Whistling Straits - Irish Course (Haven, WI)

ramylsonramylson Members Posts: 852 ✭✭
edited Sep 18, 2008 in Midwest #1
Pictures & review.
Southern Wisconsin is truly defined by one thing when referencing the land: there sure are a lot of farms. Of course, this means there are a lot of fields, red barns, and the typical animals that come with it. A lot of that is due to the land once being covered by glaciers from the last ice age. Their retreat turned completely flat land into a rolling sea of hills, moraines, and valleys. Even so, the two mile stretch of land that Whistling Straits sits on remained fairly flat. So much so that it became a military base from 1949 through 1959 called Camp Haven. It served as an anti-aircraft training facility, complete with airfield and missile silos. After it's closure, the land was basically left to rot. During the time between the Army's withdrawal and it being purchased from Herb Kohler Jr in the early 1980s, it amassed an assortment of 80 waste dumps of rusting cars, refrigerators, tires. Not to mention three spots of toxic material and assorted live rounds the military left behind. So forgotten was this land, that it even became a typical meeting spot for large drug deals between Chicago and northern Wisconsin.



Enter Herb Kohler Jr., CEO of Kohler Company which is just as much a staple of Wisconsin as the farms that surround it. The Kohler Company began producing cast iron and steel implements for area farmers, as well as ornamental iron pieces for the area furniture factories as far back as 1883. By eventually coating a horse trough, the company was able to becoming a world leader in plumbing products. That bath tub gave Kohler the means to pursue other business opportunities, which ultimately was the golf and resort business in the late 70s.



Kohler's first effort at a course was at Blackwolf Run down to road in Kohler, WI. It was completed in 1988, with an additional nine was added in 1989, and eventually a fourth in 1990. This set-up has now become both the River and Meadow Valleys courses, with each course having a portion of the initial 18 holes. After this initial collaboration with Pete Dye, the duo once again joined forces on Kohler's newest purchase along Lake Michigan in the mid 90s.



After cleaning the land of all the waste and illegal activities, Kohler and Dye saw true potential in the location for a Scottish/Irish links look which Kohler loved. Of course, it'd mean a lot of work and dirt to transform things into something truly unique. Non-the-less, the team got to work. Eventually brining in 13,126 truck loads of dirt, equaling 800,000 cubic yards of sand and dirt. The result is truly magic, with the Straits course opening in 1998. The Irish followed close behind, opening in 2000.



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The Irish course blends tradition along with bold target golf together. And, while not as prestigious as it's sibling, the only thing that it really lacks are the majestic views of Lake Michigan. Although, while not has aesthetically drastic as the Straits course, it has it's own teeth. There are more than 500 bunkers sprinkled throughout the property, with smaller greens and fairways than it's "big brother". It also has over 2000 trees which were planted throughout the property after it was built up initially. The greens have subtle slopes versus sharp tiers, which can lull you into trouble on the quick greens. In the end, it's a true Dye course through and through, where the player will be penalized for errant shots due to it's forced carries, water hazards, and tight fairways constantly surround by trouble. Kohler was once quoted as referring to toughness of the Irish course as, "A twinkle in the eye with a delightful sense of mischief." Although, the best quote that I found to characterize the course was from Gary D'Amato (Milwaukee Journal Golf writer), who said, "Candy for the golfers eye, a caress for his soul, but beware the potential kiss of death behind every bunker, knob, and knoll."



As with all Kohler courses, the property is top notch. Along with the service you'd expect from one of the top five resort destinations in the world. There's still room on the property for another 18 hole layout, but it's unlikely that anything will be built there as it's a nice cushion against the outside world for this little golf oasis.



Yardages (front/back/total):

Black - 3549/3652/7201 (75.6 rating/146 slope)

Blue - 3308/3442/6750 (73.5 rating/141 slope)

Green - 3079/3287/6366 (mens - 72.0 rating/137 slope; womens - 77.4 rating/142 slope)

White - 2928/3064/5992 (mens - 70.3 rating/133 slope; womens - 75.2 rating/137 slope)

Red - 2535/2574/5109 (mens - 65.6 rating/121 slope; womens - 70.0 rating/126 slope)




