Category: Wisconsin

July 25, 2013

A Masterpiece for the Masses? Bandon's Mike Keiser eyes project in Wisconsin

Posted at 11:34 AM by Joe Passov

No. 16 at Cabot Links, one of Mike Keiser's many stunning course developments. (Photo: Ben Cowan-Dewar)

Not long ago, I asked my Mike Keiser how many projects were in his future. "I'm going to keep building courses until I run out of money," he told me.

The course development wizard behind Bandon Dunes has since put funds into Canada's Cabot Links, and Australia's Barnbougle Lost Farm, among others and hasn't run out of cash yet.

He's got his eye on a fistful of other projects as well, including one that was recently announced, an unnamed development in Wisconsin. Situated near Wisconsin Rapids in the center of the state, the property features 60-foot-high dunes along the Wisconsin River. Much more accessible than Bandon, Oregon, Nova Scotia, Canada or Bridport, Tasmania, this (potentially) multi-course complex could be Keiser's masterpiece for the masses.

However, don't expect to fork over a green fee anytime soon.

A source close to Keiser tells me that "nothing is official yet, nothing's approved." Still, Keiser's exemplary track record will mean he'll get it done at some point if he wants to. The usual supects have been bandied about as designers: Tom Doak, Coore & Crenshaw, David McLay Kidd and Jim Urbina, but nothing has been inked.

As Bill Coore reminded me recently about another site, "Just because we've walked the property doesn't mean we're doing a golf course there."

Do we really need more of the same stuff? Are these the only architects worthy of consideration? Of course not. But if you're Mike Keiser, why change a winning game? Course ranking panelists and critics clearly favor the design approach taken by these guys, especially on outstanding natural terrain -- and throw Gil Hanse in the mix without question.

Hey, I've got friends and relatives who would trade one of their limbs for a chance to work a Kesier site. But I see something developing here. In the 1920s, great clubs with terrific sites went almost exclusively to Golden Age greats such as Ross, Tillinghast, MacKenzie, Thomas, Raynor, Colt/Alison and Flynn. The rest were divvied up among part-time architects, itinerant pros, club pros, superintendents and well-meaning amateurs.

In the 50s and 60s, the go-to guys were Robert Trent Jones Sr. and Dick Wilson, period. In the '80s and '90s, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Fazio, Pete Dye and the Jones boys led the charge. Sure, there were always others, and many good ones. Whether they were top-tier, such as Tom Weiskopf/Jay Morrish, or regional based, such as Canada's Stanley Thompson or even world-based such as Asia's busiest firm, Schmidt-Curley, there are reasons why too many talented architects have long been overlooked.

Still in 2000, if you wanted to sell high-priced real estate, you had to start with Tom Fazio and Jack Nicklaus. It's not necessarily that they were more talented, but they delivered, time and again. Will the post-modern, ragged bunker-edge, firm and fast, contour-based, pseudo-minimalist style that's currently in vogue, stay in favor forever? Only time will tell.

In the meantime, don't bet against Mike Keiser's judgment.

July 24, 2012

Reports: Water use, electric bills soar as courses battle heat and drought

Posted at 5:06 PM by Michael Rosengart

It’s on the news every evening these days, snugged right in between election coverage, Penn State news and the latest gossip about the Kardashian clan. What is it?

The heat.

This summer has been an absolute scorcher. According to the Weather Channel, 63 percent of the country is in a drought. The Midwest is getting hit the worst, but the Southeast and the Rocky Mountain regions are also suffering. Golfers and golf courses across the country are doing what they can to make it through with temperatures at or near triple digits on a regular basis.

For instance, Tom Wilson of the Newark Advocate in Ohio shares the story of Kyber Run Golf Course in Johnstown, where Director of Golf Ben Tigner said, "We are fine in the mornings from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m., but in the afternoon, no one is playing because it's so hot. It's like a ghost town in the afternoons."

At the nearby Granville Golf Course, they’ve taken a unique approach to try to keep business flowing:

[Assistant professional Luke] Radabaugh said Granville is offering a special twilight rate after 2 p.m.

"Everyone wants to beat the heat, so they are playing early," Radabaugh said. "We dropped the rates in the afternoon to try and get more people out, but it's tough. If you look out there in the afternoon, the course has been empty because of the heat.

And everywhere, grounds crews are fighting nonstop to keep their courses playable. In the St. Louis suburb of Alton, the Post-Dispatch’s Tim O’Neill reports that local course superintendent Mike Beckman has doubled his course’s water usage:

In more pleasant weather, he said, the course runs its irrigation systems three or four times weekly.

