s 12th through 18th, prior to our five o’clock dinner reservations at the Hunt Club with Assistant Golf Professional Joe Keogh.

I called Joe and we decided to move the reservations back. We were able to get out on the course again, finished up the Player course – both shooting 83 from the tips – and called Joe for an update on our progress. Joe was able to meet us on the Palmer course, and we cruised around quickly with a mostly empty course during twilight.

We skipped a number of holes in anticipation of hoping to play the twelfth through eighteenth, finally running in to a log jam on fifteen and getting to take only pictures with a promise of getting back again this Fall to enjoy the breathtaking sixteenth and seventeenth holes along Lake Como.

The seventeenth, especially, we could tell really opened Ross’s eyes, who was at Geneva National for the first time. This par five, driven out over Lake Como and finishing on a tight peninsula, was named by Arnold Palmer as one of his “Dream 18” holes – the very best holes he has ever designed. I could not agree more and cannot wait to play it again!

Arnold Palmer Course Hole 17: Par 5 (579/536/478/419/407)

Prior to my trip, I had told a number of friends at North Hills Country Club about our itinerary for the day, and heard all positive things about the Hunt Club: “You have to try the prime rib,” “The fish is unbelievable,” “The best filet I’ve ever had,” “Get the duck, trust me!”

After ordering drinks and checking out the menu, to say I was conflicted on what to order is an understatement! Everything looked amazing, and the dishes I saw coming out of the kitchen left me asking, “Whoa, what is THAT?!”

Ross and I decided to split up the ordering duties: He got the prime rib special and I got the Chilean sea bass with braised short ribs so we could try out as much as possible.

We ordered a calamari appetizer, which was seasoned perfectly and unbelievably tender and tasteful. The owner of the resort’s son is actually a winemaker, and I recommend trying out his cabernet, which was delicious.

Everything about the dining experience was memorable: The seasonings, drinks, appetizers, fresh warm bread and entrees were delectable. I would go as far as to say it was the best meal I have had in years, as everything was perfectly done and presentable.

You cannot beat the views, either, with the par three sixth and the downhill, over water finish of the awesome par five tenth just outside the windows.

One of the things that has always impressed me about Geneva National is their high level of customer service. From Jim at the bag drop, to I.C. in the pro shop, to the starters and rangers like Jim and Jim, to Zoltan waiting at the clubhouse after the round to leave a great impression on golfers prior to their departure, and especially the overall attentiveness and personal attention from the golf professionals and food and beverage, the staff at Geneva National prides themselves on providing top-notch customer service. “What we try to teach staff is that it’s all about adding to every guest’s positive experience here,” I was told. I could not agree more, and it is a very refreshing outlook at one of the state’s best golfing destinations.
Assistant Golf Pro Joe Keogh, me and Ross at the Hunt Club

I cannot say enough how enjoyable yesterday was: With world-class golf courses, amazing cuisine, great company and quality golf played, I have to say that Geneva National may be my new favorite day trip in the state of Wisconsin.

Golf Course Review: The National at Fox Hills

The weekend we played the National was my Uncle Paul’s 60th birthday party in Two Rivers – the town my mother’s family grew up in. Relatives from around the country flew in for the event, and we stayed at the Fox Hills Resort just outside of town, in Mishicot.

Saturday morning was a designated day for golf. With 45 holes at Fox Hills Resort, there is a lot of golf to be played on site. As the writer of a site designated to the best of the best in Wisconsin golf, my mission was to play the best of the courses at Fox Hills: The National.

The National is a wonderful links-style course. The conditions are fantastic, and the hole layouts are very well designed. The par threes, especially, are spectacular.

I always love a course that starts out with a par five. For some reason, my drive just seems to work on the first hole every round. That was the case at the National, where I conquered the first hole with a tap-in birdy. The first hole here represents what you can expect with much of the course: Fair fairways with birms surrounding the rough areas. The rough is not unplayable, thankfully, and is well maintained. The course, in general, is very well maintained, in fact.

Hole 1: Par 5 (534/505/490/484/424)

In the true style of a links course, what makes the National a challenging course is the green areas. In contrast to the Links Course at Lawsonia, the greens at the National are tiny, but like the Links they have significant slope and roll quickly. If Lawsonia stimps at a 10.5, the National is probably a nine or 9.5.

The National is long, too. Not many holes should be played with driver/wedge, requiring the use of most clubs in the bag. At 7,010 yards from the black tees, seven of the ten par fours are over 400 yards (three from the blues, with five others over 365).

