Saturday, January 17, 2015

Wisconsin's Top Ten Private Golf / Country Clubs

As far as I have seen, nobody in the state of Wisconsin has published a top ten list of private golf clubs. I will attempt to be the first.

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
Par: 72

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
Par: 71

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
Par: 72

Featuring some of the state's best par five holes, especially thirteen and the awesome eighteenth, Horseshoe Bay is one of the best conditioned courses I have ever played. A new-age links design by Rick Robbin and Brian Lussier,  Horseshoe Bay combines the charm of Door County, Wisconsin, with fantastic golf.

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
Par: 72

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
Par: 71

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
Par: 71

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
Par: 70

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
Par: 72

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
Par: 71

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
Par: 72

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)

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Golf Digest Releases Their 2015/2016 Best in State Rankings

To follow up on my last post about the top 100 public courses in the country, released several weeks ago by Golf Digest, the golf ranking magnate now released their other most important list: The biannual "Best in State Rankings."

This is a big list for Wisconsin, as it brings in to consideration not only the eight great courses that made the top 100, but was expanded this year from 10 to 15.

To put this in perspective, 28 states have lists of 10, while Wisconsin, Indiana, Maryland, Oregon and Hawaii each have a list of 15. The more great courses a state has, the more that are included on the list.

With the expansion to 15 courses, five previously unranked courses were added to the 2015/2016 list:

  • Troy Burne in Hudson, at number 8
  • The Links course at Lawsonia in Green Lake, at number 12
  • Oneida Golf and Country Club in Green Bay, at number 13
  • The Bog in Saukville, at number 14
  • Wild Rock in Wisconsin Dells, at number 15

The courses that I was most excited for upon the unveiling of the updated lists were Erin Hills, which moved from number five to number two, SentryWorld whose renovation moved it significantly up to number five from number ten, and Wild Rock which moved in to the list (but, if you ask me, not high enough up it!). 

Interestingly, SentryWorld was named the number five best overall course in the state of Wisconsin, which is where I also projected it to be. Somehow, though, it was not listed in the rankings for the top 100 public courses in the country. The Irish course at Whistling Straits (#6 in the state, #47 in the country), The Bull at Pinehurst Farms (#9 in the state, #70 in the country), the Meadow Valleys course at Blackwolf Run (#10 in the state, #72 in the country), and the Links course at Lawsonia (#12 in the state, #85 in the country) were all included in the national list, but are ranked below SentryWorld in the state one. 

The reason? SentryWorld's late and limited reintroduction last year was too late to include the Robert Trent Jones, Jr. renovated track in the national list, but enough time was given to the Golf Digest rating team that they were able to include it in the state-by-state one.

18th hole tee shot at the renovated SentryWorld

Also interestingly, Troy Burne was excluded from the list of the country's top 100 while being named number eight in the state and ahead of most of the same courses that SentryWorld also beat out. 

One of the most interesting things about the Wisconsin rankings: Wisconsin has the highest percentage of public courses in its rankings of any of the states that have 15 or more courses included. In fact, 73% of the courses in Wisconsin's best-of list are public. 

Most public courses in the best-of rankings:

     1. Alaska: 5/5 public (100%)
     2. North Dakota: 4/5 public (80%)
     -   Mississippi: 8/10 public (80%)
     4. Wisconsin: 11/15 public  (73%)
     5. Maine: 7/10 public (70%)
     -   New Mexico: 7/10 public (70%)
     7. Vermont: 6/10 public (60%)
     -   Oregon: 9/15 public (60%)
     -  West Virginia: 6/10 public (60%) 
   10. Hawaii: 8/15 public (53%)

Of the big destination golf states, only Wisconsin, Oregon and Hawaii are in the top ten. 

Conversely, many more states have 20% or lower representation by public courses. In fact, only 27% of all the courses listed in the best-of category for each state are public nationally. Leading the way for the private club heavy states are:

    50. New Jersey: 0/20 public (0%)
    ---  Rhode Island: 0/10 public (0%)
    ---  Arkansas: 0/10 public (0%)
    47. Massachussetts: 1/20 public (5%)
    46. Pennsylvania: 2/25 public (8%)
    45. New York: 3/30 public (10%)
    ---  Connecticut: 1/10 public (10%)
    --- Missouri: 1/10 public (10%)
    --- Oklahoma: 1/10 public (10%)
    --- Tennessee: 1/10 public (10%) 
    40. Illinois: 3/25 public (12%)
    --- Ohio: 3/25 public (12%) 
    38. Georgia: 3/20 public (15%)
    37. Texas: 5/30 public (17%)
    36. Florida; 7/35 public (20%)
    --- Maryland: 3/15 public (20%)
    --- Utah: 2/10 public (20%)
    --- Kansas: 2/10 public (20%)

Certainly, this disparity between the number of public vs. private courses in each state has something to do with the Kohler golf empire (Whistling Straits, Blackwolf Run). However, the numbers are quite intriguing and to me signifies that the state of golf in Wisconsin for the everyday player is probably healthier than in most states.

