Destination Whistling Straits

By Links MagazineJune 27, 2008, 4:00 pm

Whistling Straits
Whistling Straits Golf Course - 11th hole

 
Just outside the dont-blink-or-youll-miss-it settlement of Haven, Wisconsin, County Road FF ends. Here a motorist has two choices: Turn onto a two-lane highway surrounded by board-flat farmland or continue straight ahead through a line of grassy dunes, the opening marked by an inconspicuous stone sign.
 
To choose the latter option is to be transported into another world'one of tumbling golf holes, ragged sand blowouts, howling winds and a Lake Michigan backdrop seemingly as big as an ocean.
 
Welcome to Whistling Straits, site of the 2004 PGA Championship and the 2007 U.S. Senior Open. Who would expect to find a world-class golf complex amid such unassuming Midwestern surroundings?
 
Whistling Straits and its sister facility, Blackwolf Run, have given the resort village of Kohler an unlikely but prominent spot on golfs world map. Their success reflects the savvy and hard work that have made the Kohler Co. one of the U.S.s largest privately held businesses, an empire whose products include kitchen and bath fixtures, engines and generators, furniture and accessories, cabinetry and tile.
 
Hospitality officially became a division of the Kohler Co. in 1981, when the American Club, a former dormitory for workers, was completely restored and re-opened as a luxury hotel overseen by Herb Kohler. Today the red-brick, Tudor-style building houses 237 rooms and suites, each featuring a Kohler whirlpool bath and various other products from the company catalog. Along the hallways, black-and-white photographs chronicle the clubs heritage.
 
Five dining facilities run the gamut from formal and romantic (the cozy Immigrant Room) to casual and raucous (the Horse & Plow pub, where tabletops are constructed of boards that once made up the dorms basement-level bowling alley). Next door is another showcase for Kohler bath products, the luxurious Kohler Waters Spa.
 
A spa treatment might be in order after the inevitable pains of playing 72 Pete Dye golf holes. The first of those designs, Blackwolf Run (named for a 19th-century Winnebago Indian chief), opened in 1988 on a lush slice of hardwood-lined meadow bisected by the Sheboygan River. Dye added a third nine in 1989 and a fourth in 90; the courses were then restructured into two 18-hole layouts, River and Meadow Valleys.
 
Overlooked by a sizeable log-home-style clubhouse, Blackwolf Run is a wildlife refuge masquerading as a golf course. Geese and deer roam the grounds. Salmon and trout flop about in the river. Its not uncommon to hear shouts of fore directed at fly-fisherman standing in waist-deep water alongside fairways.
 
Blackwolfs parkland surroundings are a diametric opposite to the raw fury of Whistling Straits, on the lake nine miles to the northeast.
 
Opened in 1998, the Straits course is a result of Herb Kohlers jones for links golf, acquired when he toured the U.K.s great seaside courses. Determined to have his own links, Kohler purchased property that was once a military training facility, Camp Haven, with Lake Michigan marking its eastern boundary. On flat, unremarkable terrain, Dye trucked in some 13,000 loads of sand to fashion a heaving landscape reminiscent of southwest Ireland.
 
Eight holes play directly adjacent to the shoreline, and every hole is within view of the intensely blue lake. The name Whistling Straits came to Kohler as he walked the site during construction one blustery day'a north-to-south gale was whistling along the bluffs and whitecaps were breaking on the rocky shoreline.
 
Adjacent to the Straits, the Irish course has a similarly shaggy look to its bunkers and rough, but only five holes within sight of the lake.
 
Two worthwhile diversions from golf are the Kohler factory, where visitors can see raw material turned into finished product; and the Kohler Design Center, where those products are exhibited for homeowners and builders interested in top-of-the-line kitchen and bath fixtures. On one wall alone is a three-story, floor-to-ceiling display of sinks, tubs and toilets, all reflecting the bold look of Kohler.
 
Come to think of it, that label also sums up the collection of holes that makes this region an emerging golf mecca in the Midwest.
 

by Allen Allnoch, LINKS Magazine
 
All Courses & Travel
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Montana parents can't watch kids play high school golf

By Grill Room TeamDecember 11, 2017, 9:47 pm

Well, this is a one new one.

