During the least fun year in memory, the Just Fore Fun Awards highlight golf ’s respite from reality
A few years ago, I remember rolling up to the first tee of Wild Rock Golf Club, the rollicking, rockin’ good time of a golf course carved through the wild terrain of the Wisconsin Dells, to find the threesome of strangers I was paired up with.
“What tees you guys want to play from?” I asked, innocently. “We had planned on playing the tips, is that OK?” they replied.
Now Wild Rock, see, is a Dana Fry/Dr. Michael Hurdzan-designed gem, but it weighs in at a whopping 7,414 yards! As a bogey golfer at best, I was way, way out of my depth. (Of course I said yes.)
But get this — I had a blast anyway.
Wild Rock is just that kind of course, one that’ll have you grinning ear to ear even as it’s beating your brains in. (Pro tip: just play the correct tees.) With deep ravines, rolling farmland, rocky canyons and outcroppings, and thrilling risk-reward options on every hole, we can’t think of a more fitting course to headline our very first Just Fore Fun Awards, as the Craziest Course in the Midwest.
Crazy great, we’d say.
Congratulations to all of our winners, and thank you to the many readers who submitted entries, including our three prize winners, chosen at random:
Grand Prize Winner of Geneva National Getaway
Joan, from Glenview, Illinois, takes the grand prize getaway for two to Geneva National Resort. She’ll make good use of it, too. Golf is her passion and she is determined to improve her game now that she is recently retired. Just starting the game 10 years ago, Joan’s working with a teaching pro to break 100 this year. Good luck and congrats, Joan!
Higgins Lake, Michigan
Laser Link Rangefinder winner
Jackie and her husband are members at Forest Dunes Golf Club in Roscommon, Michigan, where she is the current (and four-time) Ladies Club Champion! She loves her course and the many beautiful courses in Michigan. She also plays winter golf in Arizona, which is probably why she has become such a winner.
Laser Link Rangefinder winner
Paul has been golfing since he was 10 years old, lettered in high school golf, and has regularly played in leagues over the last 30 years. He currently plays out of Wanaki Golf Course, but enjoys Wisconsin’s many championship courses. For the past nine years, Paul’s family has been involved with the So Long to Leukemia Golf Outing in Sussex. The fundraiser has raised more than $190,000 for research and patient care in memory of his father, David.
Now, on to the rest of our winners:
Best Girls’ Golf Getaway
As our grand prize winner Joan Kram might soon be able to attest, Lake Geneva is home to stunning scenery, eclectic shopping, fine dining (and wining), and of course, great golf. It’s pretty, and pretty much the perfect girls’ golf getaway, according to our readers. Other contenders included Traverse City, Michigan; Chicago, and Kohler, Wisconsin.
Best Guys’ Golf Getaway
When you want to get away with the fellas for a true golf extravaganza, it’s tough to top Gaylord, Michigan, the Golf Mecca of the Midwest (and don’t miss our feature in this issue). With — count ’em — 20 courses to choose from, and a bustling, Bavarian-style burg to explore afterward, it’s easy to see why you picked it the Best Guys’ Golf Getaway, besting Milwaukee; French Lick, Indiana, and Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Best Place for Family Fun
We know how hard it can be to go on a bonafide golf getaway with your toddlers or teens in tow. That’s the beauty of the Wisconsin Dells, home to some great golf in Wild Rock, Trappers Turn and Coldwater Canyon — plus being the “Waterpark Capital of the World.” It’s the perfect place for kids of all ages. Other fan favorites were Traverse City, Michigan and Northern Wisconsin.
Craziest Course in the Midwest
Our readers have spoken, and it’s clear it doesn’t get crazier than Wild Rock on the Midwest golf scene. But it had strong contenders in this category, with Arcadia Bluffs in Arcadia, Michigan, The General at Eagle Ridge Resort in Galena, Illinois, and the topsy-turvy, Tom Doak-designed Loop at Forest Dunes all garnering well-deserved votes. One thing’s for certain: We have a crazy amount of cool courses in the Midwest!
Best Place to Get Better
You know what’s really fun? Getting better at the game we all love. And according to our esteemed readers, there’s no better place to get better than the Kohler Golf Academy. Kohler Golf Academy offers year-round golf instruction, with practice facilities at Blackwolf Run, Whistling Straits, and the Kohler Swing Studio & Golf Shop, plus private lessons and even pre-round “quick tips.” We could all use a tune-up from time to time. Treetops Resort and the Mistwood Golf Dome received honorable mentions, too.
Most Fun Par 3
What makes a fun par 3? Classic risk-reward? The adrenaline rush you feel from a thrilling tee shot? Impeccable, unforgettable design? How about all three? The incredible, 146-yard, par-3 17th hole at Eagle Eye Golf Club in Bath, Michigan, checks all the right boxes. Built by Pete Dye protegé Chris Lutzke, the 17th is an exact replica of Dye’s famous 17th at the TPC at Sawgrass, the first replica Dye allowed to use the exact plans. This category’s other excellent contenders are the “flower power” found at SentryWorld’s 16th hole, the fantastic 15th of Sweetgrass in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and the cliffhanger of a hole known as the 17th at Whistling Straits.
