Fearsome Foursome: Kohler, Wisconsin delivers 72 holes of Pete Dye fury

By Brandon TuckerSeptember 20, 2012, 1:43 am

KOHLER, Wisc. -- The words just tumbled out of Tom Kottenstette’s mouth.

“Oh my god,” he exclaimed as he stepped to the tee box of the 13th hole of the River course at Blackwolf Run. “This hole is amazing.”

The shock and awe of Pete Dye-designed golf was in full effect during Kottenstette’s visit to The American Club, a lavish five-star golf resort an hour's drive north of Milwaukee. Dye’s Meadows Valley and River courses at Blackwolf Run and Straits and Irish courses at Whistling Straits all rank among the 'Top 100 Public Golf Courses' in the country by Golf Digest. The magazine ranks the Straits (No. 6) and the River (No. 32) among the toughest courses in the country, too.

All four are challenging, although the vivid scenery takes the sting off the blemishes on the scorecard. Their combination of brutality and beauty can sometimes leave players like Kottenstette gasping for adjectives. For those who haven’t seen it yet, the 13th hole might be the only dogleg par-3 in the world. Golfers must hit their tee shot out over the Sheboygan River and draw the ball around a mammoth stand of trees blocking the entire left side of the hole.

“The beauty (of the River course) is almost overwhelming,” said Kottenstette, who was visiting from Cincinnati, Ohio. “The water and the river seem to be on every hole.”

Obviously, the Straits course remains the top draw. The linksy layout on the shores of Lake Michigan has already hosted two majors – the 2004 and 2010 PGA Championships – and has the 2015 PGA Championship and the 2020 Ryder Cup on tap. Walking with a caddie among the manmade dunes and nearly 1,000 bunkers can deliver euphoric feelings only elite American playgrounds like Bandon Dunes, Pebble Beach Golf Links and the Ocean course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort can attempt to match.

The 2012 U.S. Women’s Open held on a composite course of the Meadows Valley and the River courses serves as a reminder just how good Blackwolf Run is as a “Plan B.” The entire Blackwolf Run complex was recently renovated over a two-year period, resulting in pristine conditions and lightning-fast greens.

“That’s our strength as a golf resort,” said Dirk Willis, the manager of golf operations and merchandising for Blackwolf Run and Whistling Straits. “We have four phenomenal courses that are all different. The uniqueness of each course is special.”

After golf: The American Club Hotel

After golf is where the resort’s five-star status really shines. Every guest I interviewed talked about how good the service was everywhere they went. It appears good old Southern hospitality is alive and well north of the Mason-Dixon Line.

The American Club remains underrated as a culinary destination for foodies. The menus of each restaurant are unique, from the comfort food of beer cheese soup and cheese curds served at the Horse & Plow to the steak and S’mores dessert at Blackwolf Run’s log clubhouse. The Wisconsin Room inside the old-world American Club Resort Hotel comes to life with a stocked Sunday brunch of prime rib, seafood, crème brulee French toast and much more.  The private Immigrant Room remains the club’s signature dining experience. The Greenhouse is a gorgeous stop for ice cream and smoothie treats.

For a completely fulfilling vacation beyond golf, add in visits to the Kohler Waters Spa, the Kohler Design Center, the Sports Core Health & Racquet Club and River Wildlife, a private recreational and dining club available to resort guests. 

Yes, The American Club Resort Hotel, one of only 36 hotels worldwide to be AAA Five-Diamond and Forbes Five-Star, and the Inn on Woodlake are nice, but let’s talk about what makes the accommodations truly unique: A Kohler shower experience. It’s hard not to feel a little guilty after 20 minutes of five or more powerful jets raining down on you. But it’s so necessary after all of Dye’s dastardly tricks.

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

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The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.