Monday, April 21, 2014

I Went There - Irish Course at Whistling Straits

Cheesehead Chick and I needed some down time given all of the craziness at work the last few months so we planned a weekend away in Kohler, WI over Easter weekend.  We stayed two nights and three days at the Inn on Woodlake, which is the other resort that is part of the American Club Resort.  Despite it being Easter weekend, the resorts were very quiet.  We had some down time on Sunday so I called Whistling Straits to see if I could play either the Straits or Irish course while Cheeshead Chick got a massage.

For the uninitiated, the Straits course runs along Lake Michigan while the Irish course runs inland next to the Straits course.  I really wanted to play the Straits course given that I've played it at least 50 times in Tiger Woods 2013 on PS3.  The Straits course hosted the 2004 PGA Championship (attended practice rounds, Thursday, and Sunday with Papa Cheese), 2007 U.S. Senior Open (attended Sunday with Cheesehead Chick, Mama Cheese, Papa Cheese, and Rosati Cheese), and the 2010 PGA Championship (was not able to attend).  Plus the Straits course is set to host the 2015 PGA Championship and the 2020 Ryder Cup too.  Unfortunately the Straits course was not open for the season but fortunately the Irish course just opened.  Normally it costs $190 to play the Irish course but given that the course just opened, I was able to play for just $70.

Given how much I "saved" on the round, I planned to spend that money in the golf shop.  Shockingly, the prices for shirts and hats were higher at Whistling Straits than they were last weekend at Masters so I just got a couple small items.  As I was paying for my round and souvenirs, I found out that you can stay at the resort and play a couple rounds over a weekend in early spring or late fall for what amounts to one night's stay at the hotel in the middle of the summer.  File that nugget away for the future because although the weather can be unpredictable, it seems like a perfect way to cost-effectively play some of the top courses in the world.

Despite it being early in the season, given the rock bottom greens fees, I thought tons of people would want to play.  As it turns out, besides an early morning shotgun, there was only one other guy scheduled to play the rest of the day.  Instead of playing separately, we decided to play together.  The only awkward moment was the fact that my playing partner took a caddie while I decided to carry my own clubs.  Given that I play a slice and usually shot in the 90's, I've always had trouble taking a caddie.  Since we were playing in a two-some, the caddie provided me occasional tips, which was helpful without being intimidating but I didn't have the pressure of the caddied standing over every one of my shots and artificially trying to pump me up on the hopes of getting a better tip.

The Irish course has five tees: red, white, green, blue, and black.  We decided to play from the green tees, which has a slope of 137 and rating of 72.  There is water on almost every hole, which varies from huge lakes to running streams.  Fortunately all of the water on the course seems organic besides the 17th hole, which is Bay Hill-esque given that it was built to ensure the entire course can be watered if they are experiencing an extended drought.

I was very nervous teeing off on the first hole given that I was about to play the best course I've played in my entire life.  Although I didn't catch all of it, thankfully I knocked my drive into the fairway to get the rounds started off on the right foot.  I carded two pars on the front nine on the second (Giants Leap - Par 4, 347 yards, 6th hardest hole) and ninth (Last Gaspe - Par 4, 332 yards, 8th hardest hole) holes en route to shooting a 45 with 20 putts.  The most memorable holes on the front nine for me were the fourth (Sandbanks - Par 4, 432 yards, 2nd hardest hole), fifth (Devil's Elbow - Par 5, 501 yards, 14th hardest hole), and ninth holes.

As we made the turn to the back nine, the caddie told us the back nine is much harder than the front nine.  I started out the back nine with a pair of sevens on the 10th (Shepard's Post - Par 4, 378 yards, 5th hardest hole) and 11th (Lamb Chop - Par 3, 177 yards, 15th hardest hole) holes.  Luckily I settled down and carded three pars on the final seven holes on the 14th (Tullamore Dew - Par 5, 508 yards, 11th hardest hole), 16th (Deep Dye - Par 4, 425 yards, 3rd hardest hole), and 17th (Irish Mist - Par 4, 335 yards, 7th hardest hole) holes en route to shooting a 49 with 18 putts.  The most memorable holes on the back nine were the 13th (Blind Man's Bluff - Par 3, 152 yards, 17th hardest hole), 15th (Frog Water - Par 4, 416 yards, hardest hole on the course), and 18th (Black and Tan - Par 5, 523 yards, 9th hardest hole on the course) holes.

I found the par 4's to be the most forgiving while the par 3's and par 5's were particularly challenging, especially the par 3's on the back nine.  Although we didn't play the blind tee shot on 13, I can only imagine that would increase the level of difficulty from the other tee box.  Putting it all together, the Irish course at Whistling Straits is definitely the best course I've ever played in my life.  Despite just opening for the season a few days earlier, the service was impeccable and the course was in fairly good shape considering it was only the middle of April following the worst winter in the Midwest of the last decade.  Although this doesn't top Sunday at the Masters from last weekend, this does mark the second Sunday in a row that the golf God's were smiling on me.

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