Whistling Straits

History of the Straits at Whistling Straits

Whistling Straits is perched on two miles of uninterrupted shoreline on Lake Michigan. What once was farmland and later Camp Haven – a 1950s anti-aircraft training facility for the U.S. Army – is now one of the world’s most spectacular golf venues.

Founded in 1998, Whistling Straits emulates the great old seaside links courses of the British Isles, invoking an image of the game founded more than 400 years ago.  The Straits course is open with rugged and windswept terrain.

Having enlisted renowned golf course architect Pete Dye to build the course, Herbert V. Kohler Jr. walked the site during its early construction. It was during that walk on a particularly gusty day that Kohler, Executive Chairman of Kohler Co., arrived at a name for the course. A north to south gale was whistling along the bluffs, while white caps broke on the rocky shoreline - the straits - of Lake Michigan.

In building Whistling Straits, Dye followed his employer’s wishes to make the course reflect the origins of the game of golf. Under Dye’s direction, more than a million tons of cubic earth was moved. In addition, 13,126 truckloads of sand (approximately 80,000 cubic yards) were transported to the site.

Today, the course comprises more than 1,000 bunkers. Eight holes hug the shoreline of Lake Michigan, while a view of the lake is visible from all 18 holes. The average green at Whistling Straits measures 7,500 square feet and the average tee some 6,000 square feet.

All the accoutrements of the ancient game are on display at Whistling Straits: bluffs and massive sand dunes, stone bridges, natural fescue fairways, 14 water hazards and significant elevation change – the 15th hole is approximately 80 feet above sea level.

A flock of more than 40 Scottish Blackface sheep wander the property freely as they would on a country course in Great Britain. The sheep are kept on site during the golf season and have a home at an offsite farm during the winter.

In August 2004, The Straits joined an elite roster of U.S. courses by hosting a major golf championship. Vijay Singh’s playoff victory in the 2004 PGA Championship and a 2007 U.S. Senior Open triumph by Brad Bryant firmly imprinted Whistling Straits as one of the most memorable venues in major championship history.  In 2010, Martin Kaymer battled Bubba Watson to become the first German to win a PGA Championship. It was a finish no one will forget.  Once again, the Straits will welcome the world to Wisconsin as it will host the 46th Ryder Cup in the fall of 2020.

Nature’s constant contribution at Whistling Straits – the wind – provides the true challenge of mastering the course. During the 97th PGA Championship, the world’s premier players will face a predominant southeast wind that will gust between 10 and 30 miles per hour.

Whistling Straits’ ability to challenge the world’s greatest players has ensured its rightful perch among the world’s most unique courses.