In neighboring Illinois, for example, only three of the 25 courses included by Golf Digest are public. The other 22 are not playable to the average Joe.

Across the country it went like this, with what I would consider to be a natural progression from highly rated public courses to more highly rated private clubs.

What's the reason? Is it the decline in play across the country? Certainly, the old money in the New England area has a lot to do with it, as private club heavy states like New Jersey (home of "The greatest course in the history of the world," Pine Valley), Massachussetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New Hampshire are all 30% or less publicly represented.

While these states are well represented on the national best-of overall golf courses lists, they are not considered to be golf destinations like Wisconsin, Oregon, Hawaii, Florida, Arizona, South Carolina, Michigan and even to a lesser extent Mississippi and California are.

So why are Florida (20% public), Arizona (25% public), California (29% public), South Carolina (30% public) and Michigan (40% public) so poorly represented from a "Courses You Can Play" standpoint? They are all rich in amazing golf courses (even though Arizona was unrepresented in the top 100 public), but sans Michigan the other three are not only golf destinations by retirement destinations. Folks from the Midwest retire to Florida, Arizona, California and South Carolina in droves, with money and looking to be a part of golfing communities there.

Michigan is an outlier, but I think it can be explained rather simply: Michigan has unbelievable golf. Both for public and private courses, the natural coastline along Lake Michigan, the bluffs and dramatic elevation, and everything else about Michigan's topography makes the terrain unrivaled with regards to the possibilities that go in to golf course design. If you were to take Sweetgrass or TimberStone (with healthy greens, unlike the way they were this year) and put them in most other states, they would be top five to ten courses. Similarly, Greywalls would be top five almost anywhere.

So what about Illinois? Illinois is complicated for golf. There are certainly a lot of golf nuts in the state, and if you talk with someone who knows a LOT about golf, they will say it is an unbelievable golf state. How? As anyone who has driven through the state can attest to, it seems to be quite flat and unmemorable. However, it is also ridiculously rich with some of the best private golf clubs (and very few good public courses) in comparison to the rest of the country, as evidenced by Golf Digest's Top 100 [Overall] Golf Courses:

    14. Chicago Golf Club (Wheaton, IL)
    39. Medinah Country Club, No. 3 (Medinah, IL)
    46. Butler National Golf Club (Oak Brook, IL)
    60. Canyata Golf Club (Marshall, IL)
    66. Olympia Fields Country Club, North (Olympia Field, IL)
    81. Rich Harvest Links (Sugar Grove, IL)
    99. Shoreacres (Lake Bluff, IL)

How do you beat that for private club selection?

Well, New York, with three public courses in their top 30 and 27 private clubs, for example, has:

     4. Shinnecock Hills Golf Club (Southampton, NY)
     8. National Golf Links of America (Southampton, NY)
     9. Winged Foot Golf Club (Mamoroneck, NY)
   10. Fishers Island Club (Fishers Island, NY)
   16. Oak Hill Golf Club, East (Rochester, NY)
   23. Friar's Head Golf Club (Baiting Hollow, NY)
   38. Sebonack Golf Club (Southampton, NY)
   43. Bethpage State Park, Black (Farmingdale, NY) - PUBLIC!
   49. Garden City Golf Club (Garden City, NY)
   59. Winged Foot Golf Club, East (Mamoroneck, NY)
   71. Quaker Ridge Golf Club (Scarsdale, NY)
   95. Hudson National Golf Club (Crot-on-Hudson, NY)
   98. Maidstone Club (East Hampton, NY)

New Jersey and Ohio are represented awfully well, too.

Is it good when the rankings shift so heavily from public to private golf courses on a national level? I honestly can't tell you, but I do know that I am happy our great state of Wisconsin is so well represented on the public course level. I think having phenomenal golf courses available for the aspiring golfer to play allows them to see the beauty of great golf architecture, and opens their eyes to what makes great golf... Great.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Golf Digest 2015/2016 Course Rankings

Golf Digest released their new 2015/2016 rankings for the country's best golf courses, and I can't say enough how excited I was to see some of the courses that made the new lists.