"We're at it seven days a week," Beckman said. "We lose a quarter-inch of moisture every day. It takes a long time to get that much water back into the soil."

Electric bills are soaring too. Up in Wisconsin, the Baraboo News Republic’s Ed Zagorski writes that even a reserve supply of well water isn’t all good news for Clint Hutchens, general manager of Baraboo Country Club:

Hutchens said the club already doubled its electrical bills from last season. “If you have golfers who are out on the course for 18 holes, they don’t want to walk into a clubhouse that is warmer than it is outside,” he said. 


July 06, 2012

Kohler's Whistling Straits yields the spotlight to the revamped Blackwolf Run for the U.S. Women's Open

Posted at 4:57 PM by Joe Passov

Celine Dion ruled the charts, John Elway's Broncos won the Super Bowl, and Blackwolf Run was the star attraction at the American Club Resort in Kohler, Wisconsin.

Much has changed since 1998, the last time the U.S. Women's Open came to the demanding Pete Dye design. Whistling Straits would eventually open to rave reviews and overshadow its big sister. With the Women's Open returning to Blackwolf Run this month, the vastly underrated course recaptures its former glory.

Yani Tseng, Paula Creamer and company will play nine holes each from the River and Meadow Valleys courses. All 18 holes were hewn from a parcel of glacially carved hills, and while well-wooded, the course never feels claustrophobic.

The par-3 13th and par-4 14th feature Dye's scary, sharp-edged water hazards. Even more arresting is his use of natural streams and the Sheboygan River on the three-hole finale.

To play the same course the ladies will, you'll have to tackle both River and Meadow Valleys, but that's hardly a chore. After a nip and tuck that included new grasses, new bunker sand and reshaped greens, Blackwolf Run is once again ready for its close-up.

Blackwolf Run
Kohler, Wis.
7,404 yards, par 72 (River)
7,250 yards, par 72 (Meadow Valleys)
Green fees: $215-$280


October 07, 2011

10 Courses Worth Arguing About

Posted at 6:13 PM by Joe Passov

Diamond Travelin' Joe has played more than 1,500 courses and has an opinion on each of them. Here are five that deserve more love, and five high-profilers that puzzle me.


1. Black Diamond (Quarry), Lecanto, Fla.
After years of high rankings, some have found flaws in this Diamond (pictured). Outside of homes encroaching on the front nine and perhaps some hit-and-miss conditioning, I can't see them, even with a jeweler's glass.

2. Blackwolf Run (River), Kohler, Wisc.
The River has suffered from three factors: a brief closure for renovation in '09, the splintering from its original 1988 layout and inevitable comparisons to its sibling, Whistling Straits. When the U.S. Women's Open visits in 2012, competitors will rediscover one of Pete Dye's greatest strategy-laced creations.

3. Desert Forest, Carefree, Ariz.
This favorite of Tom Weiskopf is the closest thing the Arizona desert has to a classic course. While narrow and framed with mostly trees and unplayable underbrush, it does put supreme emphasis on thoughtful ball placement. This low-profile 1962 design was ahead of its time.

4. The Country Club, Pepper Pike, Ohio
No designer in history built better gooseneck green complexes than William Flynn, the kind where only properly placed drives would reap the benefit on the approach. He did brilliant work on this suburban Cleveland layout, where a recent renovation makes it worth a look.

5. Prestwick, Ayrshire, Scotland
The quirkiest "championship" course violates every rule of modern course design, yet succeeds in the "fun" department better than most highly-ranked courses. Long, blind par 3s, oncoming trains in the line of play, the freakishly deep, hidden bunker guarding the "Alps" 17th green—it all adds up to greatness in my book.


1. Colonial Country Club, Ft. Worth, Tex.
Storied Colonial has slipped in the respect department over the years, and I can see why. I love the Hogan aura and mystique, but this flat, cramped layout doesn't really inspire architecturally, nor does it sufficiently test the pros. Even par used to contend. Now, it won't even make the cut.

2. Sutton Bay, Agar, S.D.
Blame nature for the demise of one of the most acclaimed new courses of the past 10 years. Tragically, this 2003 Graham Marsh bluff-top prairie design is literally breaking apart due to fissures in fairways and greens caused by shifting landforms and will likely soon be abandoned.

