By Jerry Poling
Special to TravelWisconsin.com
For Steve Higley and 15 of his friends from Osseo, there’s no better way to enjoy the yellows, reds, and oranges of fall in Wisconsin than on the emerald fairways of a golf course. “It’s just a beautiful time of the year to go,” Higley said. For years the men have headed north to the Hayward-Cable area the first week of October for four days of golf, “a lot of camaraderie, and even a little singing,” says Higley. “We call it the Oktoberfesters group.
They already know what many other golf enthusiasts are finding out: that Wisconsin is a great place to play golf, and the best time to play may be fall, when courses are in their top condition, the trees are ablaze, the crowds have thinned, and there are off-season deals on greens fees and rooms.
Higley and his friends have found the dozen or so courses in the Hayward-Cable area, proclaimed the Golf Capital of Wisconsin, to their liking. “We hit ’em all up and down the road,” he says. They often stay at Lakewoods Resort near Cable, which has its own course, Forest Ridges, tucked into the Chequamegon National Forest near Lake Namekagon.
With Wisconsin’s resplendent fall scenery and more than 500 courses, golfers can head in most any direction and have a great a fall experience. Another option is to head farther north, along the Lake Superior shore, to Apostle Highlands Golf Course. About 500 feet above Bayfield, it has spectacular views year-round of the Apostle Islands.
Time your golf trip to coincide with the Bayfield Apple Festival, stay at one of Apostle Pines Condominiums (owned by the Winfield Inn Properties) next to the course or down by the bay, and you’ve got a getaway to remember. Or take the ferry to Madeline Island, where more golf awaits at Madeline Island Golf Club.
Head southeast to the Green Lake area, where tourists have been flocking for more than a century, and you’ll find more lakeside fall beauty at another group of lovely courses, including the Links and the Woodlands at Lawsonia. Stay-and-play package deals are available and rates for Lawsonia golf courses drop after Labor Day.
In south-central Wisconsin, at Merrimac, more autumn splendor awaits in the Baraboo bluffs at Devil’s Head Resort, which has 247 rooms and 36 holes of golf over two courses. The views aren’t bad, either. One course has an elevation change of nearly 400 feet, offering views of Lake Wisconsin.
Back in Hayward, September is even busier than June at the Hayward Golf & Tennis Club—one of the courses that Higley’s group from Osseo always plays on its fall outing. “And June is busy,” says Dave Blake, HG&TC head pro. With the playing season waning, though, Blake, like Higley, finds time to lead 16 to 24 golfers on day trips to other state courses. “It’s pristine conditions and a great time to play,” he comments.
Of course, this is Wisconsin; the great golf conditions and fall colors don’t last long. It’s one reason the “Oktoberfesters” from Osseo hit the highway each fall. Even if the weather does turn chilly, says Higley, “We put on our stocking caps and mitts and away we go. If it’s 40 degrees who cares? Winter’s coming.”