#1 - "High Ground" 400/387/369/359/301 (hcp 4; par 4):

irish1.jpg



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#2 - "Giants Leap" 372/360/347/340/309 (hcp 6; par 4):

irish2.jpg



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#3 - "Sleeper" 147/138/128/118/87 (hcp 18; par 3):

irish3.jpg



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#4 - "Sandbanks" 489/443/432/405/336 (hcp 2; par 4):

irish4.jpg



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#5 - "Devil's Elbow" 570/517/501/477/430 (hcp 14; par 5):

irish5.jpg



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#6 - "Mulligan's Watch" 160/149/135/123/97 (hcp 16; par 3):

irish6.jpg



#7 - "Troll" 372/363/344/339/320 (hcp 12; par 4):

irish7.jpg



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#8 - "Garden Creek" 555/542/501/459/392 (hcp 10; par 5):

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#9 - "Last Gaspe" 484/409/322/608/263 (hcp 8; par 4):

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#10 - "Shepherd's Post" 398/387/378/361/340 (hcp 5; par 4):

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#11 - "Lamb Chop" 208/193/177/169/125 (hcp 15; par 3):

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#12 - "Highland Trek" 413/396/373/349/290 (hcp 13; par 4):

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#13 - "Blind Man's Bluff" 183/160/152/145/111 (hcp 17; par 3):

irish13.jpg



#14 - "Tullamore Dew" 564/520/508/469/380 (hcp 11; par 5):

irish14.jpg



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#15 - "Frog Water" 479/459/416/370/335 (hcp 1; par 4):

irish15.jpg



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#16 - "Deep Dye" 474/436/425/383/333 (hcp 3; par 4):

irish16.jpg



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#17 - "Irish Mist" 375/355/335/325/272 (hcp 7; par 4):

irish17.jpg



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#18 - "Black and Tan" 558/536/523/493/388 (hcp 9; par 5):

irish18.jpg



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Extras.. taken from the highest point on the property, out towards the lake over the Straits course #11 and #15):



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Comments

  • BEND OF THE RIVER GCBEND OF THE RIVER GC Charter Members Posts: 6,559
    Great pics, I have about 20 different course reviews that I need to get posted!
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  • jeremyblre21jeremyblre21 Members Posts: 503
    thanks for the pics!
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  • oregongolforegongolf Lefty Boomers Posts: 8,570 ✭✭
    Sweet pictures! The fairway undulations look fun.



    Man... I've been planning to make it out that way for awhile.



    That course looks awesome. How were the greens? What tees did you play? How'd you shoot?
  • AcesAZAcesAZ Members Posts: 3,460
    The course looks fantastic and difficult. Nothing like narrow fairways and small greens with punishment all around. I'm wondering as well, how'd you shoot?
  • ramylsonramylson Members Posts: 852 ✭✭
    BEND OF THE RIVER GC wrote on Aug 22 2008, 08:36 PM:
    Great pics, I have about 20 different course reviews that I need to get posted!




    I was wondering if you had ever come back from your vacation..


    j0npeterson wrote on Aug 22 2008, 09:15 PM:
    Sweet pictures! The fairway undulations look fun.



    Man... I've been planning to make it out that way for awhile.



    That course looks awesome. How were the greens? What tees did you play? How'd you shoot?




    You know, the fairway undulations really aren't as bad as they look, but it's still something that comes to your mind prior to your shot. Greens are top notch, but subtle slopes that almost guarantees that you'll never have a truely straight putt. They roll very true, as still as extremely fair. While we were there, I'd say they were somewhere around 10 or 11.


    AcesAZ wrote on Aug 22 2008, 09:26 PM:
    The course looks fantastic and difficult. Nothing like narrow fairways and small greens with punishment all around. I'm wondering as well, how'd you shoot?




    It really is amazing how little room there is for error, but it's not over the top penial either. Just plan on play a lot of different shots.



    I ended up shooting an 81, with three lipped par saves and two lipped birdies. The potential was really there for a good round, just a few mistakes. Like on #3, I was just short and hit a railroad tie square to eventually end up in the middle of the pond. Should never have gotten as aggressive as I was, since the shot coming back isn't overly difficult and we were playing into a bit of a breeze (there's always wind at this course around 1pm off of the lake).



    I'm currently a 6.2 handicap, which has gradually been coming down. Although, I'm sure that it could be better if I'd be able to play more often. I really don't get to get out that often right now due to a 10 month old at home. Even so, my issues aren't ball stricking, etc. I can firmly say that right now my putting is terrible..