Most Fun Par 4
When it comes to fantastic fours, you said it doesn’t get better than Mammoth Dunes’ sensational, 344-yard sixth hole. Sand Valley’s David McLay Kidd design is a feast for anyone’s eyes, but the sixth is special, thanks in large part to its vast seas of sand sandwiching the hole, and well, its mammoth horse- shoe-shaped green. Kind of like the ear-to- ear grin you get playing it. Other contenders include the 14th at Brickyard Crossing in Speedway, Indiana, Forest Dunes’ fantastic 17th, and the stellar 13th on the Quarry nine at Bay Harbor Golf Club, in Bay Harbor, Michigan.
Most Fun Par 5
There are a ton of fabulous finishing holes in the Midwest, and a treasure-trove of tough par 5s, too. But for pure fun at the finish, it doesn’t get greater than The Glen Club, in Glenview, Illinois. Tom Fazio’s Chicagoland stunner is 589 yards of pure parkland joy, with an elevated tee shot providing the launch pad for a classic risk-reward finish for the big hitters. While few can get home in two, all other mortals must take a wedge into a heavily guarded green featuring plenty of sand and water. Other category contenders include Erin Hills’ excellent 18th, and Tullymore Golf Club’s terrific finish in Stanwood, Michigan.
Best Place to Play Golf in the Winter
Sadly, summer will soon say farewell in the Midwest, meaning we’ll be forced to find a fix for our golf addictions indoors. The overwhelming fan favorite is found at locations throughout the Great Lakes, with heated hitting bays, cold brew, and a fun, lively atmosphere: Top Golf. Other great options are the Ironworks Golf Lab in Beloit, Wisconsin, and the Mistwood Golf Dome in Bolingbrook, Illinois.
Just down the road from the HQ of arguably the world’s best brat business (Sheboygan, Wisconsin, home of Johnsonville), is a little Pete Dye course called Whistling Straits. It’s famous for other stuff, too, but its real claim to fame should be — are you ready for this, friends? — its double bratwurst extravaganza on the menu. The grilled Sheboygan double bratwurst includes sauerkraut, stewed onions, Stout cheese spread on a Sheboygan hard roll. No wonder it’s the fan favorite. Get in my belly.
Yes, we love a good Transfusion as much as anyone. But after a hot summer round, nothing beats a brewski. And according to our readers, there’s no better place to belly up for a brew than the Sports Bar at Treetops Resort. Sitting atop the ski hill, the Sports Bar offers 20-mile views and more than 120 brews, including nearly two dozen on tap. Other excellent options are the Blackwolf Run Restaurant and McWethy’s Tavern at Mistwood Golf Club. Cheers!
Most Fun Atmosphere
Nestled in the tiny town of Nekoosa, Wisconsin, sits a crazy-cool golf resort called Sand Valley, the Mike Keiser-built oasis in the middle of middle America. With a Bill Coore-Ben Crenshaw track in Sand Valley and the aforementioned Mammoth Dunes, plus a riotous new short course called the Sandbox, it’s a must-visit destination for any golfer. But add in the intangibles — affordable wining and dining, unpretentious lodging and friendly staff — and you have what our readers call the Most Fun Atmosphere in the Midwest. Other contenders were Forest Dunes, Eagle Ridge and French Lick Resort.
Funniest Golf Pro
When we told Treetops Resort’s Director of Golf and Ski Kevin McKinley he’d been selected Funniest Golf Pro by our readers, he deadpanned, “Wow, that’s interesting … I guess I’m funny.” So we asked him for his favorite golf joke, to prove it. He delivered.
“A golfer who had never used a caddie before was assigned a caddie on the first tee. This golfer was playing terribly and had lost many balls already during the round. About the midway point in the round, the golfer was concentrating over a two-foot putt when out of nowhere, the caddie sneezed right in the middle of his stroke, causing the golfer to jerk and miss the putt. The golfer exploded. ‘You must be the worst caddie in the world!’ The caddie calmly replied right back, ‘I highly doubt that — that would be too much of a coincidence!’”
Yep, you’re funny, Kevin.
We’ve seen some crazy greens in our time, greens that look like an elephant graveyard, or a giant, green Shar Pei’s wrinkly hide.
But who has the wildest roller-coaster greens in the Midwest? Our readers called Arcadia Bluffs the clear winner in that category, with its beautifully bumpy, humpy and often hair-raising greens. Other contenders include Erin Hills in Erin, Wisconsin, Wild Rock and Black Bear Golf Club in Vanderbilt, Michigan.
Wildest Tee Shot
There’s not much better in the game than a heart-pumping tee shot, the kind you can’t wait to set sail into the wide blue yonder. For fans in the Midwest, the fantastic 14th hole of The General is worth saluting again and again. Carved out of the rocky hillside in Galena, Illinois, the Eagle Ridge Resort’s famous hole drops nearly 200 feet to the fairway of this 437-yard beauty. Hit it just right, and you’ll have the drive of your life, or at least have fun trying. Other contenders include the awesome 18th at Whistling Straits, and the terrific 12th hole of the Arthur Hills Course at Boyne Highlands, in Harbor Springs, Michigan.
Have a different take? Email your favorites to firstname.lastname@example.org.