“I should say this with some degree of modesty. But in my lifetime, I’ve never seen anything like this. Anyplace. Period.” – Pete Dye, Whistling Straits Designer
A throwback to the raw freshness of Ireland sculpted into the Wisconsin coastline, Whistling Straits is part of Destination Kohler in Kohler, Wisconsin. Located off the shore of Lake Michigan, Whistling Straits is comprised of two, 18-hole championship golf courses that continue to challenge the best professional and amateur golfers around the world. Arguably the best golf experience in America, these Pete Dye-designed courses continue to be ranked at the top of the list of “America’s 100 Greatest Public Golf Courses” by Golf Digest.
Championships – Past & Future Events
2020 Ryder Cup – The Straits at Whistling Straits
2015 PGA Championship – The Straits at Whistling Straits (3rd time; 2004, 2010)
2010 PGA Championship – hosted on The Straits. This was the second time the PGA Championship was hosted on The Straits, and for the second time on this riveting and unforgiving course, the winner had to be determined by a playoff. With the sun setting quickly and a nerve-wracking three-hole playoff between Martin Kaymer and Bubba Watson, it was Kaymer who pulled through for the win. Kaymer celebrated his first major championship win at Whistling Straits.
2007 U.S. Senior Open – Brad Bryant became the 28th United States Senior Open Champion in exciting fashion, overtaking third-round leader Tom Watson with a birdie on the 16th hole. Bryant finished 6 under par for the tournament and won by three strokes over Ben Crenshaw. It was the second-biggest comeback in Senior Open history and capped off a thrilling championship week, as nearly 125,000 golf enthusiasts celebrated our country’s independence and watched the legends of golf test themselves on The Straits.
2005 Palmer Cup – hosted on The Irish. At the annual Ryder Cup-style competition, top U.S. collegiate players teed off against their European counterparts and reclaimed the Cup after winning the first six individual matches on the final day of play.
2004 PGA Championship – The Straits had been open only two seasons when the announcement was made in January 2000. “Whistling Straits will provide the perfect test for the world’s best golfers,” said PGA President
Will Mann. “It already has proven itself worthy of a major championship and will be held in esteem for generations to come.” The PGA Championship is considered one of the toughest in all of golf to win and features the strongest field in major championship golf. After 72 holes of play, three players were tied for the lead – forcing a three-hole playoff, where Vijay Singh came out victorious, winning his 2nd PGA Championship.
1999 PGA Club Professional Championship – The PGA of America selected The Straits as the site, making the announcement three months prior to the course debut. The national title championship was conducted on The Straits June 24-27, 1999, within one year after the course’s public opening. It was won by Jeff Freeman, a 37-year-old assistant professional at Tamarisk Country Club (Rancho Mirage, California). More than 18,000 spectators attended the event – an unprecedented and record-setting gallery in the history of the Club Professional Championship.
The course was named by Herbert V. Kohler, Jr., Executive Chairman of Kohler Co., who was inspired while walking the land during early construction of the golf course. As he tells the story, the name came to mind quite naturally as it was a particularly blustery day, a north-to-south gale was whistling along the bluffs, and white caps were breaking on the rocky shoreline – the straits – of Lake Michigan.
Overview: Whistling Straits is a public, daily-fee golf facility with golf memberships available through the private club, Riverbend. It is a component of Destination Kohler centered in Kohler, Wisconsin.
Designer: Pete Dye designed both courses at Whistling Straits, as well as both courses at Blackwolf Run.
Site Size: 560 acres.
Configuration: Whistling Straits is comprised of two 18-hole courses: The Straits and The Irish.
Opening Dates: The Straits – July 1998 The Irish – July 2000
History of the Site: In the 1950s, for approximately nine years, the site had been used by the U.S. Army as an antiaircraft training facility called Camp Haven. Previously it was pancake-flat farmland.
Sheep: A flock of Scottish blackface sheep was acquired for Whistling Straits, with the intent that the animals wander the property freely as might be encountered on a country course in the British Isles. The sheep are kept on-site during the golfing season (they are moved to an offsite farm during the winter months).
Bunkers: The sand bunkers constructed for the course are composed of sand native to the area. Not all of the sand was original to the Whistling Straits property; additional sand from a site located ten miles from the course was brought in to complete construction. In building The Straits, 7,000 truckloads of sand – approximately 105,000 cubic yards – were brought to the site. Maintenance of the bunkers is intended to be natural by the elements, primarily the wind; staff maintenance is minimal.
Distinguishing Features: The Straits
• Two miles of uninterrupted shoreline on Lake Michigan
• Eight holes hug the Lake Michigan shoreline
• View of Lake Michigan’s endless vista of water from all 18 holes
• Four stone bridges at holes 1, 9, 10 and 18
• Bluffs and massive sand dune areas
• Natural fescue fairways (rather than the traditional Bentgrass)
• Elevation change on the course (hole 15) is approximately 80 feet
• The Straits is a walking course only; walking distance for 18 holes on The Straits is approximately 5 miles
• Caddies required (prior to twilight)
Grasses: The Straits
• Greens are a Bentgrass cultivar (named Providence)
• Tees are a Bentgrass cultivar (named Penncross)
• Fairways are a blend of three fescue cultivars
• Primary rough is the same fescue blend as fairways, but maintained at a higher cut
• Deep rough is a blend of four fescues
• The mounds and berms are largely left uncut
Average size of the greens: 7,500 square feet
Average tee size: 6,000 square feet
Acres of fairway: 22
Acres of rough: 150
Sand bunkers: 1,000+
Water hazards: 14
Each hole at Whistling Straits features multiple tee boxes with as many as seven on certain holes. Five tee placements are marked on each hole – red, white, green, blue and black, positioned for increasing degrees of difficulty. The arrangement allows players of varying abilities to play together without diminishing the thrill or challenge of the course.
A flawlessly crafted 13,000-square-foot structure that greets golfers with the warmth and rustic charm found in the Scottish countryside. Clubhouse Architect: Herb Quast, Kohler Co. Interior Designer: Cheryl Rowley, Beverly Hills.
Champions’ Locker Room
The 8,722-square-foot Champion’s Locker Room at Whistling Straits was constructed for large corporate golf outings and major golf tournaments. It is located in the vicinity of the 10th tee on The Straits and is similar in structure and aesthetics to the Whistling Straits Clubhouse. The Champions’ Locker Room features two distinct locker rooms equaling 204 full-sized lockers. During championship golf tournaments, the locker room is used solely by the golf professionals, offering a distinct location allowing uncommon privacy for the players.
Portions of this post courtesy of Destination Kohler.