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
Destination Whistling Straits
Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title
The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.
Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.
Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.
Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.
Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.
Garcia cruises to five-shot win in Singapore
SINGAPORE - Sergio Garcia played 27 holes on the last day without dropping a shot to win the Singapore Open by five strokes Sunday in an ominous display of his newfound self-belief as he prepares to defend his Masters title.
Still brimming with confidence after claiming his first major title at Augusta National last year, Garcia started his new season with a runaway victory at the Sentosa Golf Club, finishing at 14-under 270.
Returning to the course just after dawn to complete his third round after play was suspended on Saturday because of lightning strikes, Garcia finished his last nine holes in 4 under for a round of 66 to take a one-shot lead into the final round.
With organizers desperate to avert the constant threat of more bad weather and finish the tournament on time, Garcia promptly returned to the first tee shortly after and fired a flawless 3-under 68, cruising to victory with 10 straight pars as his rivals floundered in the stifling humidity.
''It may have looked easy, but it wasn't easy. You still have to hit a lot of good shots out there,'' Garcia said. ''It's always great to start with a win, to do it here at this golf course against a good field in Asia on conditions that weren't easy. Hopefully I can ride on this momentum.''
Garcia's closest rivals at the end were Japan's Satoshi Kodaira (71) and South African Shaun Norris (70). Both birdied the last hole to share second spot but neither was ever close enough on the last day to challenge the leader.
''I could not reach Sergio. I was thinking, 12 or 13 under for the win, but he went beyond that,'' Kodaira said.
Jazz Janewattananond (71) and his fellow Thai Danthai Bonnma (73) finished equal fourth at 8 under, earning themselves a spot in this year's British Open, while American Sean Crocker, who was given an invitation to the event after turning pro late last year, also won a place at Carnoustie by finishing in a tie for sixth.
Garcia made just three bogeys in 72 holes and his victory provided the 38-year-old with the 33rd title of his professional career and his sixth on the Asian Tour.
He has also won three titles in the last 12 months, including the Masters, and his game looks to be in better shape now than it was a year ago.
He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for Augusta National because of the steamy conditions and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament, which is regularly stopped because of inclement weather.
Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore a year ago, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.
"I'm extremely happy with how the week went. It was a tough day and a tough week, with the stopping and going. Fortunately, the weather held on. Still, it was hard to play 27 holes under this heat and I can't wait to get a cold shower,'' Garcia said. ''I came with some good confidence and wishing that I will play well. I hit the ball solid the whole week and didn't miss many shots.''
Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole
KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.
After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.
It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.
Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.
Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.
Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder
Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.
Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.
“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”
The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.
“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”
Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.