I should state first and foremost that I have not played them all. In fact, to this point I have only played 13. I am certainly hoping to add to that number quickly, though, and this list is intended to be dynamic as my quest to find the very best private golf clubs in Wisconsin plays out.
I expect this "Top ten list" to be controversial, and it is meant to be. I also expect it to be a fun endeavor, and I hope you enjoy the ride as each new private club I play has the ability to shake things up entirely. Your help will be needed to point me in the direction of new clubs to check out that have the potential of being included here.
My rankings revolve entirely around the golf experience, which includes the course itself, its layout and conditions and the overall look, feel and playability.
Still on my list of well-renowned Wisconsin private clubs to play include, but are not limited to:
- Blue Mound Golf and Country Club (Wauwatosa)
- Green Bay Country Club (Green Bay)
- Oneida Golf and Country Club (Green Bay)
- North Shore Golf Club (Menasha)
- Tripoli Country Club (Milwaukee)
- Legend at Merrill Hills (Waukesha)
- Legend at Brandybrook (Wales)
- Racine Country Club (Racine)
- West Bend Country Club (West Bend)
- Oconomowoc Golf Club (Oconomowoc)
- Maple Bluff Country Club (Madison)
- Nakoma Golf Club (Madison)
- Cherokee Country Club (Madison)
- Blackhawk Country Club (Madison)
- Big Foot Country Club (Fontana)
- Janesville Country Club (Janesville)
- La Crosse Country Club (Onalaska)
- Stevens Point Country Club (Stevens Point)
- Hidden Glen Golf Club (Cedarburg)
- Kenosha Country Club (Kenosha)
My Top Ten Private Golf / Country Clubs in Wisconsin:
1. Milwaukee Country Club (River Hills):
Designers: CH Alison and HS Colt (1929)
Yardage: Black-7094, Middle-6444, Forward-5856
Slope/Rating: Back-136/74.6, Middle-130/71.9, Forward-125/69.5
The number 62-ranked overall golf course in the entire country (Golf Digest's America's 100 Greatest for 2015/2016), the Milwaukee Country Club is the most exclusive private club in the state of Wisconsin.
A Colt and Alison design originally built in 1929, the course has had recent rework performed by Tom Doak to remove some trees to open up views of the river from more interior holes. The back nine is especially a phenomenal test of golf, with many holes going over and along the river. The prestige and mystique of MCC is unrivaled in the state.
Hole 10: Par 5 (484/465/443)
2. Pine Hills Country Club (Sheboygan):
Designers: Harry B. Smead (1928)
Yardage: Blue-6481, White-6151, Silver-5817, Gold-5302, Red-5076
Slope/Rating: Blue-132/72.3, White-128/70.7, Silver-125/69.3, Gold-121/66.9, Red-124/70.4
Pine Hills Country Club is one of the most beautiful, fun golf courses in the entire state. As one of my readers described it: "Pine Hills is like a roller coaster" - I could not agree more. From the severe elevation changes to their heavily contoured greens, a round at Pine Hills is as enjoyable as any of the Sheboygan area courses.
When originally targeted by Kohler to be his golf course for visitors to the American Club, the membership refused to sell, leading the plumbing fixtures magnate to meet with Pete Dye, fall in love with golf and course design, and eventually create his Whistling Straits and Blackwolf Run empire as it is today.
Hole 8: Par 4 (422/375/343/273/271)
3. Horseshoe Bay Golf Club (Egg Harbor):
Designers: Rick Robbins (2000)
Yardage: Black-7101, Blue-6601, White-6117, Red-5386
Slope/Rating: Black-139/74.5, Blue-134/72.1, White-130/70.0, Red-124/71.5
Hole 13: Par 5 (584/545/505/445)
4. The Club at Strawberry Creek (Kenosha):
Designers: Rick Jacobson (2006)
Yardage: Black-7113, Gold-6658, Blue-6157, White-5648, Green-5098
Slope/Rating: Black-136/74.8, Gold-131/72.8, Blue-126/70.5, White-122/68.2, Green-121/70.1
The newest country club in the state of Wisconsin, The Club at Strawberry Creek was designed by Rick Jacobsen and initially opened for play in 2006.
Having played host to the 2012 Wisconsin State Amateur event, this links-style course has quickly gained a reputation as one of the state's finest private golf clubs, less than ten miles from the Wisconsin/Illinois border.
