By Dave Begel Contributing Writer Published May 15, 2012 at 5:30 AM

I quit playing a lot of golf two years ago for a number of reasons, including the fact that as I've gotten older my game has gone to hell and the cost of all this misery was getting out of control.

Now I'm back playing a little bit and marvel anew at the wonderful opportunities presented by over 500 public golf courses in the state.

They range from almost impossible to just a notch better than mini-golf. When they say something for everyone, they aren't kidding.

But I want to take a look today at the best places the Milwaukee area for good players to play. I'm not sure exactly how to quantify who I mean, but I'd guess it is someone with a handicap under 20.

That probably means you have been playing awhile, you understand many, if not all, of the nuances of golf, and that you know pretty much how far you hit each of your clubs.

If you are above a 20, I'd say stay away from these courses because they will eat you alive. There are lots of other courses where you can enjoy yourself and stand a chance of making some pars and building your confidence. There's nothing in golf responsible for misery than playing courses that are too difficult for you.

An argument could be made to move the top limit to 15, but I know people between 15 and 20, who are good players and could navigate around difficult golf courses.

In choosing these courses, I am limiting myself to those within an hour from Milwaukee. It could be a little more, but not much.

I'm also not going to consider cost.

Some of them are more than your average mortgage payment and some are in the neighborhood of a decent dinner. But that's up to you. What I'm talking about here are the very best that southeastern Wisconsin has to offer. These aren't necessarily ranked in order. They all have strengths.

BROWN DEER - I've got to start with Brown Deer, the jewel of Milwaukee County Parks. Any way you cut it, this is a hard golf course. You have to drive it straight or trouble becomes your middle name. The cost is a bargain. The condition is top notch. The first hole is one of the hardest holes in the state requiring a precise, long drive to give you even a chance to hit the green in regulation. It's a classic old style course that tests every game.

MILWAUKEE COUNTY - Milwaukee County has two other courses that are good tests for good players, Oakwood on the southwest and Dretzka on the northwest. Neither one is in the class of Brown Deer but they are interesting and challenging. The biggest problem with Milwaukee County Golf is that the people who run it for the county are not golf experts.

For example, they keep on putting up signs all over that say things like "Thanks for golfing Milwaukee County Courses." I don't know any real golfers who use the word "golfing" in that sense. Real golfers say "playing" or "playing golf." A little thing, but....

ERIN HILLS - I have to put Erin Hills on the list, but I'm doing so only because of public pressure. I can't remember any course in the state opening with such fanfare. I've played there twice and I really don't see what the fuss is all about.

It has four holes that can play longer than 600 yards. There's no reason for that except to get people talking. I think it's too long, too hard, too far between greens and tees. You have to walk the course and it costs around $100 for a caddie. One hundred dollars for a caddie. This course is one that has been built to bring shock and awe, but not much in the way of a great golf course, despite was other people say.

THE KOHLER COURSES - All of the Herb Kohler courses near Sheboygan are challenging and difficult. For my money (and playing here takes a lot of money) the River Course at Blackwolf Run is my favorite. It's plenty hard and one of the most beautiful courses the state has to offer. I think the courses at Whistling Straits are too much and I avoid them.

THE BULL - A stone's throw from those Kohler courses is The Bull in Sheboygan Falls. Now this is a course that makes you feel like a grown up golfer when you play. They've got the customer service thing down pat and the course has a high level of risk and reward opportunities.

You actually have to think a lot when you play here. The fifth hole might be my favorite hole in the state. It's a long par 4, carved through a forest. On the right side you've got trees and on the left you have a 40 foot cliff. It's a spectacular hole. The course was designed by Jack Nicklaus and popular lore says he lost two balls off the tee the first time he played the 5th hole.

THE BRUTE AND THE PALMER - A short drive to Lake Geneva can take you to a couple of absolutely great golf courses. If you have the stamina and the money, you can make a great day of 36 holes by playing The Brute at Grand Geneva and the Palmer Course at Geneva National. The 17th at the Palmer Course will give you a taste of what it must be like to play the famous 18th at Pebble Beach. Both of these places are very welcoming and when you're done you're going to feel proud that you played some great courses in one day. It's just about the best two course day in Wisconsin, with the possible exception of going to Lawsonia in Green Lake.

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Another great challenge in the area is Washington County which plays a lot tougher than it looks. It's an inland links course and when the wind blows it can be nearly impossible. You can see Holy Hill from the course, giving you something to pray to before you start. I love this course and you'll be surprised how many difficult shots you end up with here.

That's my list. Not all of them, certainly. I'm sure I left some off. There are other very good tough courses for good players in this area. But these are several that stand head and shoulders above all the rest.

Dave Begel Contributing Writer

With a history in Milwaukee stretching back decades, Dave tries to bring a unique perspective to his writing, whether it's sports, politics, theater or any other issue.

He's seen Milwaukee grow, suffer pangs of growth, strive for success and has been involved in many efforts to both shape and re-shape the city. He's a happy man, now that he's quit playing golf, and enjoys music, his children and grandchildren and the myriad of sports in this state. He loves great food and hates bullies and people who think they are smarter than everyone else.

This whole Internet thing continues to baffle him, but he's willing to play the game as long as keeps lending him a helping hand. He is constantly amazed that just a few dedicated people can provide so much news and information to a hungry public.

Despite some opinions to the contrary, Dave likes most stuff. But he is a skeptic who constantly wonders about the world around him. So many questions, so few answers.