For starters, I will say that I am proud of our home state of Wisconsin for having one more course on the list of the top 100 public courses this year: The Links course at Lawsonia. The Links course, opened in 1930 as a true masterpiece by William Langford and Theodore Moreau, is one of my real loves in the golf world: The number 52 ranked classic course in the entire country, it broke back in to the top 100 of public courses again this year at number 85.

Whistling Straits, Straits course dropped this year from the number two public course in the country to number four - that's still really good. 2015 will be a huge year for the Straits course, hosting the PGA Championship for the third time.

Erin Hills, my number one course in the great state of Wisconsin, moved up two spots in the ranking this year with the 2017 US Open on the horizon, to number eight.

The River course at Blackwolf Run dropped from number 14 to number 16 in the ranking of the country's very best public courses (number 91 overall). As Pete Dye said, there could not be a more beautiful piece of land to construct a golf course on, and I could not agree more.

The Irish course at Whistling Straits remained in the top 50 of the United States' very best public golf courses, this year at number 47.

The Bull at Pinehurst Farms moved up significantly this year, from number 77 to number 70. One of the most challenging courses in the state with a slope of 147 from the tips, The Bull is oftentimes the least thought-of course for visitors to the Kohler area although it certainly stands toe to toe at a much lower round rate.

The Meadow Valleys course at Blackwolf Run also dropped considerably this year, from number 62 in the country to number 72. With a back nine that is so good that only the Milwaukee Country Club can even compare, I feel like this is a bit of a sleight against the Meadow Valleys, but the 72nd best public course in the country is certainly nothing to be upset about.

In addition to these seven Wisconsin public courses, the Milwaukee Country Club was also named as the number 62 overall rated course in the entire country (the Straits course was ranked number 22, and Erin Hills number 42).

There were plenty of other courses named that I have also reviewed. For example, I thought it was insane that The Prairie Club in the Sand Hills of Nebraska was not better represented. The new rankings changed that very well, with the Dunes course at the Prairie Club being named the number 35 best public course in the country.

The Pines course at The Prairie Club also broke in to the top 100 rankings, being named number 75 this year.

My beloved Chambers Bay, nestled along the coastline of the Puget Sound in University Place, Washington, is my all-time number one favorite course I have ever played. Readying for the 2015 US Open, Chambers Bay moved from number 25 to 26 on the list of the country's best public courses.

The Harvester, in Rhodes, Iowa, whose photos are being held captive on my broken-down laptop and I have not gotten to do my review on yet, moved up this year from number 46 to 42. I have some stunningly beautiful pictures of this course, and am hoping to have them for you all before the 2015 season opens.

Cog Hill Number 4, Dubsdread actually moved up this year from number 64 to 53, representing one of the biggest leaps made by an established course on the entire list. Dubsdread, which no longer hosts any PGA events since the BMW started its rotation, is one of the toughest courses in the entire country, with a slope of 151 and rating of 77.8.

One course that I cannot wait to get back to again this year came in at number 57: The Wilderness at Fortune Bay. I played this course the weekend it opened ten years ago, during my brother's bachelor party in the Boundary Waters of Northern Minnesota.

We simply noticed there was a nice looking golf course nearby our houseboat and the casino at Lake Vermillion, and decided to play it on a Saturday morning. Little did I have any idea the quality of this track; that changed when I looked out at the awe-striking 649-yard opening par five with tree-lined fairways split by rock walls. Umm, WHOA.

Not knowing it was literally a world-class golf course, and tremendously challenging, I purchased one sleeve of golf balls with my rented clubs, and figured if I lost those I would find more along the way - fail.

The course is beautiful beyond words, and challenging enough that even after "borrowing" balls from friends I still was not able to finish 17 on account of nobody in my group having golf balls left to play. The scenery alone was worth the venture, and I hope to return this year for a full and well-deserved review.

Another of my all-time favorite courses, and another Minnesota gem, the Classic at Madden's Resort moved up four spots this year to number 63. The caddy experience at the Classic was the best I've ever had, and the course was the great north woods exemplified. This is another spot that I hope to get back to this year, and I have been asked to write a paragraph blurb about it for an upcoming issue of Midwest Golfing Magazine.

