By Jerry Huffman
There was a time when a golf resort meant a place to sleep, play golf, catch a burger when you were finished playing and do it all over again the next day. Now, these resorts offer world class golf courses, and they have something for the rest of the family to do while you’re contemplating another nine holes.
The Golf Course Owners of Wisconsin (GCOW) reports that Wisconsin has about 60 golf resorts (in addition to more than 500 golf courses). Below are a handful of some of the best golf resorts in Wisconsin with unique historical twists. From the luxury of The American Club to the Holiday Lodge Golf Resort and Park, the only golf resort in Wisconsin with an RV park, you can find a resort that fits both your budget and game.
This resort offers four championship golf courses designed by legendary Hall of Fame architect Pete Dye. Along with these nationally recognized golf courses, the resort features two hotels, a special check-in program for children and cabins in the woods for small groups. The American Club hosted the 2012 Women’s US Open. Forbes has repeatedly awarded the American Club its rare 5 Star designation, given to only 36 resorts worldwide.
Insiders Tip: After a full day of golf, hit The Horse and Plow for some of the best (and modestly priced) pub style food on this side of the Atlantic. Ask for a Jigger Ale—a unique beer from Kohler’s Old Course Hotel in St. Andrews, Scotland.
A classic family destination, the Heidel House offers special packages (from two-for-one room nights to complimentary dinners) most of the year. Two great places just across the road from the main hotel are the Evensong Spa and the Tuscumbia Golf Course. Golf history buffs will love Tuscumbia—its history dates back to 1896 and is arguably the oldest golf course in Wisconsin.
Insider’s Tip: Between the golf course and the spa is a worth-the-trip-alone restaurant called 680 North. Bon Appétit magazine named 680 North one of Wisconsin’s best restaurants - and that may be an understatement.
Lake Geneva is home to two of Wisconsin’s top golf resorts. At Geneva National you can pick between three golf courses all designed by your favorite golf heroes—Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, or Lee Trevino. All three golf courses will test your mettle, but if scenery is important, pick the Player course.
Grand Geneva has two top shelf golf courses—the Highlands and the Brute. Old-timers will remember the Brute as the original Playboy Club track with its massive greens and deep bunkers. The Highland is considered the more playable of the two golf courses.
Insiders Tip: Geneva National has some of the best “stay and play” rates in the state. On the Brute at Grand Geneva it’s vital to keep the ball under the cup or you’ll feel like you’re putting from the top of the scoreboard at Lambeau Field to the teensy-weensy cup somewhere on the horizon.
Most golf resorts spend a lot of money promoting how challenging their courses are, but not Coachman’s. They take pride in the fact their golf course is easier than most and turned that into a positive. Translation: Coachman’s is a great track for seniors or families with younger kids just learning how to play.
Insiders Tip: For a night out try El Rio Grande restaurant in Stoughton. Their burritos are bigger than your golf bag.
In addition to having what is probably the longest name of any Wisconsin golf resort, this would be a unique stop because it’s the only golf course with an attached RV park. Located six miles outside of Tomah, this golf resort also offers motel and cabin options for the non-RV crowd.
InsidersTip: The Holiday Lodge has one of only a handful of true island greens on a Wisconsin golf course on its par three 17th hole. Bring a few extra balls just to be safe.
The Wisconsin Dells is one of the prime travel destinations in the state and is especially blessed with a large amount of golf courses in the area. Chula Vista gets the nod because it’s another one of the older golf courses in Wisconsin. Originally designed in 1923 by JC Wilson, Cold Water Canyon is not only historical because of its age, but does an outstanding job of taking advantage of Wisconsin’s unique landscape around the Dells.
Insiders Tip: Oh, good heavens this is an easy one. Go ride a duck. Everyone visiting the Dells needs to take the famous ride on the Original Wisconsin Ducks at least once in their life.
Way Insiders Tip: While some of the best golf courses in Wisconsin are connected to a resort there are many others that are stand-alone properties, but still offer special stay and play packages. One example - Big Fish, the Pete Dye course in Hayward. If you go to the Big Fish website you’ll find a variety of discount options at local hotels so you can create your own personalized resort. Check out the website of your favorite golf course and you can create your own golf resort getaway.