I thought I died and ended up in golf heaven.
I just returned from my summer vacation that took me to Wisconsin and Illinois for a golfing trip. Thanks to the generosity of longtime friend and former McPherson resident Troy Short — who now lives in Illinois — myself and the Kinnamon brothers, Kurt and Clint, played four amazing courses.
Three of the courses were part of a package deal that is offered and they are designed by the legendary Pete Dye, the most renowned golf course architect in the world. Among the courses we played was Whistling Straits, which will be hosting the Ryder Cup in 2020 and in the past has hosted the PGA Championship (three times, the last in 2015) and the 2007 U.S. Senior Open.
Our trip started with Black Wolf Run’s River Course, which for me was the most scenic. Because of problems with our flight, we played the course after about just 3 hours of sleep as we had to make other arrangements to make it in time.
While we did ride carts, we also had the aid of our forecaddy, Matt. This guy ran himself ragged chasing our errant shots, cleaning our clubs, lining up our putts and giving us advice where to hit each shot.
Thankfully we didn’t play the back tees, which had a course rating of 76.2. We played the green tees, with the course measuring more than 6,500 yards and having a rating of 72.1.
The second day we went to the Whistling Straits complex. Our first course was The Irish, which had a rating of 72.0.
While you have the option of riding in a cart and staying on the path, we instead employed a caddy and walked it like we were pros. We had two caddies for our group and they both carried two bags. I marveled at their conditioning to be able to walk those hills with those heavy bags.
My caddy, Rich, is what you find on the PGA Tour. We consulted on every shot and every putt. Several times I pulled a club that I thought would be right and he talked me out of it. Every time I went with him, it was correct. It got to the point, after watching me play just a few holes, he was pulling the club I should hit and he was spot-on.
After having shot a humbling 90 the first day, I shot 89 at The Irish. If not for Rich, though, it would have been close to 100. He probably saved me 10 shots.
Our third round was Whistling Straits’ No. 1 course, site of where Dustin Johnson incurred his legendary penalty on the 18th hole that cost him the PGA Championship in 2010. This was the most stunning golf course I’ve seen in my life and I don’t even have the words to describe it. Most fascinating were the holes that bordered on Lake Michigan that were about 10 degrees cooler as the breeze was welcomed as the waves crashed around us.
I was proud of myself for being in just a few of the more than 1,000 bunkers on the course and I didn’t even lose a single ball. I tried to play smart and conservative to keep a big number from occurring on a course that from the tees we played was just a few yards shy of 6,500 and had a rating of 71.9 — 76.7 from the back tees.
I shot an 85 on The Straits and had I had any kind of short game, it could have been close to 80. I struggled with chipping and putting all week, but was happy with how I struck the ball.
Stonewall Orchard, the only Illinois course we played, was our final destination. This course was over 6,500 yards and after playing one hole, the heavens opened and it rained more than an inch.
But after an hour delay, we went back out. Once we reached the back nine, it was like the rain never occurred as the course had amazing drainage. This was my most disappointing round (85) as I thought this was a course I could break 80 had I played decently. Again, though, the beauty of the area was stunning, it was almost like looking at a painting.
This was truly a bucket-list type of week as I can now check off having played a course that hosted one of the majors on the tour. Even though I have been to a pro tour event, it also made me marvel at the talent of the players how they can break par on a course like this.