How Wisconsin has become an elite golf destination
Cheese curds, Packers football, and elite golf. The latter is the newest member of the bunch as Wisconsin has rapidly become one of the best golf destinations in the United States for traveling golfers.
Conveniently located in the Midwest, this destination is easily accessible by car from neighboring states and is no more than a few-hour flight from any other place in the continental United States.
For example, you can fly direct to Wisconsin in 2 hours and 45 minutes from Orlando, 2 hour and 15 minutes from Dallas, 2 hours from New York, and 4 hours and 15 minutes from Los Angeles. With over 500 courses in the state, here is a look at some of the best golf destinations according to our team:
The resort that put Wisconsin on the golf map is Destination Kohler. This facility is mostly recognized for Whistling Straits, in which the Straits Course has hosted the 2004, 2010 and 2015 PGA Championships, the 2007 U.S. Senior Open, and it is the future site of the 2021 Ryder Cup. In addition to the famous Straits Course, the facility also has the Irish Course at Whistling Straits which is an inland course that combines dunes with a grassland look to create a memorable experience. While onsite, you can also play Blackwolf Run which offers resort guests the River and the Meadows Courses. These two courses are phenomenal and at any other resort in the country, they would be the featured pair — but they often don’t get the love they deserve because of the admiration golfers have for the courses at Whistling Straits. Blackwolf Run has hosted the Andersen Consulting World Golf Championships in 1995, 1996 and 1997 as well as the U.S. Women’s Open in 1998 and 2012.
One of the best parts of this property is the dichotomy of the golf experience. The Whistling Straits courses combine the hues of greens and soft browns with the fescue grass that give you the feel that you are on the other side of the pond playing in Ireland or Scotland. The Blackwolf Run courses completely transform your experience by bringing you further inland away from Lake Michigan giving golfers a lush green look that runs along the Sheboygan River Valley.
When you combine this world-class golf with the comforts of the American Club Hotel, the Inn on Woodlake, or use of one of the cottages on site then you are destined for a comfortable and relaxing setting. In case it wasn’t obvious, the resort is owned by the Kohler family who are known for their bath and kitchen fixtures which are synonymous with class and design. The family has brought that same level of excellence to Destination Kohler, and with four Pete Dye-designed courses you’re guaranteed to have a memorable experience.
Erin Hills jumped onto the scene in a major way in 2017 when it hosted the U.S. Open that was won by Brooks Koepka. Golfers were in awe of this creation by Dr. Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry who partnered with Ron Whitten, the Architectural Editor of Golf Digest, on the project. This team was able to take a site in the hills outside of Milwaukee that seems as if it was always destined to be a golf course from the days when glaciers created natural fairway corridors more than 10,000 years ago, allowing the land to become today’s modern masterpiece.
The story of this course is a fantastic vision of one man’s journey that can be read here, and the final product is one of the most unique layouts that we consider to be one of the best values in the country. In a decision that was considered unconventional, the design team used fine fescue for the fairways at Erin Hills, and the result created a majestic feel of golden brown fescues in the rough with crisp greens in the fairways amongst a wonderful design that any golfer is destined to love.
The facility recently added the Drumlin Putting Course to the mix, a well-lit putting course on the back side of the clubhouse that offers golfers a fun activity post-round or after dinner to settle any bets from the day. Erin Hills also provides a variety of lodging options including the Lodge and 5 private cottages that are great for a group looking to have their own sanctuary during their visit.
Pro Tip: Do yourself a favor and make sure you play the course at least twice during your trip. Also, we recommend playing the Kettle Loop which is a 5-hole layout added into the original 18 holes. It is free to play with an overnight stay, and all you have to pay for is a caddie fee and gratuity. Trust us, you’ll want to get as many holes in as possible while you are at Erin Hills.
Sand Valley burst onto the golf scene in 2017, and when you are a part of Dream Golf Resorts and owned by Mike Keiser, who also owns Bandon Dunes and is a part owner of Cabot Links, then you are letting golfers know that they will be in for a special experience. Located in Central Wisconsin, Sand Valley provides golfers with two 18-hole golf courses with Sand Valley and Mammoth Dunes, as well as the Sandbox, a 17-hole short course.
Sand Valley was the original course brought to the property and is a Coore Crenshaw design, and as this duo is known for, they have created a visually stunning experience for the golfer all while making it fun and playable for all. The course can certainly show its teeth when it needs to, but the average resort golfer will be challenged in a fair and fun way. The course features exposed sand dunes being interwoven with lush green fairways to give that feeling that minimal dirt needed to be moved in the sand valleys of Wisconsin in order to bring this design to life.
Mammoth Dunes brings back the genius known for designing Bandon Dunes, David McLay Kidd, to the resort and there is one word that comes to the forefront of this design: big! Mammoth Dunes provides golfers with ample fairways and greens alongside exposed sand dunes for a visually stunning experience that won’t cost you a lot of balls. Do yourself a favor though and avoid the ample amount of sand and take advantage of the wide fairways that DMK provides you.
The Sandbox at Sand Valley is a 17-hole short course that features holes from 40 to 140 yards in length and is the perfect place to end any day during your trip. This emergence of short courses at many of the best resorts in the world (Pinehurst, Forest Dunes, Cabot Links, and Bandon Dunes to name a few) is a trend that we hope stays for a long time to come. This Coore Crenshaw-designed short course a master in design that focuses on fun for the golfer and removes the stress of a full round. That being said, you still need to bring your “A” game to go low on this fun track!
Pro Tip: if you have time during your trip, you should play the 6-hole Sand Valley Loop which brings you out to holes 1 through 5 and an alternate routing on hole 6. It’s a great way to squeeze in a few extra holes during your trip or play a few on arrival day if you get to the property without a lot of daylight available.
As a destination filled with an unbelievable amount of bucket-list golf, there are plenty of reasons for you and your group to make Wisconsin your next destination.
We suggest combining two or even all three of these properties into one trip. Kohler and Erin Hills are just over an hour apart from each other, and Sand Valley is about equally distant away from Erin Hills and Kohler at around a 2 hour and 15 minute drive.
No matter what you decide, you’ll be in great hands at any of these three properties and we are sure it will be the first of many trips you take to the great state of Wisconsin.