My favorite course to play when I am in Florida is the Pine Barrens at World Woods. One of the great mysteries of golf to me is how the course can maintain a slope of 133 from 7,237 yards from the tips - I will never understand it, even though their club pro tells me it is because water (of which the course has almost none of) is two times more penal than sand (of which the course has an incredible amount of!). The Pine Barrens was named by the PGA as one of the ten most beautiful courses in the world, and to the extent of my knowledge I will not disagree. With actual elevation changes, the Pine Barrens is unlike any other course in the state of Florida.

People who are not like me, who truly love the game of golf, do not understand how big of a deal it is when these rankings are released.

As the former Chairman of the Wisconsin State Golf Association and a 25-year veteran of the Golf Digest rating system (and co-creator of the slope system), Gene Haas, told me sincerely: "Wisconsin's best course is the one I'm playing." I agree with that whole-heartedly, but the rankings give credence to the measure of greatness when it comes to a state like ours', that is blessed so indefinitely with some of the country's very best golf tracks.

I gave a speech recently to 125 members of the Wisconsin Senior Golf Association entitled "The History of North Hills Country Club and the State of Golf in Wisconsin." While the economy has caused play to drop dramatically in both the state of Wisconsin and around the country in the past 10-15 years, the state of golf in Wisconsin is one of excitement: This year, we will host the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, and in 2017 we will host the US Open at Erin Hills - the first time our country's greatest tournament will be held in Wisconsin.

Having SEVEN courses now in the top 100 public rankings only helps bolster my opinion that Wisconsin is truly one of the greatest golf states in the nation.

Just imagine when SentryWorld's renovated course gets the recognition it deserves, and then when the new Sand Valley courses being designed by Coore/Crenshaw and David McLay Kidd come to fruition in 2017 and 2018, respectively. Wisconsin is already and will be a mecca of the United States' very best golf destinations. The state of golf in Wisconsin is in very good shape, indeed.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Course Review: Westmoor Country Club

Ever since I was a kid growing up in Hartland, I always wanted to play Westmoor Country Club. I passed by it every time I went to Brookfield Square or Milwaukee, and the view up the par three fifth and down the fairway of the adjacent fourth always whet my appetite to see what this course had to offer.

This past October, I got the chance to check it out as my friend, Joey, who is a member at Westmoor, was hosting his annual Chop Stix Open. The event, coinciding with his birthday, was a great time and we couldn't have been more fortunate weather-wise - I am told they played in 30-degree temperatures and tons of wind last year.

The wind was certainly a factor this year, too, at times well over 25 miles per hour, but the temperatures were in the 50's, the sun was out and it felt great to swing the sticks in Wisconsin in late October.

The Chop Stix Open event is a two-man best ball competition with [mostly] players of Asian descent versus us regular white guys, and while the white guys won, I am told the Asian team won handily in the drinking and fun department. I have to admit I had plenty of fun, though, myself.

Westmoor is a fabulous golf club, with a large pool and clubhouse, tennis courts, and a massive men's locker room [with its own cards/bar/game room] that dwarfs the one I am used to at North Hills (it is also a very expensive club with what I have heard is a significant down-stroke).

The course is very impressive. What was once considered to be a perhaps overly tight parkland track was opened up and lengthened in 2009 by Lohmann Golf Design - the critiques I have heard have gotten mixed reviews, with some saying the renovation got rid of some of its character, while others love the new-age look and feel of the traps and mounding.

Westmoor originally opened in 1926 as a 27-hole facility designed by one of its members, Lloyd Fitzgerald. In the 1950's, Interstate 94 was expanded and the legendary William Langford was brought in to redesign the fourth through eighth holes that were wiped out by construction of the freeway (courtesy of Westmoor's Assistant Superintendent, Bryan Bergner, via GolfClubAtlas).

You will notice in my commentary below that my opinions are very much in line with Bergner's: The fourth through eighth holes are the strongest, most beautiful and strategic ones on the course. Simply stated, they are outstanding golf holes.

In 1973, renovation work was done to holes one and ten, and on fifteen through eighteen by David Gill, and the course was then merely tinkered with until the large-scale renovation of 2008/2009.

Lohmann's redesign was intended to unify the course in to a more Langford-like track with elevated, plateaued greens alike those played on Lawsonia's Links course (designed by Langford and Theodore Moreau) and at nearby West Bend Country Club.

While I never played Westmoor prior to this year, I do think the majority of the course is consistently themed rather well, but most importantly that it is entirely aesthetically pleasing and an excellent challenge of golf.

The openness of the renovated course allows for the wind to affect play significantly, while allowing for slightly off-struck longer shots to result in less penalty. Sans the water hazards and nearby road traffic, there are few unplayable areas at Westmoor.

