Course Reviews/Travel


A Day At Whistling Straits - Part 2 PDF Print E-mail
Written by BRUNO   

 

 

How's this for a work environment ? Malakai (Jim and Gregg's caddy) cool chillin at the office.

 

Yep, even Irish sheep on the Irish course

 

I must admit, I wasn't sure what to expect out of the Straits course. Like everyone else, I'd

seen and heard all of the hype, and some of the criticism . . . . . I expected sort of an artificial

over the top faux links style layout. In reality it may be that, but it didn't feel that way, it has

an authentic Irish/links feel and atmosphere.

We were enjoying every bit of it . . . and there were 9 bits left, so onward we go.

After Johnny Mac and I went to the halfway house to load up on tasty morsels, we hit the trail

to the back nine.

The short tenth

 

Number ten is a short right to left par 4, which plays uphill but is only 360 yds  from the blue

tees. If you take the same line 270 yds out (that is more in play for the better player), you'll

have a wedge approach to a green that will repel anything short, the ball will feed back down

a severe slope, running all the way back towards the fairway.Gregg and I were unfortunately

just short, but somehow stayed on the slope. I chose flatstick, and holed it from about 3 yds

short of the green. The rest of the group got out of the hole without incident.

The flatstick stayed hot . . . .  but knowing fully that the course will somehow exact its revenge.

 

 

 

 

I took this photo from the fairway looking back up at the Eleventh tee box

The Eleventh is a 619 yard par 5 that plays downhill (in the photo above, the tee is at the top

of the picture) until you hit your approach to the elevated green. After a well struck short iron,

Scotty B nearly made bird. I botched the approach as well as the chip and putt. This is a memorable

hole . . .  who am I kidding they're all amazing.

The 560 acres of land where Whistling Straits sits today, was a military airfield back in the day.

It was known as Camp Haven (Whistling Straits is actually in Haven, Wisconsin just outside of Kohler)

in the 1950's.The land was later bought by the Wisconsin Electric Power Company and when Herb

Kohler bought the land in 1995, it had been slated to be a nuclear power plant.Kohler hired Pete Dye

to design the course, and instructed him to create a course in the likeness of Ballybunion in Ireland.

The Straits course opened in 1998, and later the Irish course opened in 2000.


The par 3 twelfth (pictured below) is the shortest on the property, but is no less spectacular.

Johnny Mac called a wedge, and I acquiesced knocking it 20 ft right of the target. Scotty B hit the

front left knob and it trundled towards the flag, leaving a 12 footer for glory.As a group, none of us

converted the deuce.

 

The short par 3 twelfth

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scotty B launchin one on 13, while J Mac and I track the flight.

 

If right is death on this hole, then the left rough is purgatory . . . a machete would be better

then an iron from the left linguini.

 

This is probably the most underrated hole (and possibly my favorite, Johnny Mac's as well) on the course, the

403 yd 13th. The green sits down on the shelf against Lake Michigan. This photo doesn't to do it justice.

 

J Mac told me to pound it over the trap sticking up on the knoll, I didn't trust the line and

bailed slightly left. . . . the  problem was, I nailed it and it went straight into the gnarly rough.

All I could do was hack an 8 iron out and hope for the best.Baker was in the fairway, as was Jim.

The 8 iron scampered down the hill just six feet right of the green on the fairway cut. Flatstick

away, and nothing but the bottom of the cup.At that point the tally was 15 putts/13 holes, and

all you could do was laugh. At even par for the round, things wouldn't get easier.

Fourteen is a short tight little right to left wrap around par 4 playing only 360 yds, a well played

tee shot leaves a wedge to an elevated and well sloped putting surface. A definite birdie hole,

but if you're on the wrong part of this green it will be a challenge to two putt.After wedges in,

Scotty B had a good look at feathers but couldn't get it to go down. I was lucky to two putt from

where I was on the green.

Jim and Johnny Mac at the tee

 

Fifteen looks like a links hole from Ireland, at 450 yds it's a bit of a sleeper.Water is to the left,

but it isn't in play . . . stripe it between the sand dunes and get on the green. Scott and I once

again did just that, and walked with par to the exciting par 5 sixteenth.

 

 

 


The tee box on the 535 yd par 5 sixteenth

 

 

This is the risk reward hole that is your last real chance at glory.This hole is reachable

for the longer hitter, and  similiar to ffiteen off the tee.A smooth draw off the right side

will kick left into the middle of the fairway, and leave you with the decision of the day.