There is also an abundance of sand at the National, especially around the greens and fairways. The birms inside the fairway bunkers and waste areas make for some difficult shots and ball-finding, as did the 20-plus mile per hour winds we faced. Perhaps the most significantly bunkered hole was thirteenth. The right side is almost entirely beach, with mounds of wild grasses sprinkled in between. I found one of these, which proved to be quite challenging to get out of, especially across the sand.

Hole 13: Par 4 (415/386/363/340/330)

Hole 13: Par 4 (415/386/363/340/330)

I loved the par threes at the National. Three of them have significant carries over water, and required some very delicate shots to hold. The seventeenth, especially, is delicate. From 138 yards over a large pond, the green is a sliver of hope that runs laterally in the approach area.

Hole 17: Par 3 (169/137/122/116/61)

Perhaps the trickiest of the par threes is the fourth. With another significant carry of water, the approach area is almost entirely made up of sand, with a sharp rise to a heavily sloped green.

Hole 4: Par 3 (157/138/126/120/101)
Hole 4: Par 3 (157/138/126/120/101)

I loved the use of railroad ties on both seventeen and eleven to fortify the greenside bunkers.

Hole 11: Par 3 (173/158/148/141/114)

Hole 11: Par 3 (173/158/148/141/114)

Nine and eighteen share an unbelievably large and sloped green, as well as mutual ponds that make for strategic approaches. It is almost inviting to play the eighteenth fairway on nine, but as my cousin Todd found out, it doesn’t pay off well! Avoid the waste bunkers that front this green on both holes, as anything short makes for an incredibly tough sand shot.

Hole 9: Par 5 (541/527/512/506/479)

Hole 9: Par 5 (541/527/512/506/479)

The two finishing holes of the National actually play very similary to the finishing holes of several out-of-state courses I have reviewed: Sweetgrass and Shepherd’s Crook. Each runs parallel to one another, share mutual boundaries and finish similarly. They are all great par five ninth and eighteenth holes.

Hole 18: Par 5 (570/539/525/521/472)

Hole 18: Par 5 (570/539/525/521/472)

Hole 18: Par 5 (570/539/525/521/472)

One of my favorite par fours at the National is the 415-yard sixth hole. A huge inland pond runs the left side of the fairway, and ends about 200 yards out. The fairway then crosses straight left around water, with an interesting island-like area in between that can be played to. This would be an unbelievable risk/reward scenario to go for this layup area, but would play much like a long par three. Driver was too long to hit down the fairway, but can be used depending on how much of the distance you’re looking to chop off. The approach on six then finishes right of the water and long.

Hole 6: Par 4 (438/415/400/332/327)

The course reminds me a lot of the Links Course at Lawsonia, but with much more water. In fact, more than half of the holes at the National have water in play, and most predominantly in areas that will need to be flown.

Hole 15: Par 5 (545/515/498/459/449)

Hole 15: Par 5 (545/515/498/459/449)
There is nothing cool about vandalism, but finding this was awfully funny,
especially getting my cousin, Todd, to pose next to it:
“Sponsored by: Your local sex offenders”

One of the incredible things to me about the National is the rates. Much like playing golf in the U.P. of Michigan, Mishicot is a somewhat remote area without a huge audience to attract players from, especially for a course with 45 holes. Just $35 during peak season gets you eighteen holes at the National, including cart. Even better deals can be found on GolfNow, where I have regularly seen rates as low as $20. This is one hell of a course for such low rates! I honestly believe this course could charge $60 or more if it was within 30 minutes of the Milwaukee area.

In addition to great round rates, I have seen stay-and-play packages well under $100 per player at the Fox Hills Resort. The resort features adequate rooms, a nice indoor pool and hot tub, workout room, and [at least while we were there] a very lively bar, Benchwarmers.

In addition to great golf, the service at the National was wonderful. I hate to call them small-town folks, but they are. These are the people who grew up where my parents grew up. They have old-fashioned values and believe in customer service. This was evident in all interactions with the staff before, during and after our round.

If you are looking for a great course in the Sheboygan area, and like the idea of getting your money’s worth, the National at Fox Hills is the perfect course to check out.

Hole 3: Par 4 (414/394/377/349/339)

Hole 8: Par 3 (188/171/156/144/134)

Hole 10: Par 4 (460/433/411/365/355)

Hole 13: Par 4 (415/386/363/340/330)

Hole 14: Par 4 (424/389/374/298/268)

Hole 16: Par 4 (392/367/345/310/300)
Hole 16: Par 4 (392/367/345/310/300)

Course Wrap-Up:
Location: Mishicot, WI
Yardage: Black-7010, Blue-6574, White-6282, Gold-5735, Red-5366
Slope/Rating: Black-136/73.8, Blue-132/72.7, White-129/70.7, Red-124/71.0
Par: 72
Weekend Rates (with cart): $35