Erin Hills is Wisconsins natural beauty
11th hole at Erin Hills Golf Course (courtesy Erin Hills)
ERIN, Wis. – Whistling Straits is a manufactured beauty.
Erin Hills is a natural one.
Whistling Straits is a golf course striking in its brilliant contrivance on the shores of Lake Michigan, so much so that you can’t help feeling the unnaturalness of it. There’s wonder in it, absolutely, but the wonder is something closer to what you feel walking into Disney World than a national park.
Erin Hills is striking in how naturally it unfolds in front of you. The wonder in Erin Hills is how it feels like God’s hand shaped the twists and turns as much as any man’s hand. It’s a mesmerizing collaboration through glacial dunes and a sea of fescue grasses.
With the PGA Championship being played at Whistling Straits in Sheboygan, Wis., last week, a quick side trip allowed this golf writer a chance to check out one of Wisconsin’s newest gems and home to next year's U.S. Amateur and the 2017 U.S. Open.
Erin Hills, 35 miles northwest of Milwaukee, is a stern test, whether you’re playing it from the black tees at a staggering 7,820 yards or the white tees at 6,423. Stray shots are gobbled and lost in the thick, unforgiving fescue, but there’s actually adequate room to drive the ball.
This isn’t a claustrophobic test. If you’re off your game, though, bring lots of balls. The bunkering is visually striking, the greens aesthetically so. It’s a mesmerizing walk, but a long one, among the longest this player’s ever ventured over 18 holes.
It’s nine miles from first tee to 18th green, a hike that’s harder on your caddie than it is on you. And though you don’t have to have a caddie, you’ll need one to avoid getting lost in search of some of these tee boxes.
There are a few steep climbs to the tees, but the extra work’s worth it, with vistas that show off how glacial rivers shaped the rolling contours of this land. At the 15th tee, you can see farmhouses on the horizon that look like something you would see in paintings. There’s the silhouette of Holy Hill in the distance behind you, with its church steeples making it look like Snow White’s Castle. The view from more than one tee box will make you want to stop to soak in the moment.
If you’re wondering, summer green fees are $160 with another $50 required to reserve a caddie, plus gratuities.
Erin Hills has had its challenges since the first shovel was put in the ground in its construction in 2004 and the first shot was struck there in ’06. They’ve been well documented. The owners are dealing with a hard summer of rain this year, which damaged patches of fairway grasses here and there, though nothing nearly severe enough to keep you from enjoying the golf experience. Because it really is a unique experience.
The clubhouse, with its white stone configuration, radiates Irish charm. So do the elegant old barns that serve as the caddie shack and maintenance buildings.
Some folks might wonder about the remoteness of the course, especially with the daily trek required from Milwaukee area hotels during a U.S. Open, but it’s the remoteness that adds to the charm and appeal. It’s so quiet and serene out there that it takes a few holes for the buzz of city life to leave your ears.
Really, the feeling that you’ve escaped is part of the adventure of playing Erin Hills.
Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational
Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.
The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.
Rose leads Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs
JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose completed the final two holes of his second round early Saturday for a 3-under 69 and a one-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters.
Rose, who had a first-round 62, was among a quarter of the field forced off the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course after weather delays on Friday.
The Englishman, who bogeyed his last hole, had a two-round total of 13-under 131.
Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who completed his 64 on Friday, was in second place.
Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters. He has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season.
Newsmaker of the Year: No. 2, Donald Trump
Even away from the White House, President Donald Trump generated plenty of headlines this year.
Trump’s first year in office didn’t dim his enthusiasm for the game, as he made splashy appearances at two big events, tweeted about golf to his more than 44 million followers, teed it up with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lexi Thompson, and fired a few eyebrow-raising scores. Logging more than 75 rounds since his inauguration, the 3-handicap has only bolstered his reputation as the best golfing president, particularly after his alleged 73 with Sen. Lindsey Graham.
None of his appearances created a bigger stir than when he attended the U.S. Women’s Open. Despite protests and calls for the USGA to move its premier women’s event from Trump Bedminster – the president reportedly threatened to sue – his weekend there went off without incident, as Trump watched the action and hosted players in his private box near the 15th green.
Despite his controversial rhetoric on a variety of national issues, Trump has remained a staunch supporter of women’s golf, and he became the first sitting president to attend the U.S. Women’s Open.
An honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup, Trump also flew to Liberty National for the biennial team event, where he presented the trophy to the U.S. team and dedicated the victory to the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.
In late November, amid tweets about the national anthem, Turkey, Egypt and Time Magazine, Trump announced that he was playing a round in South Florida with Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.
Yes, that too became a headline, just like everything else Trump did in 2017.
Playing with the pros
Tiger, DJ and Faxon
President at the Presidents Cup
Purported round of 73 with Lindsey Graham
Cart on the green
Presence and protests at U.S. Women's Open
Trump golf properties
Reportedly fake TIME covers
Trump apologizes for voter-fraud story
Pros comment on the president
Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017
GolfChannel.com is counting down the top 10 Newsmakers of the Year as voted on by Golf Channel’s writers, editors, reporters and producers. Check out the list below, including future release dates. And click here for the full collection of articles.
No. 1: Dec. 18