Baker and I were down main street, with a chance to get on in two. A ripped approach

with the 3 wood came up just short of the uphill green. A mediocre chip to the high side

of this front left pin left me 8 ft to go one under for the round, J mac gave me a nice split

the right edge read, but I didn't trust it and played it a hair higher . . . the ball didn't curl

and ran another 7 ft by.You pay the caddy to give you the read, then you go rogue, not

smart.Luckily, the comebacker dropped as we approached the most intimidating hole of

the day and the ledger stood at even par.

 

 

Since the sun was nearly set when we played the signature hole, aptly named "Pinched Nerve", this stock photo

illustrates the all or nothing shot that awaits you on this 220 yd beast.

 

The pin was in Sunday sucker position when we played it, back left nestled right up against

the nasty that awaits you if you take it on and miss left. Scotty B pulled his into the nasty,

Jim needed an abacus to tally his adventure (but actually had a nice recovery shot just past the

pin on the collar), Gregg hit a money shot to the left center of the green and I drilled a hybrid

right over the huge knoll on the right corner of the green with a slight draw. . . but perhaps a

hair on the safe side, it ran just barely through the green into the spinach. After a nice 2

putt Gregg had a highlight 3 to take home, my flop from the thick stuff ran 10 feet past and I

grinded knowing it was my last hope to stay at even par (eighteen is not in anyway a birdie hole).

The putt didn't drop and there went 72. "Pinched Nerve" is an amazing golf hole at the climax of

a round or championship.You have to hit your most solid and precise shot of the day to have a

chance there, even a well struck shot that is a hair off can and WILL cost you.


Night was upon us and we only had the home hole left. It's the only hole on the course that I

would consider a little goofy, almost looks like Pete tried a little too hard to make this finishing

hole spectacular and impossible at the same time.I checked out the Dustin Johnson bunker up

on the right side and instantly realized that the officials got the call right, he and his caddy were

caught up in the moment and lost sight of their surroundings.

This place has 1000 bunkers, most of which line and border each hole . . .  even with people

standing in it, there is no doubt that it's a bunker.

 

We scrambled to finish, and we did. Johnny Mac reminded me of what he said on the first tee

nearly 5 hours earlier "I promise You we will finish today". . . . He was right, but just barely.

Johnny Mac is heading home to go to work with his Pops in North Carolina. After all, we

carded a 73 (25 putts), not a bad finish to your caddy days, hope to run into You again my

friend.

_

The four leaf clover eighteenth green

 

Afterwards we had a few drinks with the Lynes Bros, and then dinner at the club. I can

honestly say, of all of the places I've been, there is no other place I'd rather spend a day

playing a round of golf than at Whistling Straits.

Is it quite possible that the surreal scenery, perfect weather, post PGA Championship

conditions, great caddy, amazing company and 25 putts might have had an influence on

that statement . . . . . . certainly, but my only reply

would be (as Johnny Mac relayed the acronym earlier in our round) I.I.W.I.I - it is what it is.

 

 

 

 

Another one off the bucket list . . . it will be tough to top this one


Gregg Lynes

Jim Lynes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
October In Wisconsin - Erin Hills Golf Club: Part 1 PDF Print E-mail
Written by BRUNO   

 

 

 

October weather in the midwest can be questionable at best, especially in the Dairy State of

Wisconsin. Scotty B, my brother in law Bruce Superman (yes that is his real name) and

I, arrived at Mitchell Airport in Milwaukee late on Thursday to low 40 degree temps. What we

had in store, was a bucket list weekend (which is essentially what this site is about): Golf at

Erin Hills on Friday, Whistling Straits Saturday and Fins vs Packers on Sunday at Lambaeu.

We were hosted by Steve Kennicott and his wife Penny, at their beautiful 6 acre compound

some 50 miles or so south of Milwaukee.They offered up their guest house, and I only hope

that we get the oppurtunity to offer up such hospitality one day in return.Steve is a Chicago fan

living in Packers country . . . a rarity in these parts . . .  hoping to tap into his knowledge of the

second city, when the Ryder Cup comes to Medinah in 2012.

 

 

Our October home base in Wisconsin, the Kennicott compound

 

Friday morning we headed north to Erin Hills, anticipating the quality of a layout that will host next

years United States Amateur Championship and in 6 1/2 years hence, the 2017 U.S Open Championship,

 not many venues, especially those as young as Erin Hills reach such stature( Erin Hills opened in 2006).

