Let’s be very clear: There is MUCH more to The American Club in Kohler, Wisconsin, than The Straits Course at Whistling Straits. This iconic and unique resort offers four Pet Dye courses, not to mention the Kohler Waters Spa (try the Rain Man or Woodsman Massage treatments), one of the best restaurants in the Midwest (The Immigrant Room), and a host of 5-star amenities.
But The Straits Course, venue of the impending 2021 Ryder Cup and three past PGA Championships, is definitely the show pony of this breathtaking golf-centric resort. Golfers will want to plan their visit around The Straits Course at Whistling Straits ($410, walking only, caddie required, $65 plus gratuity). Just be sure to play the appropriate tees. For the Ryder Cup, The Straits will be stretched to about 7,800 yards, so it will give the pros all they can handle, especially if the wind is whipping in from the northeast over Lake Michigan. The holes perched above the lake are ideal for TV audiences and your photos alike.
For all of The Straits’ splendor, though, most of the dunes and bunkers (all man-made, by the way) are eye candy. Pete Dye described the course as “popcorn” but added that “you can choke on popcorn.” Mike O’Reilly, head golf professional at Whistling Straits, says, “If you can get over the visual intimidation, you’ll be fine.” Of course, it helps to have a caddie, and to play off the appropriate set of tees. “The Straits is a big, brawny course, and it does its best to intimidate you,” counsels O’Reilly. Keep your wits about you, though, and it offers easy bogeys, but make you work for par or better.
Depending on who you’re talking to, The Straits Course isn’t even the hardest course in the American Club’s collection. My nod for most difficult is The River Course at Blackwolf Run. This 7,404-yard gauntlet is demanding from all the tees, as many holes run along the Sheboygan River and are densely wooded. It’s a completely different feel from the stark links-scapes of both The Straits and Irish Courses at Whistling Straits.
The Straits is the ideal layout for matchplay, however, with plenty of birdie opportunities combined with severe penalties for stray shots. It’ll bait the pros into swinging for the fences, and if the wind blows or swings get loose, the lies and angles can change dramatically.
Let the matches begin!