Whistling Straits: A Links-Style Test in the States

By Abby Parsons, PGA
Published on

As the best in the men’s game take on a true links test in Scotland, let me give you a behind the scenes look at another links masterpiece, The Straits Course at Whistling Straits.
I am lucky enough to be in my third year working as a PGA Professional at Whistling Straits and I’ve played the course dozens of times. I’ve seen the property with both locals and guests traveling here to play, and have seen it with 50,000 fans storming the fescue-covered hills to watch the U.S. Team defeat Europe last September. This year ,I am witnessing thousands of golfers drive up to the bag drop, set down their clubs and look like a kid in a candy store.
This place is special. 
In 2020, many international golf trips were canceled or postponed all around the world. As people felt more comfortable to travel domestically, we saw an uptick of local and regional golfers scheduling a visit to the Pete Dye designed masterpieces of Whistling Straits as a replacement to their trip across the pond. 
“If we can’t go to Scotland, this is the next best thing, right?” 
With a links-style golf course sitting on the shores of Lake Michigan, Kohler, Wisconsin has hosted three PGA Championships and a Ryder Cup in 2021. Champions include Vijay Singh, Martin Kaymer, Jason Day and most recently, the U.S. Ryder Cup Team. Whistling Straits is a challenging course that will make you play golf in ways you did not think you could.
How do you take on a links-style golf course? It is wide open, fairways and greens are massive, and you do not have to worry about tree trouble. What could go wrong?
A links course like The Straits Course at Whistling Straits will expose your flaws. Sure, landing areas off the tee are usually wide; however, if you miss the fairway you might as well add another stroke to your score. Whether it is punching out of thick fescue or hitting it backwards to get out of a pot bunker- a straight ball off the tee is much needed to avoid these problem situations. 
Having no trees on a golf course is great until you get howling winds every single day hole. Weather conditions will heighten when you are playing a links-style course. The wind will be blowing a little harder, the rain will be coming from all directions, and even when it is sunny… good luck finding shade. 
Massive greens on a links course like The Straits will give you more “Green in Regulation” stats, but your number of putts may go through the roof if you are not careful. Your putting game will be more important than ever, and you will see this from the pros in Scotland this weekend where the greens are three-times the size of those looking over Lake Michigan. If your lag putting is faltering, the course will expose this quickly.
Many of the golfers that take on the courses at Whistling Straits walk off the golf course looking like they have gone to battle with the course and themselves. When asked if they would play the course again, I get a lot of: “Try to tame that course again? Absolutely.”
It is an experience every golfer should attempt. It might not result in a pretty score on your first go-round, but it sure will be fun.