We were greeted upon arrival by a very friendly bag drop crew, as well as the pro shop personnel, . .

all top notch service staff.Thanks to Head Professional Ben Fahrenholz for the invite.Starter John Cehle

got us going off the first tee at 12:24, along with our caddie Kyle Murhpy and a single who joined our

group, named Tim Rayer from Philadelphia.The weather was picture perfect for an October day of golf in

the land of the (not so) frozen tundra, a balmy 61 degrees at tee off.

As it turns out, our caddie Kyle was a standout player at Marquette University, just up the road in

Milwaukee. Kyle had been the the assistant golf coach there the last few years, and became the interim

head coach late last season when coach Tim Grogan resigned.When it became time to hire a new coach

after the season, Marquette went in another direction hiring Northwestern coach Steve Bailey, Bailey decided

to let Murphy go and in doing so, Marquette lost one of their own (Bailey hired one his ex-players from

Northwestern David Merkow to be his assistant).Murphy then interviewed and became one of the finalists

for the University of Minnesota job, when longtime amateur legend John Harris decided to throw his hat

in the ring, and as we all know . . . . it's not what you know, it's WHO you know.Consequently, Kyle

Murphy has decided to get out of the golf business. After walking 8 miles of Wisconsin countryside talking

golf with him, he is qualified, and well informed . . . he just hasn't found his spot yet. I hope somebody in

the golf business, gives him a shot before he moves on to another field, the game doesn't need to lose

good people that would be a solid asset to any company.I digress for certain, but Kyle Murphy is worthy.

 

J.B, Murphy, Nick, Scottie B, and Tim Rayer at the halfway house

 

The first at Erin Hills is a benign par 5 that can be reached in two with a huge drive off of the

 right bunker, but starting off you might be conservative as I was, an unforced error with a 

wedge brought bogey. A tough way to start on a gettable opening hole.As we walk to the second

 tee, I ask Murphy what his best score is out here, he remarks 71 from the 7820 yard tips (Kyle

played in 2006 U.S Am at Hazeltine).He says that no amateur player that he has looped for at

Erin Hills has broke 80, from any set of tees. We were playing at 7227 yds, I told him the goal

today was to be the first . . . the bogey at one didn't help the quest.

 

 

 The par 5 first

 

Number two is a tricky little left to right par 4, with a blind tee shot over a large knoll on

the left. The green is generous in size for a short iron approach, but is stingy if you miss.

The green is positioned like an upside down soup bowl . . . miss the surface and everything

will funnel off and down, leaving a tough up and down. I sank an 8 footer for bird here to

right the ship.

I won't critique every hole, but the downhill third is a 498 yd par4 from the tips (Pictured

below), and it is a sight to see. This hole would stand up against any hole around. Keep the

tee shot right center to avoid the fairway bunkers, and for a slightly better angle to this

elevated green. A great save here, kept the score level par . . . meanwhile Scotty B was

struggling to find a rythum.

 

 

 The par 4 third

The short par 4 fourth requires an accurate tee shot that will reward the player with a short

iron approach. At the fifth, the approach shot is key to a slightly uphill green.

The par 5 seventh is long and pretty, with an elevated green that has a high plateau on the left.

 

 The par 5 seventh

 The ninth is a dramatic looking short par 3 playing around 150 yds. The photo below tells

you all you need to know.

 After a superslick two putt par to the back right hole location, 38 was the tally after

nine holes . . . on pace to break Murphy's looping run without anyone breaking 80 at Erin

Hills. If the inward nine is as good as the front side, this place could easily be in

my top 5 fave tracks. Part 2 (the back nine) to come . . . .

 

 
Erin Hills Part 2 (October In Wisconsin) PDF Print E-mail
Written by BRUNO   

The Clubhouse at Erin Hills

A few things I took notice of while finishing the front nine were: the routing brought you back to

 the clubhouse ( I prefer that over places like Pebble & Bethpage where the 10th green is the

furthest point out), OB doesn't exist on Erin Hills (they are not short on land, therefore boundaries

are not an issue, also there is no water hazard to speak of (this is very similiar to Bethpage Black

in that respect).The greens are the purest surfaces that I've ever putted on, period (almost as

quick as Seminole, but much more consistent and true . . . Seminole often deals with salt water/air

erosion).They are not tricked up, with mostly subtle breaks(aside from a few holes). The course is

very tough . . . but strike it well, and you will be rewarded.It reminded me somewhat of the Black

Course at Bethpage . . . brutal, beautiful and about as fair as any course can be.

