Every year, Golf Digest ranks their top 100 public golf courses in America. The areas on the map with the highest concentration of top-ranked courses include the usual suspects: Florida, California and the Pacific Northwest.
But did you know that Wisconsin posts numerous courses on the list every year? For their latest list, the magazine rated a whopping ten public courses in Wisconsin among their top 100 for 2019.
However, you may be even more surprised to learn that several of them are within an hour from Milwaukee. Here are five reviews of the best golf courses in the Milwaukee area that made Golf Digest’s list of the top 100 public golf courses in America.
Golf Course #1: Whistling Straits (Straits Course) in Haven
Ranking third overall on Golf Digest’s list is the Straits Course at Whistling Straits, home to the 2020 Ryder Cup. Host to three PGA Championships, the Straits Course is a links-style layout that utilizes the natural terrain to create one of the real treasures the golf world has in America.
From land originally purposed for an army base that rests against Lake Michigan, renowned course architect Pete Dye crafted a gem that features beautiful fairways that raise and lower gracefully with the undulating hills. At the Straits, the greens are protected by over 1,000 bunkers peppered throughout the course.
Whatever hole you’re on at the Straits, you’re treated to some of the best views in the Midwest, with miles of lake to the East that brings in a wind of varying speeds that can cause havoc on your round.
The Straits Course at Whistling Straits is a perfect golf course that must be played by golfers of all skill levels, if for no other reason than to say you’ve played on one of the best courses in America.
Golf Course #2: Erin Hills Golf Course in Erin
Host to the 2017 U.S. Open, Erin Hills was not designed to be a world-class golf course, but along the way, due to some brilliant design tweaks, it became a top ten public course in America according to Golf Digest.
In 2017, Brooks Koepka posted a 16-under total on the way to his major win, causing some carping that Erin Hills was not up to the challenge of being a U.S. Open-worthy course.
Despite the criticism, Erin Hills is one of the boldest golf courses in North America as golfers are challenged continuously and teased at the course with playing either safe or risky. For most weekend warriors, trying to tame this magnificent beast comes with severe consequences.
Reminding most of a traditional course that you would find in Ireland or Scotland, Erin Hills plays hard and fast when the wind has been blowing. Come to Erin Hills for the incredible views but stay for a slice of golf that you can’t find anywhere but Wisconsin.
Golf Course #3: Blackwolf Run (River Course) in Kohler
The River Course at Blackwolf Run has hosted two U.S. Women’s Opens and is an absolute blast to play with exciting holes that will delight while challenging your golfing skills. Women golfers have proven to particularly perform amazing at this location. A visual wonder, the River Course is lightning fast with slick fairways and glassy greens that are a joy to roll on.
Architect Pete Dye has once again created a masterpiece in Wisconsin, using the natural features to craft a stunner of a layout against the banks of the Sheboygan River.
With plenty of water and drives that will force you to use your most strategic game, the River Course features a few holes that are as vivid, and as majestic as any course you’ll ever play.
For golf that never disappoints and is always engaging, the River Course at Blackwolf Run has earned the accolades of one of the best public courses in the country.
Golf Course #4: Whistling Straits (Irish Course) in Haven
Alongside the more awarded Straits Course at Whistling Straits is another well-regarded layout in the Irish Course. Some amateurs prefer the Irish Course to the Straits because it is less punishing and more playable for higher handicappers.
With the same characteristics that you’d expect from a Whistling Straits course, the Irish uses the windswept terrain to craft another gorgeous layout that features dunes and elevation changes to challenge the golfer.
The Irish Course is another links-style effort that is difficult in spots but allows more room for error than its’ brother, the Straits.
As you work your way through the 18 holes at the Irish, don’t be surprised if blackface sheep come up to you for a quick check of your food situation. It is details like this that make the Irish Course, a truly exceptional experience for the native or traveling golfer.
Golf Course #5: Blackwolf Run (Meadow Valleys Course) in Kohler
The last course on our list is another home run at the Blackwolf Run golf facility. The Meadow Valleys Course complements the River Course very well, as both offer first-rate golf that you can’t find anywhere but around the Milwaukee area.
Meadow Valleys shares similarities with the Irish Course at Whistling Straits by being less punitive and more inviting for the golfer whose game may be a bit rough around the edges, particularly to play the wedges up here. This accessibility of Meadow Valleys layout has made it a favorite for locals and ranks it high on the Golf Digest list.
At Meadow Valleys, you can expect elevation changes that will alter the distance of your shots into green with each hole. The course plays more gentle than its’ tougher brother, the River Course, due to wider fairways that are more inviting to errant tee shots.
Stunning to see, but even more breathtaking to play, Meadow Valleys is well worth the drive to Kohler.