By Jerry Huffman
Special to TravelWisconsin.com
There was a time when the clubhouse was probably the last thing golfers thought about when heading to the first tee. It was a place to change your shoes, have a hot dog at the turn and a cold one when you were done.
That was then. This is now. And now is cool. Clubhouse cool.
These days the better golf course clubhouses stand as their own travel destinations offering outstanding food, comfort beyond comprehension, and, often, spectacular scenery.
The Kohler clubhouses at Whistling Straits in Sheboygan and Blackwolf Run in Kohler are today considered the gold standard for service from day one. Like the courses, each of the clubhouses have a distinctive personality.
Respecting the natural setting of the Sheboygan River Valley, the Blackwolf clubhouse is big into pine logs and fieldstone with Native American artifacts on display. At the Straits, you’ll love the Irish farmhouse. Both run the gauntlet from modestly priced food options to elegant dining. Comfort being the operative word at both.
Tabbed to host the 2017 U.S. Open, Erin Hills capitalizes on its own Irish inspiration by offering a menu of distinctly Wisconsin fare, as well as a lengthy list of at least 15 whiskeys and scotches from the home country all anchored by a two-story stone fireplace.
Erin Hills gets an extra gold star for offering on-course accommodations. From single rooms to suites, you can literally be just steps from a bucket-list defining golf adventure.
The locals have always called Pleasant View Golf Course in Middleton, “Goat Hill” for all the obvious reasons. Walking 18 at Pleasant View is an impressive cardio workout. It’s also a great family destination because of the kid-friendly Par-3 course in addition to the other 27 holes.
Some 300 feet above Lake Mendota, you’ll love the view of the Capitol. But the burgers are a great reason to take the trek to Goat Hill. Fresh ingredients, bakery fresh buns and an outdoor grill are the perfect cap to a delightful round of golf.
Grant Park was Milwaukee’s first golf course opening in 1920. However the clubhouse, dates back to the 1860s when it was originally a farm home. A good golf course for youngsters and seniors at only 5,200 yards long. You are stepping back in Wisconsin history when visiting Grant Park.
Thornberry Creek in Oneida stands as a one-of-a-kind golf destination. First, it’s the “official” golf course of the Green Bay Packers, which is cool. A golf course guru friend of mine tells me it’s not unusual to find one of the players there teeing off which is also cool. But, and you better brace yourself here, the Sports Pub has 21 (and we asked someone to count them to be sure) 40” color televisions. Trés cool.
That and the golf course guru tells me the track is top shelf too. Coolest.
Tournament directors who set up events across Wisconsin tell me there are great club-houses around the Wisconsin Dells.
Wild Rock’s log cabin style clubhouse gets high marks for its pro shop, octagon bar and outdoor patio for scenery.
Madison’s Andy North carved out a second career as a course designer. “Breathtaking,” and “classy,” were how one golf insider described the clubhouse at Trappers Turn.
A bit off the beaten path just north of the Dells is Northern Bay. A fun round because Northern Bay boasts replicas of seven of the toughest holes on the PGA Tour. A new clubhouse recently opened where you can watch players struggle with a mirror image of the 17th island green at TPC Sawgrass (their #9) and the 18th hole at Bay Hill Country Club (their #18).
Sentry World in Stevens Point has undergone a big upgrade to both their golf course and clubhouse. Not only is the clubhouse new, but there’s an expansive field house complete with indoor tennis and volleyball courts, an indoor driving range, as well as a new full-scale restaurant, PJ’s, named after one of Sentry’s founders, PJ Jacobs. As part of a corporate philosophy, Sentry promises a renewed commitment to the local community and families.
Locals liked one particular apple tree so much, they didn’t want anything to happen to it when they built a new clubhouse. But it was in the way. So they built the new clubhouse around the apple tree and it’s still there today. Right next to the shirts. Unfortunately, the tree died a few years ago and remains a great conversation piece.
The other great folklore at Eagle Springs? 1920s Cubs pitcher, AG Spaulding, designed the first two holes. They thereby claim, albeit arguably, to be the oldest golf course in Wisconsin.