One of the truly unique sights at EH, is a striking structure that sits off in the distance along the 

horizon of Erin Wisconsin. That structure is Holy Hill Basilica Shrine of Mary. This Basilica is a 450

acre spiritual utopia, that is visited by thousands each year. This mecca was pronounced a shrine

by Pope Leo XIII in 1903.

Holy Hill

 

After a visit to Sally Pandl who runs the halfway house (we loaded up on refreshments),

we started our trek towards the inward nine. As we strolled up the tenth tee, I looked

towards the clubhouse and realized that this place is still a bit of a hidden secret, but

once the Amateur and U.S Open come here . . . this place will be a global golf destination.

 I couldn't wait to see the back nine, and then the 504 yard par 4 tenth (476 blue tees)

showed itself. After a solid tee shot into the cross wind, it took 3 wd to have a shot at

reaching this elevated green. The approach found a cragy sand bunker (that resembled

a ditch) just right of the green, then a debacle ensued: 2 explosions and 2 putts later a 6 was

recorded on the card . . . . . not good for the quest Murph and I were workin on. Four over

 thru 10

The Long Par 4 tenth

 

One of best things that happens during a round like this, other than the perfect weather

and beautiful surroundings (especially while walking), is the people you get to meet. One

such person, was our playing partner on this day: Tim Rayer. Rayer is a solid player and

resident of Philadelphia, where he is the co founder of a company called Prosthetic

Solutions. When Tim was playing ball in college, one of his teammates became ill with

cancer in his leg, and ended up needing a prosthetic after amputation. A short time later,

Tim's friend lost his battle with cancer, but this tragedy inspired Tim to help others through

the memory of his friend.Tim went on to make prosthetics his profession,to learn more

about Tim Rayer and his company visit Pro Limb.com .


 

The short eleventh produced a routine par, but the magnificent twelfth is a sweeping

left to right hole with huge knolls that hide most of the downhill green on your approach.

A drive into the left rough produced bogey, and the quest was starting to take a hit .

 

The Rolling par4 twelfth hole

 

 

The thirteenth is a 215 yd downhill par 3 that runs away from the player and is all about

club selection, it's one of those pick your poison holes: long is the safe play here, it's

an easier up and down. Anything short will roll all the way down the slope, just make 3

here and get outta dodge.After making the safe play off the tee, an up and down was

managed for the par.

 

par 3 thirteenth

 

The fourteenth is a 614 yd par 5 that will take three solid strikes to have chance

at birdie, the green is elevated and partially blocked from view because of the

large mounds fronting the putting surface.Rayer stiffed a wedge here and made

the putt, another par for moi, kept the quest alive.This is a sweet golf hole, I believe

this stretch from 12 thru 16 is the best on the course.

The par 5 fourteenth

 

Fifteen was my favorite design on the layout. From an elevated tee (photo below),

this right to left short par 4 is reachable for the monster hitter. Scotty and I played

it the conventional way, stiffed our wedges and walked with feathers.At 4 over through

15, the quest was on schedule.

 

 

The view from the elevated tee on the short par 4 fifteenth

 

 

The dramatic par 3 sixteenth

On the best par 3 on the course, the sixteenth, Baker hit his best shot of the day,

nearly holing out on the fly . . . but unfortunately the ball released through the green

into a gnarly spot and a bogey result. To add insult to injury, my whiffed 4 iron

skanked its way to just short of the surface, where a 2 putt from 60 ft resulted in a

par. This game is truly unfair, and as we walked off that green, I knew I had just

dodged a bullet and my friend had just taken a stray one to the medulla oblongata.

 He couldn't catch a break, and I seemed to be carrying a pocket full of four leaf

clovers . . . all you can do is acknowledge it and move on.

 Seventeen is a pedestrian looking hole, but it is a sleeper. At 481 from the tips

(445 from the Blue tees), it is a tough  hole especially if you hit it sideways from

the tee box, we all drove into the right cabbage and did nothing relative to par.

Murph and I (he has to share the blame) missed a 7 ft putt for par, and we went to

 the home hole 5 over.

