Sentry World PDF Print E-mail




By: Jason Bruno


Sentry World, located in the central Wisconsin town of Stevens Point has long

been known as the state's first true golf destination. This area, commonly referred

to as the "Gateway to the North Woods" is the link between the rolling farmlands

of the Badger state and the lake country to the north. The vision for this grand

daily fee parkland layout originated with the late (and former Sentry Insurance

Chairman) John Joanis. Joanis hired Robert Trent Jones Jr to design this midwest

beauty that opened to rave reviews back in June, 1982.






It was Joanis and RTJ II's collaboration that led to the creation of the Par 3

signature sixteenth known as the "Flower Hole".




After a damaging wind storm destroyed numerous trees on the 200+ acre property

over a decade ago, Sentry contacted RTJ II Design to come back and evaluate what

was needed to restore Sentry World to it's former glory. The firm summoned its young

and talented design associate (and native Badger) Jay Blasi to make the assessment.


Blasi informed the leadership at Sentry that the storm actually was beneficial to the

course and suggested the removal of a thousand additional trees (thus allowing for

open corridors, angles for more strategic play and improved air flow & sunlight

exposure for healthier turf). Also, upon further discovery, Blasi learned there was

a serious need to replace the outdated irrigation system, drainage, bunkers, and

many of the green complexes. Finally, in 2012 new Sentry chairman Pete McPartland

came on the scene with passionate energy and big picture vision to implement the

plan that was previously outlined.



There was really only one hurdle to leap for McPartland to bring it all to fruition -

RTJ Design was the company commissioned to do the renovation, but Blasi was no

longer part of their stable, he had left and started his own firm (Jay Blasi Design).

Blasi was McPartland's choice to oversee and implement the major improvements

to the course. To make a long story short, McPartland made it happen, Blasi would

be his point guard on the renovation as the Project Architect (along with RTJ II

designer Bruce Charlton). To spend an hour with Pete McPartland is to realize that

this is a person, and a leader of the highest order (a lunch meeting with Jay and

Pete is not just a treat, it's an honor).





Blasi and the RTJ staff quickly got to work, Jay himself spent the better part of

28 straight weeks on the property. The removal of trees opened up site lines,

vistas and enhanced the strategy elements for better players - thus, also allowing

for more enjoyment for all ability levels. Also, several hole routings were changed

or modified - utilizing some parcels of land that were previously untouched. For

those playing the forward tees, the distance was reduced to 4696 yards to increase

enjoyment. The challenge for those who aspire to conquer the sternest of tests

(from the back tees) was incresed to 7145 yards. The new expansive driving range

no longer faces the early morning sunrise glare of the east, and accommodates a

greater number of enthusiastic linksters.






The renovation completely closed the course for two years, in the fall of 2014

the facility re-opened for a preview. But it wasn't just the course that re-opened,

McPartland and the Sentry Company went a giant step further, they decided to

created an entire mega complex, devoted to golf, tennis, outstanding local cuisine,

and the best reception facility in the area for weddings, banquets and corporate

meetings. A jewel that would serve not only as a company asset but also as a

community treasure.






PJ's restaurant serves up the local flavor. Anything with cheese in Wisconsin

is a big hit, as well as the native fresh catch. Jay Blasi's go to comfort food

when in town is the tomato soup and grilled cheese. I chose the soup as well,

along with cheese curds and salmon tacos. For just getting off the plane and

driving 2 1/2 hours from Milwaukee (we were in town to also cover the U.S

Open and visit Sand Valley) - this was the perfect pre-round experience.

Delicious is an inadequate description of how outstanding the food is here

(outstanding service as well).







A Sentry World staple - Farmhouse Ale Cheese Curds








The staff were setting up for a large reception during our visit, this is one of

several halls equipped to handle any special occasion at Sentry World.







Make sure you get a good warm up, Sentry World starts off with a challenging

424 yard dogleg left par 4 (blue tees).







One of the new designs at Sentry World is the 473 yard par 4 second. Easily

the bully of the front 9, Blasi used part of the old eleventh to craft this hole

that offers great flexibility for tournament play (it can play as a 598 yard par 5

for professionals). A long accurate approach shot is required here, the green

offers a fair amount of back to front slope.






Any sign of significant elevation change is absent at Sentry World, but harmonious

natural surroundings like this "infinity green" at the par 3 - third is an early indicator

of how special the experience at Sentry World will be. Once a vacant pocket in the woods,

this lakeside parcel is now the setting for the shortest hole on the property. At 151

yards from the tips, it's the perfect chance to catch your breath after the challenge

of the opening holes.