I also really enjoyed the variety of par fours, with some as short from the first tees in as the 339-yard tenth (356 from the tips) and [the reachable] 346-yard sixth (378 from the tips), and as long as the beastly 442-yard second hole (467 from the tips) that played directly in to the teeth of the wind.

Equally as varied are their par threes, which range from 154 to 220 from the tips, and from 146 to 180 from the first tees in (copper tees). The par threes have great character, especially the fifth which plays over a pond and significantly uphill from 180 (217 from the tips). This is the par three seen from I-94.

Westmoor begins with a fairly straightforward par four of 399 yards. A good tee shot down the middle should leave in a simple approach to a large green that slopes from back to front to help hold irons.

Hole 1: Par 4 (439/399/372/372/350)

Mike completing his swing in front of the first hole tee box monument:

Hole 1: Par 4 (439/399/372/372/350)

The second hole at Westmoor is not quite as straightforward. Well over 400 yards, and playing back toward the clubhouse, two is a bitterly long hole that played straight in to a severe wind. I hit maybe my best drive of the day on this hole, then a solid three-wood, only to be 20 yards short. I then, feeling like a world beater, shaved under a wedge, ran the ball two-thirds of the way up this steeply sloped green and two-putted for double. 

Hole 2: Par 4 (467/442/377/377/367)

Playing alongside Moorland Road across the street from Brookfield Square, the third hole is the kind of hole that it is either: 
  1. Good to remind yourself that any damage caused by errant shots is your responsibility
    ... Or... 
  2. Terribly detrimental to have any thoughts in your mind of pushing a ball in to oncoming traffic
Playing from 146 yards from the copper tees, the shot is uphill to an elevated green with deep sand traps surrounding the putting surface. The back of the green falls off long and left, so distance control is key.

Hole 3: Par 3 (154/146/146/128/122)

Four is a beautiful par four - maybe my favorite on the entire course, in fact. Continuing alongside Moorland Road, the traps that adjoin the fairway and rough are obviously best to avoid, but are playable. The berms are steep, and more bunkers encroach the green complex.

A slight ridge runs through the front-left of the green, which was the difference between Mike and I beating Ross and his playing partner, or tying. I read it opposite and Ross read it correctly - our match, which started on five, finished all square.

Hole 4: Par 4 (406/381/381/372/349)

Hole 4: Par 4 (406/381/381/372/349)

My favorite par three on the course, five is a long, uphill one-shotter over water that requires one to two extra clubs. The green-side bunkers are deep, but the green is large and forgiving beyond its false front.

Hole 5: Par 3 (217/180/174/174/161)

The shortest of the par fours on the course as the bird flies, six can be attacked by long hitters with a draw over the left-side trees and bunkers. From 346 yards (copper tees), Ross actually hit it from the tee with a high draw for the day's first birdie. 

The pond on the right side, which is flown on the previous par three, is in play but there is open grass on the long side of it for big hitters. 

Hole 6: Par 4 (378/346/346/334/290)

Seven is a long par four, all uphill. At 429 yards from the first tees in, the first objective is to avoid the traps both on the left and right side of the driving area. From there, a long iron or fairway metal can be hit uphill to a green that slopes from back to front. 

Hole 7: Par 4 (440/429/382/382/333)

Hole 7: Par 4 (440/429/382/382/333)

Eight is a great hole, with the shortest distance of any of the par fives on the course. Carrying the traps on the left side of the fairway is a task, but can be done. The smarter play, of course, is to hit to the fairway and lay up on the second shot. The approach area is literally smattered with fairway and green-side bunkers that have to be flown to hit this green in two. The green is elevated and heavily contoured.

Hole 8: Par 5 (491/484/484/471/454)

Finishing the front nine is the longest hole on the course, a 575-yard monster of a par five that plays uphill to an elevated green before the clubhouse. This is a true three-shot par five. 

Hole 9: Par 5 (601/575/484/484/414)

Ten at Westmoor actually reminds me a little of the opening hole at North Hills Country Club, which is a short par four with a treeline running the length of the left side of the tee boxes, and a fairway that veers softly in that direction. 

What we did not expect was the water feature beyond the right-side treeline just before the green. Three of us hit this pond, which was an un-welcomed surprise to say the least. Thankfully, I was the one who did not hit it and ended up winning the hole easily. 

Hole 10: Par 4 (356/339/339/322/302)

With out-of-bounds left, and a treeline right, the eleventh plays straightforward until the green complex. The green is very heavily sloped from back to front, before plateauing and falling off in back. 

