An Overview: Before I begin, I think it’s important to point out what Destination Kohler consists of: two separate golf clubs each with two courses. Blackwolf Run is an inland tree-lined parkland club only a few miles from The American Club. The courses at Blackwolf Run are the Meadow Valleys Course and highly acclaimed River Course. Whistling Straits is about 10 miles north of the American Club right on Lake Michigan. The two courses there are the Irish Course and world-famous Straits Course.
Part of what makes Wisconsin such an attractive golf destination is the fact that it’s saturated with fantastic public golf. Nine of the top 10 courses in the state are public, including Jack Nicklaus-designed Bull at Pinehurst Farms next door to Blackwolf Run. We wanted to make a trip out to Erin Hills while we were there, but the course was still closed from the U.S. Open. Caddies told us that we could spend months in Wisconsin and still not play all the great courses out here.
Getting There: Kohler is located on the Lake Michigan coast about an hour north of Milwaukee and an hour south of Green Bay. My friend and I were able to get direct flights to Milwaukee so it was a no-brainer to fly thru Mitchell Airport. From the airport, I recommend GoRiteway, a local shuttle service that picks you up from the airport and drops you off directly at your hotel for a fixed price.
Once on the property, a free shuttle service for golfers exists on demand, with one shuttle leaving every hour from the hotels to Whistling Straits. We had to use Uber to get to the The Bull and let’s just say public transportation was not well-developed in the Sheboygan area.
Lodging: I’m sure there are other hotels in the area, but most people playing the courses stay at the affiliated resorts: American Club and the Inn at Woodlake. The American Club is 5-star, upscale resort that actually predated the golf courses, having been built in 1981. We didn’t stay here because it was much more expensive, but stopped by for dinner and it looked incredible.
We stayed at the Inn at Woodlake, a modern hotel that had everything you’d need. The rooms were spacious and the free continental breakfast every morning was great before we went out to play. Perhaps the best part about the Inn at Woodlake is the fact that it’s located in a new shopping mall, so there’s tons of food and stores to explore.
All Destination Kohler rooms are decked out with the best appliances available, especially the Kohler-brand showers. There’s nothing better than coming home from a long day of golf to six state-of-the-art shower heads. Lodging is included on most packages.
Food & Drink: My friend and I tried our best to immerse ourselves in the local culture by trying bratwursts, cheese curds, and the famed New Glarus Spotted Cow Ale. New Glarus is a local brewery that severely restricts the sale of its products outside Wisconsin. This beer was addictive, and both my friend and I smuggled some back in our luggage.
Both Blackwolf Run and Whistling Straits have fantastic restaurants overlooking the course. Blackwolf Run’s is on the fancier side while Whistling Straits has both a pub and upscale restaurant. There are multiple restaurants surrounding the Inn at Woodlake, and several at the American Club. The Wisconsin Room and Immigrant Restaurant at the American Club are fancy and require proper attire and reservations. We had food one night at the Horse & Plow, a pub at The American Club.
While my friend and I couldn’t get enough of Spotted Cow, I recommend everyone try Jigger Ale when at Whistling Straits. This Scottish beer is only served two places in the world – Kohler, Wisconsin and the Old Course at St. Andrew’s. Pretty cool.
Course Impressions: Without going too much into detail, I will say that I was extremely impressed by the courses at Kohler. All five courses were in phenomenal condition, and the three caddies we had were fantastic. If I had to rank the courses, I tend to agree with Golf Digest and go:
Straits Course > River Course >> Irish Course > Meadow Valleys >>> The Bull
One caveat I have for golfers is that these courses are extremely challenging, and the average bogey golfer will struggle mightily. Between the tight, tree-lined fairways at Blackwolf Run and the dramatic fescue and bunkering at Whistling Straits, these courses are meant to challenge great golfers. In terms of playability, I think the Straits Course was the most difficult while the Irish Course was by far the easiest.
By the Numbers:
- Holes Played: 99
- Birdies: 4
- Pars: 28
- Bogeys: 34
- Double Bogeys: 19
- Triple Bogeys+: 14
- Lost Balls: 25
- Putts: 199 (2.01 per hole)
- Greens in Reg: 37 (37.4%)
Final Verdict: This was my first real golf trip, and I can’t help but think I ruined future trips by going to Wisconsin first. With incredible courses, great food, and world-class people and service, this was honestly an unforgettable experience I highly recommend for any golfer. Get a package – it will be money well-spent.