 

The swan song at Erin Hills is the longest on the course at 660 yds from the tips

(637 from the blue tees), Tim Rayer and Scotty B were in the "Mayor's office"

(down the middle) . . . I was not.If you look at the photo below you can see where

you don't want to be, and yes my golf ball was in there.After a deliberation with

Murph, he gave me the reluctant green light on hitting rescue club from the craters

of doom (after all, I still had 350 yds plus to the putting surface).The best strike

of the day resulted in a towering shot that got a small assist from a bunker rake

to put us in position A.The three of us all hit the green with decent chances at pay

dirt, after 2 putting Rayer and Scotty were in with pars. I had about a 10 ft left

to right slider that just slid by the right edge and refused to drop.Murph and

I had accomplished our goal-77 wasn't bad considering it was our maiden voyage

on the venue named Erin Hills.This place had instantly become one of my favorite

courses, and is without a doubt a must play. Thanks again to Ben Fahrenholz for

hosting us at Erin Hills.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the recent renovations and new ownership at

Erin Hills. Andy Ziegler purchased Erin Hills and instantly got to work on the

renovations the USGA required in order to secure both the the U.S Am next year

and the U.S Open in 2017. The course was closed for 8 months and reopened on

August 1st 2010.I read a review by Matt Ginella of Golf Digest  last year and from

a few others who were not inspired by what they saw and played. You owe yourself

a favor to return and experience the place now.

 

The finish at Erin Hills

 

After saying our goodbyes to Murphy, we muddled about the pro shop for a few minutes.

Soon after Rayer, Scotty and I headed to have a drink on the back patio behind the

clubhouse.What a place, the sun was goin down, the temperature was dropping

(fire pits burning on the patio), and I thought to myself " Can tomorrow at Whistling

Straits, be as good as today was?" We were about to find out . . .

 
Course Review: Old Corkscrew PDF Print E-mail
Written by BRUNO   

On a beautiful morning several weeks back, "The Z Man" and I drove west across the great peninsula

known as Florida . . . . .  we were of course on our way to the links. After some solid nourishment

at Panera Bread, we headed towards our destination, Old Corkscrew Golf Club. We finally arrived

after getting lost in the wilderness just  off interstate 75.Old Corkscrew, a Jack Nicklaus Signature

design opened in February 2007 in the city of Estero, a suburb of Fort Myers located in southwest

Florida. The land was originally slated to be a golf course called "The Retreat", but the developer

(Bonita Bay) decided to bail on the project. Once the land was available, Jack Nicklaus seized the

opportunity. Jack had seen the property and thought it was a nice piece of land to craft something

special. Special it is indeed . . . the 275 acre site rolls through dense mature Florida pines, and scrub

Palmetto are abundant throughout.

The club is not a resort, nor is it a residential community, located a handful of miles from

civilization (in west Guam it seems), it is pure golf  . . .  stretching 7393 from the tips with a rating

and slope of 77.6/153 . . .  it is all you want and then some. The place started racking up accolades

soon after opening, most notable are: 2008 Florida course of the year(National Golf Club Owners

assoc.), and 2008 Golf Digest top 10 best new course. The club is semi-private, which means there

 are members, but is also available for public play.

The 221 yd par3 - second hole

 

Many of the holes remind me of Jack's private compound in Jupiter,Florida: The Bears Club.

A majority of the holes have a secluded feel, mixed in with a few that are more open.The opening

hole is classic Jack . . . draw your tee shot away from the fairway bunkers on the right, then fade

a mid iron approach to an elevated and severly undulated green. That seems to be Jack's recent

 trend with his new layouts . . . no matter how good a ball striker you are, your work has just

begun when you reach his severly sloped greens.The par3 second is picturesque (photo above),

The short par4 fourth, the risk reward (over a marsh) par5 eleventh and the 445 yard uphill

par4 fourteenth (highest elevation on the course), were the highlights for me.

If You can't seem to work your contacts to get on Jack's private nirvana in Jupiter, take

a ride across the Sunshine State, (you won't see Bear's Club members Michael Jordan,

Luke Donald or Ernie Els at Old Corkscrew), but you will experience a course that is

nearly identical in beauty and design concepts, and is atleast it's equal . . . the staff at

Old Corkscrew is exceptional.

 

To check out the club click on the link below:

http://www.oldcorkscrew.com/layout9.asp?id=229&page=7865

 
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