By Glen Turk
Spend more than five minutes browsing MSN, Google or any of the other online news sites and it’s a safe bet you’ll run across a story on the most beautiful cities in every state. I’m a sucker for lists of any nature, but beautiful cities are always a must read for me. Most lists are in alphabet- ical order, so as I scroll to view the selections for Wisconsin, I imagine five worthy candidates that might take the top spot. The winner — Lake Geneva of course! Although the description focuses on a vibrant town with a pristine lake, my thoughts immediately turn to golf, with abundant options throughout the region. As the Senior Writer/Editor of Midwest Golfing Magazine since 2006, I’ve traveled within our eight-state distribution area, but I’ve always found my native state as an ideal golf destination.
When At The Lake asked me to feature the most scenic and memorable golf holes in the Geneva Lakes area, my first reaction was they might need to add more pages to accommodate this story. Lake Geneva is not only home to some of the finest golf courses in the Badger State, it is also home to a series of memorable holes that will be etched in your mind until you play them again.
Below is my list of Elite Eight – eight stunning holes spread over five properties that are as fun to play as they are simply to admire.
GRAND GENEVA RESORT & SPA
No. 9 The Highlands, No. 17 The Brute
Hugh Hefner’s former Playboy Club is home to two stunning championship layouts, The Brute and The Highlands. The older Brute is highlighted by massive bunkers and stunning elevation changes, while The Highlands offers an up north links feel thanks to a few more wide-open holes and towering pines throughout.
The ninth hole at the Highlands proves that beauty and difficulty can go hand in hand. Your 461-yard journey begins with a slightly elevated tee shot to a ribbon of a fairway below. Your proper aim point, according to Head Golf Professional Kyle Kunash, is the American flag at the top of the Mountain Top ski center.
From the sunken fairway, the golfer is faced with an uphill shot to the perched green that seems to fall away in every direction. The putting surface is surrounded by trees, making it one of the most serene places on the property. The ninth also deserves to be on this list as it is a haven for local wildlife to congregate. Expect to see birds, rabbits, squirrels and the occasional deer when traversing this gem.
The Brute, a Robert Bruce Harris designed masterpiece, was the cornerstone of the former Playboy Club from 1968-1981. Hefner wanted to make sure the first golf hole you saw on property would blow you away — and he succeeded. The downhill, 420-yard, par-4 17 features a three story drop from tee to fairway. A huge heart-shaped pond down the entire right side of the fairway means golfers have to hit a straight tee shot. A perfectly placed bunker about 150 yards from the pin is designed to catch all wayward drives down the left side. In conclusion, the 17th hole on The Brute has everything a golfer craves — an elevated, challenging tee shot followed by a gorgeous approach to a fantastic green complex.
GENEVA NATIONAL RESORT & GOLF CLUB
No. 10 Player Course (pictured at top), No. 17 Palmer Course, No. 17 Trevino Course
Geneva National Resort & Golf Club is the only property in the world to feature courses designed by legends Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Lee Trevino on the same site. These three titans combined for 22 major titles and a bevy of outstanding holes on this property.
The Player Course is filled with scenic and hallmark holes, so this decision is a tough one. Fortunately, I called upon Assistant Golf Professional Charlie Brown for his opinion on each course’s most beautiful layout. Amazingly, his top picks mirrored mine.
“On the Player Course I absolutely love the par-5 10th hole,” says Brown. “This gem plays downhill all the way and offers a great birdie or possibly an eagle to start the back nine. The second shot is risk/ reward to a well-guarded green with bunkers and water, short and right. And let’s not forget the beautiful and historic Hunt Club Steakhouse perched majestically on the hill to the left of the green,” he concludes.
The Palmer Course features a hole that is so breathtakingly memorable that it is rated as one of Palmer’s personal favorites in numerous golf publications that commemorate his worldwide designs. If you have ever played the course you know the hole The King loved – the 573-yard, par-5 17. This stunner plays entirely along the left side of the shore of Lake Como and concludes with a putting surface that butts up against the water.
As Brown describes, “The 17th is almost exclusively a three-shot hole with only the longest hitters able to reach [the green] in two shots with the green sloping hard right to left towards the water. Don’t get hypnotized by the beauty of this hole, even though it’s hard not to.”
Lee Trevino’s signature course at Geneva National also features a penultimate hole for the ages – the 192-yard, par-3 17. It’s the type of hole that will test all your skills as you try to finish off a stellar round. The hole plays downhill to a narrow, well-bunkered green that is framed by tall trees. The amphitheater setting makes this late-round par-3 one of the most underrated holes at Geneva National.
HAWK’S VIEW GOLF CLUB
No. 17 Como Crossing
Amazingly, the Como Crossing course at Lake Geneva’s Hawk’s View Golf Club also features a dynamic par-3 17th hole that will leave you wanting to play it again and again. Imagine this: a 90-170 yard shot to a postage stamp green 100 feet below you. Trees, bunkers, wind and enormous beauty on all sides will either distract you or heighten your focus. The hole also offers a true panoramic view of the area, including a direct view of Lake Como to the west.
According to Director of Golf Matt Boesch, “There is no better spot to be at sunset in the fall when the leaves are changing color and the sun is setting over the lake.”
This can not be understated, high above on the 17th tee you are able to see 10 miles of southeastern Wisconsin’s rolling countryside in all directions.
ABBEY SPRINGS GOLF COURSE
Apparently, every golf architect in the Geneva Lakes area adhered to one premise: make sure the 17th hole on your course is scenic, stunning and memorable. Abbey Springs Golf Course in nearby Fontana is brimming with signature holes, so much so their scorecard boasts as being “Wisconsin’s Most Beautiful Golf Course.”
But there can only be one best-of-the-best, and the plunging par-4 17th hole is the undisputed champion.
Jack Shoger, long-time director of golf at Abbey Springs, succinctly describes one of my favorite holes in the entire state. “Our 17th hole is the culmination of all the things that Abbey Springs represents. Golfers will be treated to the following when tackling this beauty: over a 100-foot elevation change from tee to green, mature oak trees that line both sides of the fairway and outstanding views of Lake Geneva that are unlike anything in the Midwest,” he explains.
The 17th is the ultimate risk vs. reward proposition as the hole measures over 300 yards from the back tees but it plays closer to 250 yards thanks to the elevation descent. You can and will try to drive the green but be prepared for the risk as hazards in the form of bunkers and out-of-bounds guard the putting surface.
LAKE LAWN RESORT
No. 12 Majestic Oaks
The par-5 12th hole at Majestic Oaks belongs on any list of scenic courses thanks to its proximity to Delavan Lake. In fact, the 514-yard, par-5 wraps around the lake from start to finish, surprising local and traveling golfers alike.
“I don’t think many people realize just how much shoreline Lake Lawn Resort has,” says Director of Golf Tom Howe. “And, to be able to play this par-5 with those views pro- vides a unique experience in our area. The ever-present thought of putting your shot in the water usually leaves people to hit their second shots way to the right, which inevitably results in being behind the well-placed tree 50 yards short of the green, or short-siding oneself behind the deep, menacing green-side bunkers.”
Which Wisconsin city is the most beautiful and which golf destination within the Badger State features the most scenic, yet challenging courses? If you love golf, you know that answer is one in the same – Lake Geneva.