    One final thing, for those that can or are in the area. If you can handle the weather, or find a decent day, try to get up and play either this course or the Meadow Valley course over at Blackwolf Run in late fall (end of October into November) for $50. It's an absolute steal since there typically are very few people out on the course, and it's usually in perfect shape..
  • FairwayFredFairwayFred Sponsors Posts: 4,020 ✭✭
    It always amazes me how Pete Dye will design a course, talk about how it is designed to be an "Irish Links" or any kind of "Links" and then put a man made water hazard pond on 3 of the holes. What a joke. Just because a course has no trees does not make it a Links course. In all of Ireland on their famous Links you will not find even one man made water hazard pond. The only water is the ocean or the small natural pond on #17 Royal County Down that is not really in play for anyone. Kohler is a fun place but extremely overpriced for what you get. Anyone out there considering a trip to Kohler, DO YOURSELF A FAVOR AND GOTO BANDON DUNES INSTEAD! Its the only place in the USA that talks about "Links" golf and actually delivers.
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  • CohyeCohye Members Posts: 32
    FairwayFred why don't you start your own thread rather than Hijacking ramylson's post. He made a very comprehensive review, touched on a bit history and was spot on on his assessment. i played both couses and yes both are AWESOME!
  • FairwayFredFairwayFred Sponsors Posts: 4,020 ✭✭
    Cohye wrote on Sep 7 2008, 12:34 PM:
    FairwayFred why don't you start your own thread rather than Hijacking ramylson's post. He made a very comprehensive review, touched on a bit history and was spot on on his assessment. i played both couses and yes both are AWESOME!




    Im sorry to offend. I wasnt "Hijacking" anyones post, I was just giving my opinion. I have no problem with the courses themselves, they are enjoyable to play in their own right. It is the marketing that I have a problem with. I went to Kohler expecting something close to Links golf and what I found there was anything but.
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  • Big A HGBig A HG Members Posts: 553 ✭✭
    FairwayFred wrote on Sep 7 2008, 10:00 PM:
    Cohye wrote on Sep 7 2008, 12:34 PM:
    FairwayFred why don't you start your own thread rather than Hijacking ramylson's post. He made a very comprehensive review, touched on a bit history and was spot on on his assessment. i played both couses and yes both are AWESOME!




    Im sorry to offend. I wasnt "Hijacking" anyones post, I was just giving my opinion. I have no problem with the courses themselves, they are enjoyable to play in their own right. It is the marketing that I have a problem with. I went to Kohler expecting something close to Links golf and what I found there was anything but.




    Bandon and Whistling Straits are no doubt American rivals. Both offer similar style of courses with their own unique look and feel. Being raised about 4 minutes from Whistling Straits, I dislike Bandon like you dislike Whistling. It's just nature. image/smile.gif' class='bbc_emoticon' alt=':)' />



    With that being said, I played in the same high school conference as Kohler High School, and they had the pleasure of having one of the top teachers at Whistling Straits as their coach and access to any of the 4 courses that Kohler owns at their disposal. This allowed for many free rounds of golf when playing them at these courses. I can tell countless stories about the courses which are not only beautiful, but are always in great shape and challenging. I remember our county meet being on the Irish. It was an 18 hole tournament for all high schools in the county, big or small. The top couple golfers in the county were + handicaps. After 2 straight days of miserable weather where the tourney had to be canceled, they decided to cut the tournament to 9 holes where we played in 30 mph winds, rain, and upper 30 temps. The winning score was a 43 on the front nine of the Irish. The top golfer was on hole 6, and hit it in a greenside trap off the tee. He decided to retee instead of playing the bunker shot without even leaving the tee box only to hit it to 1 foot from the cup. Why he did this, I don't know, but it was a pretty amazing shot considering the circumstances of the weather and reteeing.



    I agree that the 4 ponds on the combined courses can seem out of place, but big deal. Why be a copy cat and build a course exactly like how some think it should be. They were building something unique. Golf courses have ponds, so why can't a rugged, links STYLE course have a pond or two? It breaks up some of the monotony of playing a true links course IMO.



    Being so close I knew a few guys who worked on the course. One of them had a goal of peeing in every bunker on the Straits course before he left, haha. I don't think you could pee in a bunker every day of your life and do 'em all. image/man_in_love.gif' class='bbc_emoticon' alt=':man_in_love:' />





    When combining American Club, the golf courses, and the other amenities that the area has to offer, I don't think a place in the country can really outdo this area...just equal it. I've been to a few other resorts including Pinehurst, but none compare. I'm sure there are a couple like the Monterey area and such, but if you want a great golf experience with first class services and amenities, this is your place.