Hole 11: Par 4 (393/366/366/329/308)

Twelve was a great hole for us during our round, with the wind directly at our backs. This hole was bombs-away at its best [with a draw], as exemplified by Ross who was 100 yards out off the tee (325-plus yard drive).

This elevated green had what was probably the trickiest pin placement of the day: All the way back on a shelf that was nearly impossible to get near.

Hole 12: Par 4 (447/427/375/375/341)

Thirteen is another good driving hole with a really difficult green. The traps on the right are the only real obstacle off the tee, while a solid drive will bound the ball forward charitably. The green complex lies on the opposite side of some deep traps, though, and leans heavily from back-left to front-right. 

Hole 13: Par 4 (390/380/380/352/315)

Hole 13: Par 4 (390/380/380/352/315)

Although only 167 yards from the copper tees, fourteen was by far the hardest of the par threes at Westmoor during our round. The wind was absolutely howling in and to the right of us, bringing the pond front-right of the green well in to play. 

Our group had some long hitters in it, especially Ross who usually hits a five-iron well over 200 yards. On this day, though, a 200-yard shot was nowhere near enough to reach, as he fell short and right in to the water. 

Learning from the others, I hit a perfectly struck three-hybrid (my 225-yard club) right in to the teeth of the wind, watched it climb higher and higher, then submerge itself completely in the green about six feet short of the pin. It was my shot of the day. Even though I missed the birdie putt, I tapped in for par and beat the field by a stroke. 

Hole 14: Par 3 (184/167/167/158/153)

Hole 14: Par 3 (184/167/167/158/153)

Ross's tee shot on fourteen:

Hole 14: Par 3 (184/167/167/158/153)

Fifteen is a tough par five, with a mostly blind tee shot to a fairway that falls sharply to the right near the targeted driving zone. From there, the fairway goes downhill and the approach area is over a lot of water, which is never an easy task with an almost inevitably downhill lie. This is a great hole to play it safe on.

Hole 15: Par 5 (554/519/497/497/457)

Hole 15: Par 5 (554/519/497/497/457)

Hole 15: Par 5 (554/519/497/497/457)

Another really great looking par four at Westmoor is the sixteenth. Favor the left side of the fairway to stay out of the traps on the right at all costs. Take it from me, they are not fun to be in especially with a downward lie.

The fairway runs heavily to the right, but the sand found on that side of the fairway is a long way to fly and should be kept away from.

Hole 16: Par 4 (404/385/385/356/342)

With the wind at our backs, the 173-yard par three seventeenth was anything but a short par three. I led the group off with a nine-iron that looked like it almost hit the flag, for example, only to be 40 feet above the hole. The false front here means flying the green is a necessity, but the heavy slope from back to front will help hold irons. 

Hole 17: Par 3 (220/173/173/144/125)

I love a good challenging eighteenth hole, and Westmoor has a doozy. At 417 yards from the copper tees, and 469 from the tips, the eighteenth plays sharply uphill and has a multitude of fairway traps to avoid during the climb. 

Hole 18: Par 4 (469/417/381/381/325)

Hole 18: Par 4 (469/417/381/381/325)

Playing back toward the clubhouse, I am sure the next time I play Westmoor I will have one thing on my mind during this trek: I cannot wait to get a huge order of french fries. Westmoor is well known in the Milwaukee area for providing the best culinary experience, and you will get a good taste of this from the fries alone - prepared in duck fat and seasoned with parmesan cheese, they are absolutely amazing.

Although my round here was on a mostly leafless late October, I really enjoyed the golfing experience at Westmoor Country Club, and cannot wait to hopefully get back again next year to re-shoot it when the weather is warm and the course's conditions are tip-top (the conditions for late October, though, were absolutely spectacular, especially the fairways!).

While Westmoor is a private club, the public does have a number of opportunities to play it, usually on Mondays for charitable golf events like the Milwaukee Bucks outing to benefit cystic fibrosis (which was held on September 22 this year). If you have the opportunity to take time off from work, and $2,500 for a foursome, I highly recommend playing it.

Course Wrap-Up:
Location: Brookfield, WI
Yardage: Black-7010, Copper-6555, Hybrid-6209, Silver-6008, Green-5503
Slope/Rating: Black-135/74.6, Copper-131/72.6, Hybrid-128/70.9, Silver-126/69.9, Green-119/67.7
Par: 71
Weekend Rates: N/A (private club)