3. Royal County Down, Newcastle, Northern Ireland
One of my personal favorites combines unmatched beauty and brawn, but wow—when the wind blows, the many blind, narrow, gorse-guarded valley fairways and infamous eyebrow bunkers make for a march of holes that are relentlessly penal.

4. Carnoustie (Championship), Carnoustie, Scotland
I have friends, all better players than I, who place Carnoustie on the top rung. Yes, it's great, but its lack of sea views, the overly punishing, artificial looking bunkers, and the strangely placed water features menacing the final two holes all leave me cold.

5. World Woods (Pine Barrens), Brooksville, Fla.
This is one of the nation's best values, but I'm surprised it hangs on to its lofty rankings since so many superior public and private courses have emerged in the past 18 years. The solitude, risk/reward options and Pine Valley-esque features remain appealing, but their novelty has long since faded for me.

(Photo: John and Jeaninne Henebry)

July 22, 2011

Ask Travlin' Joe: Milwaukee, Seattle and New Jersey

Posted at 11:41 AM by Joe Passov


If you want to ask Travelin' Joe a question, e-mail him at

Dear Joe,
I will be in Milwaukee, Wisc., next week for a conference. It looks like I will have one free day to play. Are there courses that are a cab ride away worth playing or should I just leave the sticks at home?

Keith Cooper
Via email

I can't say there are any public-access trophy courses that are an urban cab ride away, but if you're willing to cough up a fare, there's at least one layout worthy of bringing your own clubs. Closest to town is Brown Deer Park ($81.50-103.50; 414-352-8080,, a 20-minute ride from Milwaukee's General Mitchell Airport. A long-time PGA Tour venue (1994-2009), where winners included Jeff Sluman, Corey Pavin and Kenny Perry, this tree- and rough-choked muni features few memorable holes, but is a good test of shotmaking - and if you can get aboard, is a relative bargain.

If you're willing to travel, another quality option is The Bog ($79-$109; 262-284-7075, in Saukville, 25 miles north of Milwaukee. This aptly named 1995 Arnold Palmer design zigzags through woods and wetlands for its 7,221-yard journey, with superbly conditioned greens the reward for finding them.

Finally, the course for which you need to haul your own clubs along is Erin Hills ($200; 262-670-8600, Host to the U.S. Amateur this August - and to the Big Enchilada, the U.S. Open, in 2017, this Hurdzan/Fry/Ron Whitten design (image above) is the ultimate lay-of-the-land wild ride. From the gargantuan 7,820-yard tips, all four par-5s stretch more than 600 yards - but it's the chaotic contours and fescue roughs that will elevate your scores. You might need a can to cover all that yardage, but alas, it's walking-only. Caddies are available, at $50 per bag, plus a minimum $40 tips. Whatever route you take, you'll never forget it.

Chamlers-BayDear Joe,
I'm a GOLF Magazine subscriber and headed to Seattle for a wedding. I'm looking for a public course or two that is moderately priced. I think we are going to play Chambers Bay (image right) one day at the Twilight rate if we can get out. Any other suggestions?

Andrew Blighton
Via email

You picked a sweet city for a summer wedding and good affordable golf. One of my favorite values in the U.S. is Gold Mountain Golf Club (360-415-5432,, host to this week's U.S. Junior Amateur, and site of the 2006 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship, when Anthony Kim advanced to the final, before losing to Casey Watabu. The Olympic course - a 7,104-yard, 1996 John Harbottle III design - features a flattish, forested front nine. The back nine is a hilly journey, highlighted by the 357-yard, par-4 15th, which plays to a peninsular green at lake's edge. It's $42 to walk it (M-Th), $46 Friday and $60 Saturday/Sunday, and an extra $16 to ride. Maybe the best value is the $27 rate on weekends after 3 p.m. Nearly as appealing, at least in value, if not challenge, is Olympic's elder sibling, the Cascade course. The most you'll pay there to walk it is $40.

Trophy Lake Golf & Casting Club ($49-$85; 360-874-8337, in Port Orchard will hook you with a John Fought creation that dazzles with several option-laden holes that feature split fairways, cavernous bunkers and dense stands of Douglas firs.

If you're looking to save some coin, but still relish a terrific layout, go west young man - to West Seattle Golf Course ($32-$50; 206-935-5187, H. Chandler Egan, who had a hand in Pebble Beach's design, crafted this one in 1939, and it features ravines, steep sidehills and outstanding vistas of the downtown skyline. The longer front nine skirts Longfellow Creek, highlighted by the par-4 second, which sports a view of the city's landmark Space Needle. Precision is paramount on the back nine.