    Also, Whistling Straits has to be doing something right with all the tournaments they are getting. Bandon can't say the same. That's part of what you pay for when coming. I know the Straits course is virtually completely sold out golf season with $300+ rates.





    One last bit, if I remember right, the grand opening at Whistling Straits (when it was just the Straits) was: Herb Kohler, Kevin Costner, George Bush Sr., and Michael Jordan.
  • b81smithb81smith ClubWRX Posts: 752 ✭✭
    both courses up in Kolher wis are supposed to be great - - I will never get chance to play either for the same reason I'll never get to play pebble beach or any other extremely overpriced golf course - $495 or something like that - WOW no thank you, another driver with putter or wedge or used set of irons would be better than 18 holes there. Brandon dunes does sound nice with prices around my stratusphere - $95 or so......I wish I could get up there to at least walk around the course but can't drive all that way to just see the parking lot - I'd be too close to taking out a loan to play golf.
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  • ROCROC Members Posts: 27
    I have never played the Irish course but did play its counterpart, the Straits. In looking at the pictures and comparing it the actual views I enjoyed, it seems the Straits has it hands down. It was a beautiful day, but windy. The course kicked me pretty good. It didn't help that I was overdue fro hip repleacement so the walk left me aching by the end. That said, it was such a great course I would go thru the tortue again to paly it (But this type with the new hip). This is one striking course. My guess is teh Irish course is nice, but....



    By the way, Blackwolf was excellent as well.
  • danbailey24danbailey24 Members Posts: 163 ✭✭
    all those pics, and NO SHEEP?



    when I played there, the sheep were roaming the course. I about #$%#$ my pants when I climbed to the apex of a mound to find a small flock of sheep in the bunker next to my ball.



    GREAT EXPERIENCE, STUPID EXPENSIVE.
  • ramylsonramylson Members Posts: 852 ✭✭
    Didn't see the sheep that particular day. Although, I've seen them numerous times throughout the course. Of course, always know where they've been if you look down once and awhile.



    Keep missing out on my chance to play the Straits. BUT, I have a buddy that caddies there who's said I can come up and play it some evenings this summer. Really looking forward to it..
  • benjattbenjatt Members Posts: 256 ✭✭
    great review thanks. What is the pace of pay like there? 5 hour rounds? I am seriously considering a trip when I come over to Chicago for a conference? I also like the look of Coghill.
  • ramylsonramylson Members Posts: 852 ✭✭
    Pace of play has always been very good every time I've played it. Even in the late season when they don't use any marshalls. Walking, you should be able to complete the course under 5 hours. But, like everything, I'm sure that it'll depend on the day and the groups around you.
  • 67VIP67VIP 67VIP Members Posts: 659
    I just got back myself from playing Blackwolf Run, and the Irish & Straits courses at Whistling Straits. What a fantastic experience! In 31 years of golf I've never seen anything quite like it. I had just played the Blue Monster @ Doral & the Gold course @ Tiburon...there is no comparison whatsoever. A nice old school Florida course plus a new wave Florida course does not add up to Blackwolf Run...much less the Irish & Straits (I played both in one fabulous day!). All three courses were in immaculate condition as well. I have been home only 3 days and I'm more than ready to go back. I checked the website and they are offering a two day package w/room @ the American Club, a round of golf each on the Blackwolf, Irish, and Straits courses for $995. That included carts @ Blackwolf & the Irish, and caddy fee on the Straits. The only thing not included was caddie gratuity and food. That sounds like a **** of a deal to me, as Pinehurst nails you for a $175 upcharge to add #2 to a package. The food is fabulous at Blackwolf & Whistling Straits as well, along with the entire area really. I ate dinner the last nite @ the Schwartz family steakhouse in St. Anna & the prime rib was out of this world! I would love to go to Bandon Dunes, but it looks like it's a pain in the a** to get to. Blackwolf & Whistling Straits are 5 minutes from Sheboygan, and that's 55 minutes from the Milwaukee airport...piece of cake.
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  • Carolina Golfer 2Carolina Golfer 2 Members Posts: 9,103 ✭✭
    edited Sep 7, 2009 #18
    ramylson wrote on Jul 22 2009, 09:33 PM:
    Pace of play has always been very good every time I've played it. Even in the late season when they don't use any marshalls. Walking, you should be able to complete the course under 5 hours. But, like everything, I'm sure that it'll depend on the day and the groups around you.


