17th Hole at Whistling Straits

Whistling Straits Review – Kohler, Wisconsin

Every once in a while you hit a golf course on a perfect day. The day I played Whistling Straits was one of those days. It was a perfect 70 degrees and just a breath of wind in the air. The course was also pretty much empty. I don’t remember seeing another group all day. Maybe it was the fact that it was a Saturday when the US Open was being played. Maybe it’s because Father’s Day was the following day. I didn’t care because condition-wise it was about as good as it gets.

The par 3 third hole at Whistling Straits - O'Man
The par 3 third hole at Whistling Straits

Unfortunately my play didn’t match up to the conditions that Saturday. My warm-up session was near perfect. I felt great on the first tee. For some reason though from the first drive on the first hole I was simply out of sync. My caddy was probably just as annoyed as I was. He watched me warm up and proceeded to tell me I could easily handle the Green Tees, which play to about 6700 yards, then he watched me play like a hungover Charles Barkley.

So is the course worth the nearly $500 you’ll pay to play it (once caddy fees/tips are paid)? I’m glad I got a chance to play it. The views are spectacular. The service, practice facilities, and dining options are all as good as it gets. The whole place is luxurious but it doesn’t feel pretentious. If you’re looking for golf without a lot of frills like swimming pools, casinos, etc., Whistling Straits is the place for you.

Is Whistling Straits for everyone? Probably not. One of thecaddies said to me at one point “I love the course. It’s beautiful and all. But I’m not sure I’d want to play it day in and day out. It just beats you up.” Similar to my feelings about Coyote Springs, it’s a fantastic course but it’s a slog for the golfer who plays a handful of times a year. It also might not be for everyone because it’s walking only and caddies are required. Caddies can be a luxury, or it can be downright nerve-wracking having a stranger watch you hack your way through one of the tougher golf courses one can pay. Speaking of golfers who play a few times a year…

The 7th hole or Shipwreck at Whistling Straits
The 7th is known as “Shipwreck”

The day I played the Straits was part of a long-weekend trip through Chicago and then North to Kohler. My wife came along and she decided she wanted to play golf with me at Whistling Straits. My warnings, and tales of 1000+ bunkers aside, she was dead set on tackling Pete Dye’s masterpiece on the shores of Lake Michigan.

Considering she hardly has time to play golf back at home, the day went pretty well. She kept the ball in play, moved along quickly, and enjoyed the spectacular weather. The caddies on the other hand, were about ready to impale themselves with a rusty five iron halfway through the back nine. As I said earlier, my game was a mess. My wife did her best but it’s still a brutal course for anyone, much less for someone who plays a few times a year.

The Sheep on Whistling Straits Golf Club hole number 16
The Sheep of Whistling Straits

By the time we hit the closing stretch of holes one of the caddies is near delirious. Maybe it’s because we’ve been on the course for 4+ hours already. Maybe it’s because he’s tired of watching me smother hook 5-Irons into Lake Michigan. All I know is he was so out of it he could do nothing but ramble on about the sheep that inhabit the golf course. He was particularly upset about how bad their breath was. According to this caddy, the sheep of Whistling Straits have some of the worst breath he’s EVER in his life come in contact with. My wife, after listening to his diatribe for a hole and a half, poses a simple question to him:

“Why do you care how bad their breath is? Just don’t kiss them.”

The caddy offering mouthwash to the sheep
The caddy offering mouthwash to the sheep

The other caddy nearly asphyxiated himself he laughed so hard. I completely cracked up. And if the sheep-hating caddy wasn’t ready to be done with the round before that comment, he was surely ready now. So as we step up to the tee on the par 3 17th, one of the most intimidating tee shots you’ll ever play, the caddy, still reeling from my wife’s comment, not to mention all the horrific golf he’s been subject to, mutters to himself, “If she pars this hole…”

17th Hole at Whistling Straits
17th Hole at Whistling Straits. Site of the most improbable shot in golf history

My wife proceeds to hit a decent tee shot. Unfortunately the wind knocked it down and it landed in the rough in front of the green. You could almost hear the caddies thinking, here we go again, she’ll hack it out over the green, then back across before she decides to pick up her ball.

You might be able to guess what happened next. She steps up to the ball, takes a chop at it ala Tom Watson at Pebble Beach in ’82, and watches it roll towards the pin and drop in. The caddies were in shock. I collapsed on the green. My wife acted like it was no big thing.

Like I said at the start, some days are just perfect days to be on a golf course. Watching my wife chip in for birdie on 17 at Whistling Straits was about as good as it gets. The course isn’t cheap and it’s incredibly difficult, but shots like that we’ll be talking about for years.

 

 

 

The 18th hole at Clubhouse at Whistling Straits
The 18th hole and Clubhouse at Whistling Straits

 

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