The 299 yard fourth is a fabulous example of a risk reward drivable par 4.

Avoid Blasi's subliminal invite to go for the green and play less club to the

proper position on the right side of the fairway . . .






. . . here's the correct angle for an easy wedge. *Blasi took on his own

challenge and paid the tariff when his well-intentioned high draw fell just

short of clearing the hazard. I chose the less risky route, but taking the

"low hanging fruit" option doesn't require an apology after notching the

first circle on the card.







The par 3 seventh is the toughest of the one shotters at Sentry World (it played

211 yards during our visit) the slightly elevated shallow green requires the proper

club selection. Avoid any tucked pin location here and aim for the center of

this green, 3 is a great score here.







The 340 yard eighth is another example of variety at the new version of

Sentry World. This tight tree lined hole lends itself to precision over might.

The superb flash bunkering does a fabulous job of framing the landing areas

and defining depth. Simple beauty, nothing tricky here.






The re-designed 508 yard par 5 ninth gets my vote for the most fun hole on the

property. Using the original tee and green locations as well as the existing creek,

the design team crafted a fairway slot down the right side to encourage aggressive

play to this well guarded green. Although it's listed as a long par 4 for professionals,

I personally don't think it should be, the hole has a thirteenth at Augusta like essence -

it's beauty and temptation all neatly wrapped in one glorious setting . Hit two masterful

shots and you're likely rewarded, miss just slightly (as I did) and you'll be kicking

yourself for ruining a good opportunity to get healthy on the card. My immediate

thought after walking off that green was I want to play that hole again.






Another view of the ninth, this one from behind the green shows all the elements

of strategy, beauty and recovery.







Although the tenth offers back to back par 5's on the card, this is an entirely

different test than the ninth (playing 612 yards from the back tees), survival

is the theme here - par is a solid score on this monster dogleg right.






If there is a drivable par 4 on the course to take on - it's the new eleventh.

It Played 280 yards during our visit, and features a green that's now located in

front of the water (previously it was tucked further back and right of the hazard.

Longtime RTJ II designer and Sentry World co-project architect Bruce Charlton

gave his thoughts on the hole, "Creating the new eleventh really allowed us to

focus on increasing the fun factor". Pick the appropriate tee (who says you can't

move up a box to make the hole more of a risk reward challenge) and smash a

low bullet fade tee shot that leaves nothing more than a chip and putt to this

well undulated infinity green. This well crafted design gives you every chance

to put another circle on the card.







Perhaps the biggest change to the updated design at Sentry World is the 139

yard (161 yards from the tips) par 3 twelfth. Located in a previously unsullied

parcel on the property, the design team created a fantastic short par 3 on a

peninsula that requires your full attention - especially if the wind is blowing

(Blasi striped his mid-iron shot here that played much longer than the number

thanks to a stiff hurting breeze that came up just as we reached the tee). Don't

over club as I did here, plenty of room has been provided to the left for a viable

path to escape with par.







A view of the green complex at the par 5 fourteenth shows off the variable

patterns and heights of cut - brilliant work by Superintendent Matt Smith

and his grounds staff. *Look for our Q&A with Matt Smith coming soon in

our "Masters of the Moss" section.







The presentation of colors at the "Flower hole" can be distracting to the task

at hand, so take a few photos and enjoy the scenery on this one of a kind mid-

length (168 yard) par 3 that was inspired by RTJ's visit to Holland's Tulip festival

just before getting started on the original design 35 years ago. Blasi and I took

a few minutes to discuss the flora and all of its splendor, then settled back into

our match that was knotted up at All Square.







Ground level view of the hole gives you a better idea of just how much effort

the Agronomy/Landscape staff put in to create this iconic scene each spring.







The new seventeenth hole is much friendlier than the previous version

with more room off the tee and a short approach to a severely sloped

green that runs away from the player. This view from behind the green

is among the most serene at Sentry World.






The 18th tee, a 439 yard uphill right to left dogleg is a worthy finale.

Midwest conifers and evergreens guard the corner, while fairway bunkers

on the right catch any flared drives that fail to draw. Your two best are

required here to finish strong.






The back center pin sits just over a rise on a shelf, an uphill recovery from

short of the green allows for an aggressive shortgame play - miss this green

deep, and the round will likely end with a miscue.



Sentry World is a must play when traveling to the midwest. If you're planning

a Wisconsin golf vacation, put this re-imagined parkland Top 100 daily fee gem

on your list, and tell them who sent you . . .





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