    Thought I'd use this post to chime in on the thread. I have played both courses (and the two Blackwolf Run courses) several times. Never had a bad experience at any of them, quite the opposite, the epitome of service.



    As for pace of play, like ramylson said. It's always fine. The tee times are spaced at least 10 maybe 12 minutes apart. I've never experienced anthing more than 4.5 hours on any course. You're right about Marshalls on the Irish course they're aren't any. That's becasue the caddies are the defacto marshalls. They get evalutated by their boss based on the groups time. If it comes in over 4.5 hours they have some serious explaining to do.



    While it's never been an issue with me the caddies have told me they've had to have a couple groups pick up and get back on track. I thought that could get pretty dicey as far as telling the guy paying you (tip) that we need to pick up and get to the next hole, but my guy said it has never really caused any problem, and he does everything he can to keep it from getting to that point.



    The Irish And Straits are both wonderful courses. Of course the Straits is the more memorable, but the Irish has some fantastic holes and would stand alone as a very good course if not for it's beautiful sibiling.
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  • ode1ode1 Members Posts: 2,838 ✭✭
    I play the Irish every year around this time as they charge in the vicinity of $55, and as the OP indicated there aren't a great deal of golfers out and the course is in excellent shape.



    My favorite holes are number 4, which to me is the hardest hole on the course, out of the 10 or so times I've played it, I've made par once. It's the tee shot that is killer and coupled w/ a back right pin, forget about it.



    If you're lucky enough to have the tee boxes up top on number 13, it's a drastically different hole, w/ a totally blind tee ball to the green. The green is extremely deep and when the pin is back right, with a right to left wind, it's one tough hole.



    10 is absolutely breathtaking. The tee ball is significantly up the hill, with an undulating fairway subtly shaped right to left. The approach is also significantly up the hill and blind. Not an easy hole. Don't miss it left.



    All the par 5's have a similarity in that there is a hazard that could be in play on your lay up, if you get a little greedy and go to far; or neck your fwy wood going for the green or simply trying to clear the hazard for a short approach. It's just enough to think about to adjust your decision without wanting to.



    IMO the fairways are very generous, but go off the fairway and your in jail, prison really. The long grass and waste bunkers are no joke.



    A couple of other things that make this track tough and unique. The undulations in the fairways, although not crazy extreme, there enough to impact the shot and you have to pay attention.



    Reading a Pete Dye green is not easy. I've had so many puts that break one way going downhill/uphill and the exact opposite coming back. There are enough small undulations which make for subtle breaks everywhere. It can get into your head. It wasn't until I played this course that I realized why pro's read putts from so many different angles.



    The course is very visually imposing, but you have to block out all of the trouble and hit the shot. There are enough bail out areas to make this course playable from the tee and have reasonable up and down chances in and around the greens.



    Add it all up and what you have is a course that is demanding and makes you think on every shot.
  • DavePelz4DavePelz4 A golf course in the Chicago area.ClubWRX Posts: 24,339 ClubWRX
    ramylson wrote on Jul 22 2009, 08:33 PM:
    Pace of play has always been very good every time I've played it. Even in the late season when they don't use any marshalls. Walking, you should be able to complete the course under 5 hours. But, like everything, I'm sure that it'll depend on the day and the groups around you.




    First of all...I love the track. Secondly, they are extremely rude in terms of how they treat the guests. We played on a Friday at 7:10AM...the second group of the day behind a twosome. While we are not expert golfers, we are time efficient and played the front 9 in under 2 hours. At the turn we were chastised by the head pro for being a hole down. I talked to him...referenced being behind a twosome and not having seen the group behind us the entire front 9. He said, and I quote, "if you don't keep up to the group in front of you we will remove you from the course." I won't mention that we each paid $275, w/o caddie or tip.



    So...we hustled...and with God as my witness, were waiting on the twosome starting on the 11th hole and going forward. We played the round (badly) in 3 hours and 40 minutes. I did complain to the GM at the end of the round and we were comped but I would have loved to play WS without that kind of pressure.



    On the "gee I'd love to play that again" list it's #1. On the "gee I don't want to be treated like that again" list they are far and away #1!
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