World’s Most Beautiful Courses: The Straits at Whistling Straits
By Mike O’Reilly, PGA
"I should say this with some degree of modesty. But in my lifetime I have never seen anything like this. Anyplace. Period." Pete Dye, designer of the Straits at Whistling Straits.
I know this is a bold statement made by one of the preeminent golf course designers in the history of the game; and I also know that it's true. Being selected as one of the most beautiful courses in the country is a great honor. The rolling hills, beautifully carved bunkers, natural winds, and stunning views of Lake Michigan make the Straits at Whistling Straits an incredible place to enjoy the beauty of golf and the beauty of life. There is not a day that goes by that I don't realize how lucky I am to not only work at a golf course, but to work at and be a part of something as special as Whistling Straits.
The beauty begins on the way there
The beauty of Whistling Straits doesn't start when you step on the first tee, it begins as soon as you pull through the front gates. After navigating a few mounds and waste bunkers along the driveway you pull up to the Whistling Straits Clubhouse, Irish Barn, and Champions Locker Room, each of which are made of rubble stone exterior walls and slate roofs with projecting rake detail. The traveler feels as if they have been instantly transported back in time or to another land as the structures look as if they have been there since the dawn of time.
Now onto the golf course...
The Straits at Whistling Straits was designed in the grand tradition of the game as a true links golf course with magnificent dunes, bunkers, large rolling greens, and of course, the presence of the large body of water, Lake Michigan (often mistaken as an ocean). A true links golf course is one that "links" the land and water together. Pete Dye certainly accomplished this as 14 of the 18 holes have stunning views of Lake Michigan and eight holes run right along its shores, including all four par threes. A morning round on the Straits will afford you the opportunity to watch the sunrise over the lake as you enjoy the walk with your caddie. That's another thing... the Straits does not allow carts on the golf course so all players walk with their caddies, a tradition that is sometimes forgotten at most courses in the states.
Every hole on the Straits has unique and charismatic characteristics that make playing the Straits such an enjoyable experience so it's hard to pick out a hole, or a group of holes, that are more deserving of recognition than the rest. If I were forced to make such a difficult decision, I would have to gather up all four par threes and say that these are the most appealing set of par threes on the planet. As stated earlier, all four par threes hug the shore of Lake Michigan giving them not only beautiful backdrops, but giving them one of the largest water hazards you'll ever see! The 223- yard 17th is especially intimidating as it sits nearly 80 feet above bunkers, dunes and eventually Lake Michigan on the left-hand side. The windswept grass, lofted green and naturally maintained bunkers make this shot one of the most daunting yet beautiful shots in the game of golf.
Young yet seasoned
In addition to its natural beauty, the Straits also boasts a long line of Major Championships. Although the Straits is only a couple decades old, it has already hosted several major championships, including PGA Championships, the U.S. Senior Open and others. It is this combination of Major Championships and stunning beauty that makes Whistling Straits a must-play destination for all golfers alike. I invite you all to come and experience it yourself. I promise you will not be disappointed. Whistling Straits -- there's no place like it in America!
The World's Most Beautiful Courses is a list of courses selected by the PGA.com Editorial Advisory Board. The only prerequisites asked of the Board were 1.) they select courses open for public play and 2.) they not vote for their own course. The top 12 courses will be featured, in no particular order, other than the top vote getter which was selected by a unanimous vote.