Hey Joe,
I'm going to Cape May, N.J., for a wedding, and I've gotten permission to disappear one morning for a quick round. I'll be a single looking for something not too difficult or too crowded - with a budget of $50-$100.

K. Laird
Via email

Good Laird, this isn't the easiest of tasks! Almost by definition, the budget courses are going to be the most crowded, but if you call ahead, on what are typically the quietest days, you might get lucky. In recent years, Sand Barrens ($80-$120; 609-465-3555, in Swainton, a few miles north of Cape May, has been the region's leading layout, and its 27 holes offer good flexibility, but if sand is your bugaboo, avoid this one. Plus, it's still recovering from some atrocious spring conditions, but recent reports are encouraging.

A gentler, slightly more affordable alternative is Avalon ($69-$84; 609-465-GOLF, in Cape May Court House, a 40-year-old track that's perched fairly close to the shore, making for regular steady breezes. Although there are lakes-a-plenty, this is a relatively flat course and is only 6,325 yards from the tips, so even if play is slow, you should be able to buzz around without much fuss. While it's hardly considered a trophy course, it might be just what you're looking for.

(Photos: Fred Vuich/SI)

August 13, 2009

Recession-Busters: Save in September

Posted at 7:06 PM by Ryan Reiterman

Save $160
Mount Washington Resort
Bretton Woods, N.H.

This historic resort's Golf Package is the perfect way to enjoy the classic 1915 Donald Ross design. Included is lodging; one round with cart per person, per day; breakfast; a nightly four-course dinner; and bonus golf on the 9-hole Mount Pleasant course. Rates start at $269 per person, per night, based on double occupancy and a two-night minimum stay.
800-314-1752, mountwashingtonresort.comMtwashington

Save $190
Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa
Galena, Ill.

Northwest of Chicago, this is the state's largest golf resort, with 63 holes. The World-Class Golf Package offers lodging, three rounds with cart, special rates on both the 9-hole East course and additional rounds, and breakfast in the Woodlands Restaurant. Rates start at $399 per person, per night, based on double occupancy. Add a $30 surcharge to play the General Course.

Save $140
Omni Bedford Springs Resort
Bedford, Pa.

If you're into serious history, both on-course and off, check into this 200-year-old property in south-central Pennsylvania, where 10 U.S. presidents have stayed. The Unlimited Golf Package offers lodging, unlimited rounds of golf and cart, practice facility use and a $50 credit to be used in the pro shop. Rates begin at $294 per person, per night, double occupancy.

Save $150
Grand Geneva Resort
Lake Geneva, Wis.

The Grand Golf Package features lodging, a $20 merchandise credit in the golf shop and two rounds of golf per person on the aptly named Brute course and on the Highlands, a Pete Dye/Jack Nicklaus design later tweaked by Bob Cupp. Rates start at $299 per person, per night, based on double occupancy. 800-558-3417,

(Photo Credit: Mount Washington Resort)

May 28, 2009

Ask Travelin Joe: Wisconsin, Illinois, Scottsdale and British Columbia

Posted at 12:38 PM by Joe Passov

If you want to ask Travelin' Joe a question, e-mail him at

Dear Joe,
I will be spending 3-4 weeks in Southeastern Wisconsin and Northeastern Illinois in late May and June. The past few years I have enjoyed playing Thunderhawk in Beach Park, IL. Are there any courses you would recommend at a similar price point in the region?

Nick J.
Gilbert, Arizona

The Robert Trent Jones Jr.-designed Thunderhawk ($52-$85; 847-968-4295, is pretty strong, but if you're craving variety in an area roughly one hour north of Chicago, start with Stonewall Orchard Golf Club ($70-$95; 847-740-4890, in Grayslake. This 7,074-yard, par-72 Arthur Hills creation, situated almost due west of Waukegan, between Libertyville and McHenry, boasts a formidable 140 slope, owing to water, wetlands and a superb set of par-3s.

Next, check out Shepherd's Crook ($42-$55; 847-872-2080, in Zion, an open, prairie-style Keith Foster product that sports wild, wavy greens and a wildly low price tag.

Continue reading "Ask Travelin Joe: Wisconsin, Illinois, Scottsdale and British Columbia" »

Ask Travelin' Joe

Our traveling correspondent has been where you're going. Heading out of town on vacation? Business trip? Travelin' Joe can suggest the best places for you to tee it up. If you want to ask Travelin' Joe a question, e-mail him at


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