Tee Up the Perfect Summer at These Area Golf Courses

By Glen Turk | Photo by Holly Leitner

For golfers, the Geneva Lake area is paradise. From Lake Geneva to Delavan to Elkhorn, the area boasts eight hallmark properties perfectly situated between Milwaukee and Chicago, offering an amazing 200+ holes and myriad on-site and nearby lodging options. Remarkably, seven of the eight golf courses have at least 27 holes, allowing golfers the opportunity to play the summer away in Lake Geneva.

We begin our deep dive by spotlighting Destination Geneva National, where three icons — Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, and Lee Trevino — were asked to put their stamp on a 1,600-acre tract in the early 1990s. To this day, Destination Geneva National has the distinction of being the only property in the world to have courses designed by “The King,” “The Black Knight” and “The Merry Mex” — a trio who combined for 22 major victories and are on a short list of the most popular players of all time.

The Palmer Course reflects Arnold Palmer’s risk/reward mentality, as the property tumbles and heaves through tree-lined holes before it crescendos to one of the finest finishing stretches in the state. Arnold Palmer himself called the Signature 17th hole one of his favorites, placing it at number 11 in his personal “Dream 18” in the eastern part of the United States.

During the fall of 2023, longtime Arnold Palmer Design Company Senior Golf Course Architect Brandon Johnson updated holes 1, 2, 6, and 14 to enhance an already outstanding playing experience. The public will be able to experience these updates beginning this summer.

The Player and Trevino courses are known for their fun, yet challenging designs that provide the perfect complement to each other. If you asked 100 players their favorite course on property, you’d get close to a 1/3 split for each, a true credit to the design acumen of the legendary triumvirate.

It’s important to note that Destination Geneva National is a hybrid model club, as one of the three championship courses is available only for member play each day, while two are always open to the public. Members are treated to their own clubhouse and practice area, among many other perks. The property is also ideal for buddies and couple’s trips, thanks to multiple lodging options including the creation of The Suites in 2020. Finally, DGN’s new Himalayas-style putting course, The Dance Floor, which debuted in 2022, has hosted the WSGA (Wisconsin Golf Association) State Putting Championship the past two years.

Grand Geneva Resort & Spa also features a “who’s who” list of golf course designers, thanks to the influence of Jack Nicklaus and Pete Dye. In fact, The Highlands is the only course in the state to be co-designed by the iconic duo. Grand Geneva Director of Golf Ryan Brown says that The Highlands is the southernmost course in the state reminiscent of Northwoods Wisconsin. “The Highlands’ rolling fairways surrounded by the tall pines are breathtaking with the ‘Up North’ feel,” explains Brown. “The layout is challenging and so much fun to play at the same time.”

The Brute, designed by Robert Bruce Harris, is a big and brawny layout hallmarked by massive bunker complexes and dynamic elevation changes. It’s the perfect pairing with The Highlands and makes for an ideal day of 36 holes. It’s also important to mention there are no residences on property, which really differentiates Grand Geneva in the region.

This summer the resort has the honor of hosting the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame Celebrity Golf Outing presented by Network Health. The event, hosted by Packers legends Jordy Nelson and Donald Driver, is set for Monday, July 29. Grand Geneva is no stranger to entertaining stars of sports and screen, as the property was formerly The Playboy Club-Hotel from 1968-1981.

In nearby Fontana, 2021 was an important year for Abbey Springs in Fontana-On-Geneva-Lake; after 50 years of harsh, unyielding Wisconsin winters, “Wisconsin’s Most Beautiful Golf Course” got a makeover.

The scope of the $2.5-million project was massive, including the complete reconstruction of green complexes, greenside features and bunkers. All greens including the practice green received the new state-of-the-art, 007-variety bent grass. New fairway drainage was also installed on 15 holes, and seven ponds were expanded and regraded. Finally, the renovation included rebuilding 10 fairway bunkers, regrading five fairways, and redesigning the short game area.

Now, more than two years after completion, the spoils are endless at Abbey Springs. “The feedback has been tremendous from members and guests alike,” explains Jack Shoger, PGA Professional at Abbey Springs, who is in his 42nd year at the property. “The renovation project by Lohmann Quinto Golf Course Architects has really enhanced the natural beauty of the property,” Shoger adds.

Make no mistake, golf is in a great place, with participation and interest at an all-time high. That has led to multiple Lake Geneva properties investing in upgrades to heighten the guest experience. At Lake Lawn Resort in nearby Delavan, a recent renovation project has been well received. Last year, Lake Lawn’s on- site golf course, Majestic Oaks, reset the sequence of their 18-hole course, so now the front nine embrace the lakefront, while the back nine focus on the inland portions of the course. The addition of a few new tee boxes in 2024 are designed so golfers of all abilities will thrive.

According to Brandon McConnell, Corporate Executive of Marketing for Delavan Lake Lawn Management, the essence of the overall golf experience has continued to evolve beyond just the round itself. “Being able to not only enjoy a day on the course but to then have an opportunity to enhance that beyond the clubhouse to include custom craft cocktails [and] signature lakeside dining for either lunch or dinner is paramount when creating a memorable experience,” he says. “Plus, the ability to add in a relaxing massage and even make it an overnight and sneak in another round in the morning is what it’s all about when it comes to maximizing your stay at Lake Lawn Resort.”

Nestled between the ski hills and a legendary music theater, Alpine Valley Resort in Elkhorn offers a picturesque setting situated along the banks of Sugar Creek. The family-owned-and-operated golf course is surrounded by mature trees and features stunning elevation changes one would expect to find near a ski hill. The serenity of Alpine Valley is bolstered by 16 water features and memorable 360-degree vistas.

The resort offers accommodations in their Swiss-Alps style lodge, and their affordable stay-and-play packages that include lodging, dinner, breakfast and 27 holes per day. After golf, guests can relax and enjoy the outdoor pool and hot tub during the summer months.

Other amenities of note include mountain bike trails, an 18-hole disc golf course and a new outdoor dining pavilion at the center of the property.

Hawk’s View, which features a spectacular championship course, Como Crossings, and one of the finest par-3 venues in the state, Barn Hollow, is always rated as one of the area’s best. Local favorites also include Evergreen Golf Club in Elkhorn and Delbrook GC in Delavan.

The golf properties of the Geneva Lake area embrace the theory that a rising tide lifts all boats. “We are truly blessed in our region,” explains Lake Lawn’s McConnell. “With the recent [popularity] of public golf throughout the entire state, the Lake Geneva area is undoubtedly one of the premier centralized destinations for locals and tourists alike to experience the best of Wisconsin golf.”

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