According to a report from KTVQ in Montana, this line in the Montana State High School Association rule book all but forbids spectators from observing high school golf in that state:

“No spectators/fans are allowed on the course except for certain locations as designated by the tournament manager and club professional.”

Part of the issue, according to the report, is that most courses don't bother to designate those "certain locations" leaving parents unable to watch their kids compete.

“If you tell a parent that they can’t watch their kid play in the Thanksgiving Day football game, they would riot,” Chris Kelley, a high school golf parent, told KTVQ.

The report lists illegal outside coaching as one of the rule's chief motivations, but Montana State women's golf coach Brittany Basye doesn't quite buy that.

“I can go to a softball game and I can sit right behind the pitcher. I can make hand signals,” she is quoted in the report. “I can yell out names. I can do the same thing on a softball field that might affect that kid. Football games we can yell as loud as we want when someone is making a pass or a catch.”

The MHSA has argued that unlike other sports that are played in a confined area, the sprawling nature of a golf course would make it difficult to hire enough marshals to keep unruly spectators in check.

Meanwhile, there's a lawyer quoted in the report claiming this is some kind of civil rights issue.

Worth note, Montana is one of only two states that doesn't allow spectators on the course. The other state, Alaska, does not offer high school golf.

PGA Tour suspends Hensby for anti-doping violation

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 8:02 pm

Mark Hensby has been suspended for one year by the PGA Tour for violating the Tour’s anti-doping policy by failing to provide a sample after notification.

The Tour made the announcement Monday, reporting that Hensby will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.

The statement reads:

The PGA Tour announced today that Mark Hensby has violated the Tour Anti-Doping Policy for failing to provide a drug testing sample after notification and has been suspended for a period of one year. He will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.

Hensby, 46, won the John Deere Classic in 2004. He played the Web.com Tour this past year, playing just 14 events. He finished 142nd on the money list. He once ranked among the top 30 in the Official World Golf Ranking but ranks No. 1,623 today.

The Sunshine Tour recently suspended player Etienne Bond for one year for failing a drug test. Players previously suspended by the PGA Tour for violating the anti-doping policy include Scott Stallings and Doug Barron.

The PGA Tour implemented revisions to its anti-doping program with the start of the 2017-18 season. The revisions include blood testing and the supplementation of the Tour’s prohibited list to include all of the substances and methods on the World Anti-Doping Agency prohibited list. As part of this season’s revisions, the Tour announced it would also begin reporting suspensions due to recreational drug use.

The Tour said it would not issue further comment on Hensby's suspension.

Good time to hang up on viewer call-ins

By Randall MellDecember 11, 2017, 7:40 pm

Golf announced the most massive layoff in the industry’s history on Monday morning.

Armchair referees around the world were given their pink slips.

It’s a glorious jettisoning of unsolicited help.

Goodbye and good riddance.

The USGA and R&A’s announcement of a new set of protocols Monday will end the practice of viewer call-ins and emails in the reporting of rules infractions.

“What we have heard from players and committees is ‘Let’s leave the rules and administration of the event to the players and those responsible for running the tournament,’” said Thomas Pagel, the USGA’s senior director of rules and amateur status.

Amen.

The protocols, formed by a working group that included the PGA Tour, LPGA, European Tour, Ladies European Tour and the PGA of America, also establish the use of rules officials to monitor the televised broadcasts of events.

Additionally, the protocols will eliminate the two-shot penalty when a player signs an incorrect scorecard because the player was unaware of a violation.



Yes, I can hear you folks saying armchair rules officials help make sure every meaningful infraction comes to light. I hear you saying they make the game better, more honest, by helping reduce the possibility somebody violates the rules to win.

But at what cost?

The chaos and mayhem armchair referees create can ruin the spirit of fair play every bit as much as an unreported violation. The chaos and mayhem armchair rules officials create can be as much a threat to fair play as the violations themselves.

The Rules of Golf are devised to protect the integrity of the game, but perfectly good rules can be undermined by the manner and timeliness of their enforcement.

We have seen the intervention of armchair referees go beyond the ruin of fair play in how a tournament should be conducted. We have seen it threaten the credibility of the game in the eyes of fans who can’t fathom the stupidity of a sport that cannot separate common-sense enforcement from absolute devotion to the letter of the law.

