Golf Where the Pros Play: Wisconsin's Tournament Courses
Last Updated: 3/27/2017
By Jerry Huffman
Special to TravelWisconsin.com
Anyone can live the tournament dream on a Wisconsin golf course. Since the 1930s, both men and women golf professionals have been teeing it up across the state for their shot at glory.
This year, Wisconsin will be playing host to two premier tournaments. The US Open will be held in Wisconsin for the first time ever when Erin Hills hosts the event from June 12-18. Thornberry Creek in Oneida will play host to the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic July 3-9.
For close to a decade, the LPGA Futures Tour made Wisconsin a regular tour stop. Naga-Waukee Golf Course in Delafield was the original location in the 1990s. Ironwood Golf Course in Sussex was the longest host for five years. For three years, the Arnold Palmer golf course at Geneva National was the place to be for up-and-coming LPGA professionals until 2008.
Men’s professional golf tournaments were largely played at country clubs until the Greater Milwaukee Open moved to Brown Deer Park in 1994. Best remembered as the course where Tiger Woods made his professional debut in 1996, (finishing 60th and winning $2,554, with a Sunday hole-in-one on #14) many of the game’s top PGA Tour pros found their way to Milwaukee.
No Wisconsin golfing bucket list can be complete without a trip to Kohler. Whistling Straits and Blackwolf Run have hosted five golf majors so far with two more scheduled.
Blackwolf Run landed the Women’s US Open in 1998 and 2012. The Opens used the best holes from both Blackwolf courses so you can claim a US Open experience by playing either one.
The men teed it up in the 2004 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits. The Mens Senior US Open was there in 2007, a second PGA in 2010 and a third will be played at Straits in 2015. Kohler’s crowning golf event will be the Ryder Cup competition between the US and Europe in 2020.
It’s hard to compare Kohler to the natural beauty of Erin Hills, home of the 2017 US Open. Whistling Straits was created from the ground up as Pete Dye painted his canvas. Erin Hills was molded from a landscape left behind by the glaciers. Straits is a miracle of engineering and vision. Erin Hills is defined as much by what was done as what left to nature.
Erin Hills already has a unique chapter in its history having hosted the 2011 US Amateur. The 2017 Open will be a defining challenge with tees stretching to 7,812 yards. Bragging rights as it will play some twenty-two yards longer than Whistling Straits.
Dallas Cowboys quarterback, and Wisconsin native, Tony Romo has been teeing it up in a Janesville amateur tournament the last few years. The Ray Fischer at Riverside Golf Course is open to everyone and counts PGA Tour veterans Steve Stricker and Skip Kendall as past champions.
Testing yourself on tournament golf courses is easy in Wisconsin. Put a tee in the ground, hit it hard, and go get it. Whether you’re in a tournament draw or on your own, you walk with legends on a Wisconsin golf course.