Courses that set tone on the initial hole
By JERRY SLASKE
KeyMilwaukee.com Golf Editor
LOOKING DOWN at the head of a new golf club, you’ve got to like what you see to even begin thinking about playing well. In the same way, you’ve got to like what you see on the first tee to put you in the mindset of having a good game. If you don’t, it could affect what you think of the rest of the course, what you tell people about it afterwards, and whether you return.
An assistant pro at a local course told me, “The view from the first tee will determine your attitude for the rest of the game. And at those courses that are highly touted or publicized, you’ve got to be wowed or you’ll wonder why you paid what you did to play it.” The first hole should be a prelude of what you can expect from the rest of the course.
Without a doubt – at least in my mind – the best opening hole in the region is at Brown Deer (414-352-8080). It’s a long par 4 (461 yards) dogleg right that is nicely framed on both sides by towering trees and straight out by a pond. At about the turn, there is a lone tree on the right side that gives you perspective of how far you have to hit the tee shot. Standing on the tee, you can see the entire fairway and exactly what you have to do. It’s a nice introduction to the other 17 holes. There are no gimmicks, no surprises at this fine traditional parkland course – a course that Golf Week magazine recently ranked the 46th best municipal track in the country.
Another visually interesting – and challenging – first hole is at Blackwolf Run’s Meadow Valleys (800-344-2838) in Kohler. Again, it’s a par 4 (392 yards) dogleg right around a pond. It gets your attention because both tee-shot options require that you cross part of or the entire length of the pond. Going left of the green means cutting off part of the pond; going right of the green demands crossing the entire length of the pond. A lone full tree on the green’s right side gives perspective and depth of the hole from the tee.
The first hole at Fond du Lac’s Whispering Springs (920-921-8053) is a wonderful opener. It’s a straightforward par 4 (435 yards) lined on the left by towering trees and on the right by rough. There is a bunker on each side of the fairway about 280 yards out. The entire length of the undulating, meticulously maintained fairway is visible from the tee. It gives you a good feeling about the rest of the course that is rightly justified.
The first hole at The Bull at Pinehurst Farms (920-467-1500) in Sheboygan Falls is like a savory appetizer at a fine restaurant. You can’t wait for the main course. The straight par 4 (424 yards) features fairway bunkers on the right, at the beginning of a shallow basin leading up to a front-to-back sloping green shielded by a large, deep bunker. It’s an excellent first step in the ladder of difficulty at this Jack Nicklaus Signature Course. And believe me, this course gets progressively more difficult.
The first holes at Washington County (262-670-6616) and Nagawaukee in Waukesha County (262-367-2153) are excellent previews to these fine courses. Washington County’s par 4 (417 yards) is straight with a wide fairway and two bunkers that lurk on the left, waiting to swallow your tee shot. The green, which is longer than it is wide, sits on an odd angle and slopes to the right. If you’re thinking about coming in from the left, there’s a bunker protecting the green. Everything is in view from the raised tee. The Arthur Hills links design recently was ranked by Golf Week as the country’s 35th best municipal course.
Nagawaukee’s par 4 (415 yards) is a dogleg left with a bunker and trees located at the turn. The fairway is lined on both sides by mature trees. After the turn the hole opens up down a slight hill to a huge green – characteristic of this course - that slopes from back to front.
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