Hole 9: Par 4 (468/428/398/367/318)
5. North Hills Country Club (Menomonee Falls):
Designers: John Barr (1928)
Yardage: Black-6715, Blue-6424, White-6208, Gold-5714, Green-5286
Slope/Rating: Black-133/73.2, Blue-130/71.9, White-127/70.7, White-127/70.7, Gold-123/68.5
Ahh, my beloved North Hills. Call it a homer pick, but the course at North Hills Country Club has stood the test of time since its days of hosting the Pabst Blue Ribbon Opens during the 1940's and '50's, and the original Milwaukee Open in 1960 and '61 (won by Ken Venturi and Bruce Crampton, respectively, and was in 1961 the last PGA event played in by Jack Nicklaus before turning professional).
Host of the annual Vince Lombardi Classic event, North Hills is known in the Milwaukee area for having the best, most well-conditioned [small] greens, and a no-gimmicks layout that can be played and enjoyed over and over again.
Hole 4: Par 5 (495/486/482/405)
6. Westmoor Country Club (Brookfield):
Designers: Lloyd Fitzgerald (1926); William Langford and Theodore Moreau (1957); Bob Lohmann (2008)
Yardage: Black-7010, Copper-6555, Silver-6008, Green-5503
Slope/Rating: Black-135/74.6, Copper-131/72.6, Silver-126/69.9, Green-119/67.7
Another mature and well-established country club, Westmoor is the prestigious club across the street on Moorland Road from Brookfield Square, and runs alongside I-94.
Originally opened in 1926 as a 27-hole facility, the club was renovated by William Langford in the 1950's due to the I-94 expansion - a heritage that Westmoor is proud of and has recently performed a more full-scale renovation to expand the Langford-like golf experience to the rest of the course.
Hole 8: Par 5 (491/484/471/454)
7. Ozaukee Country Club (Mequon):
Course Designers: William Langford and Theodore Moreau (1922)
Yardage: Blue-6765, White-6381, Gold-5806
Slope/Rating: Blue-130/72.9, White-125/71.0, Gold-121/68.5
Designed by one of golf's all-time greatest course architecture teams (Langford and Moreau), Ozaukee provides a tremendous challenge of golf. As evidenced by the scores in last year's State Amateur, 6765 yards can still be a beast in a modern golf tournament: Only five total rounds in the tournament were played under par, and the winner (Alex Geigert, playing out of Grand Geneva) was one of two players to finish better than +10. Gaugert was +6 after shooting 68 on the final day.
Hole 11: Par 4 (411/392/290)
8. Tuckaway Country Club (Franklin):
Designers: Ken Killian and Dick Nugent (1967)
Yardage: Blue-6941, White-6584, Silver-6169, Red-5667
Slope/Rating: Blue-134/73.5, White-129/72.0, Silver-125/69.9, Red-128/72.9
Host to the PGA's Greater Milwaukee Open from 1973-1993, Tuckaway is a big golf course that is capable of getting their greens as fast as any in the state, with more break than almost any in Wisconsin, as well. The large, fast greens at Tuckaway put a premium on quality approach shots.
Hole 5: Par 3 (164/142/101)
9. The Legend at Bristlecone (Hartland):
Designers: Scott Miller (1996)
Yardage: Black-7010, Blue-6461, White-5917, Red-5062
Slope/Rating: Black-138/74.4, Blue-130/71.9, White-125/69.6, Red-120/69.4
The Legend at Bristlecone is one of the most modern private courses in the state, and its 7,000-plus yards make it a local favorite for tournament play.
Bristlecone has a very distinct look and feel in comparison to other courses on this list - its modern design elements make it very unique in the private club sector: The fairway-long sand traps on six, for example, or its use of the water features on the redone finishing hole come immediately to mind.
10. Bishop's Bay Country Club (Middleton):
Course Designer: Robert Lohmann (1995)
Yardage: Gold-7160, Blue-6740, Green-6382, White-6163, Red-5397
Slope/Rating: Gold-130-74.6, Blue-127/72.5, Green-124/71.3, White-122/70.0, Red-118/66.4
With dramatic views of the Lake Mendota and the State Capitol, Bishop's Bay is a huge golf course with enough land to build two or three. The holes are well spaced out across the vast property, and features great variety in the layout.
Hole 14: Par 4 (472/453/422/356)