In other sports, video review’s timely use helps officials get it right. In golf, video review too often makes it feel like the sport is getting it wrong, because timeliness matters in the spirit of fair play, because the retroactive nature of some punishments are as egregious as the violations themselves.  

We saw that with Lexi Thompson at the ANA Inspiration this year.

Yes, she deserved a two-shot penalty for improperly marking her ball, but she didn’t deserve the two-shot penalty for signing an incorrect scorecard. She had no idea she was signing an incorrect scorecard.

We nearly saw the ruin of the U.S. Open at Oakmont last year, with Dustin Johnson’s victory clouded by the timing of a video review that left us all uncertain if the tournament was playing out under an incorrect scoreboard.

“What these protocols are put in place for, really, is to make sure there are measures to identify the facts as soon as possible, in real time, so if there is an issue to be dealt with, that it can be handled quickly and decisively,” Pagel said.

Amen again.

We have pounded the USGA for making the game more complicated and less enjoyable than it ought to be, for creating controversy where common sense should prevail, so let’s applaud executive director Mike Davis, as well as the R&A, for putting common sense in play.

Yes, this isn’t a perfect answer to handling rules violations.

There are trap doors in the protocols that we are bound to see the game stumble into, because the game is so complex, but this is more than a good faith effort to make the game better.

This is good governance.

And compared to the glacial pace of major rules change of the past, this is swift.

This is the USGA and R&A leading a charge.

We’re seeing that with the radical modernization of the Rules of Golf scheduled to take effect in 2019. We saw it with the release of Decision 34/3-10 three weeks after Thompson’s loss at the ANA, with the decision limiting video review to “reasonable judgment” and “naked eye” standards. We’re hearing it with Davis’ recent comments about the “horrible” impact distance is having on the game, leading us to wonder if the USGA is in some way gearing up to take on the golf ball.

Yes, the new video review protocols aren’t a panacea. Rules officials will still miss violations that should have been caught. There will be questions about level playing fields, about the fairness of stars getting more video review scrutiny than the rank and file. There will be questions about whether viewer complaints were relayed to rules officials.

Golf, they say, isn’t a game of perfect, and neither is rules enforcement, though these protocols make too much sense to be pilloried. They should be applauded. They should solve a lot more problems than they create.

Lexi 'applaud's USGA, R&A for rules change

By Randall MellDecember 11, 2017, 5:15 pm

Lexi Thompson’s pain may prove to be the rest of golf’s gain.

David Rickman, the R&A’s executive director of governance, acknowledged on Golf Channel’s "Morning Drive" Monday that the new protocols that will eliminate the use of TV viewer call-ins and emails to apply penalties was hastened by the controversy following Thompson’s four-shot penalty at the ANA Inspiration in early April. The new protocols also set up rules officials to monitor TV broadcasts beginning next year.

“Clearly, that case has been something of a focus point for us,” Rickman said.

Thompson reacted to the new protocols in an Instagram post.

“I applaud the USGA and the R&A for their willingness to revise the Rules of Golf to address certain unfortunate situations that have arisen several times in the game of golf,” Thompson wrote. “In my case, I am thankful no one else will have to deal with an outcome such as mine in the future.”

Thompson was penalized two shots for improperly returning her ball to its mark on a green during Saturday’s round after a viewer emailed LPGA officials during Sunday’s broadcast. She was penalized two more shots for signing an incorrect scorecard for her Saturday round. Thompson ultimately lost in a playoff to So Yeon Ryu.

The new protocols will also eliminate the additional two-shot penalty a player receives for failing to include a penalty when a player was unaware of the penalty.

Shortly after the ANA Inspiration, the USGA and R&A led the formation of a video review working group, which included the PGA Tour, LPGA, European Tour, Ladies European Tour and PGA of America.

Also, just three weeks after Thompson was hit with the four-shot penalty, the USGA and R&A released a new Rules of Golf decision decision (34-3/10) limiting video evidence in two ways:

1. If an infraction can’t be seen with the naked eye, there’s no penalty, even if video shows otherwise.

2. If a tournament committee determines that a player does “all that can be reasonably expected to make an accurate estimation or measurement” in determining a line or position to play from or to spot a ball, then there will be no penalty even if video replay later shows that to be wrong.

While the USGA and R&A said the new decision wasn’t based on Thompson’s ANA incident, LPGA players immediately began calling it the “Lexi Rule.”