You can trust me on this – sooner or later it’s going to get real nice in Wisconsin and the nice weather will actually stay around for a while.
What that means for lots of men and boys and women and girls is that it’s time to tee it up and play golf.
The Milwaukee area has a wonderful assortment of courses to play, for people of all abilities and experience levels. I feel safe in saying that I’ve played every public access course in Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Washington, Waukesha and Racine Counties.
And over the years I’ve developed strong opinions about the courses and who they best serve. So, here’s my list of the top 10 courses within an hour of Milwaukee.
The list is not exhaustive and I’m probably going to leave some out. Expensive courses are based on green fees that are above $50. The list is not in any particular order, except for No. 1, which stands head and shoulders above all the rest:
Brown Deer Park – The jewel of the Milwaukee County Park system this course hosted a PGA tournament for years. It’s tree lined and difficult from the back tees. But if you move up and play it is lots of fun. Finish 18 holes at Brown Deer and you’ll feel like you accomplished something. Milwaukee County, Par 71. Expensive.
Lake Park – A par-3 in Milwaukee County’s Lake Park (duh!). You can spend a fun hour playing here, but for serious golfers trying to work on their short game, it’s not ideal. The greens are so hard that you can’t stop the ball no matter how much spin you put on it. But green fees are cheap and you pay on the honor system. Great for fun.
Lincoln Park – Another Milwaukee County Park, this nine hole gem is a truly great place for new golfers to tackle. You use every club in your bag and it’s short enough at 2,500 yards that it’s not likely to kill anyone.
Oakwood – A county course on the south side of town that can be a real challenge. It can be stretched to almost 7,000 yards and some of the holes are a real challenge. If you don’t have a good game, this is one to steer clear of because it will probably ruin your morale.
Johnson Park – This Racine County course may well be the best deal in all of southeastern Wisconsin. It can be played at over 6,500 yards and some of the holes are gorgeous. Lots of trees around but pretty wide fairways and rough that isn’t that difficult. Depending on the time of day and whether you have a county ID, you can play here for under $25. The course is good for all levels of golfers except for beginners. Great burgers in the clubhouse.
The Bog – This Arnold Palmer design in Ozaukee County is challenging. It’s very expensive and it’s not the most consumer friendly place. I’ve always felt that the Bog folks thought they were among the elite and treated us slobs as guests they will tolerate. The course can be very difficult.
Nagawaukee – This is in Pewaukee and is a Waukesha County course. It’s hard. Very hard. You get the idea on the first hole with a sharp dogleg left, over a trap to a blind shot. This course is also very crowded so play can be slow. But some of the views of Pewaukee Lake are worth the price of admission.
Hartford Golf Club – Fun, fun, fun. Reasonably priced this one is 6,500 from the back tees, but moving up makes this course fairly easy. Par is 72 but there are only two holes over 400 yards so nothing here is going to break your back. Good players can have fun here and those with less experience won’t be scared off.
Muskego Lakes – Just over 6,000 yards from the middle tees, this is a course that everyone can enjoy. They are very busy and have a lot of outings and tournaments so it’s best to plan in advance to play here. But you will be happy you got a tee time on this course.
Bristol Oaks – Just south of Milwaukee County this one rivals Johnson Park as one of the best deals in the state. The course is challenging and the first hole has the deepest gully I’ve seen just about anywhere. Noted for a very friendly staff and it doesn’t even come close to breaking the bank. Not long, but some tricky holes. They have a spectacular liver sausage sandwich in the clubhouse.
There are also two places that are within fairly easy driving distance that you should play if you want to see what championship golf is all about.
One is Lawsonia in Green Lake. It has 36 holes of spectacular golf, one after another. They are very different layouts and a day of golf playing all 36 will tear even the best player up, but you’ll be glad you did. It’s expensive.
The final one is The Bull at Pinehurst Farms. For my money this could be the toughest golf course in the state. They can stretch it to over 7,300 yards and every hole is a beautiful adventure. People are surprised when they play this Sheboygan Falls course, especially if they’ve played the courses at Kohler. The Bull is tougher than all of them. Plus the new pro is Scott Evans, who spent 18 years at Brown Deer and may well be the best professional in the entire state.
Speaking of professionals, if you are semi-serious about golf, take a lesson. The Wisconsin PGA section has pros all over the place. There are only two ways to get better at golf. Take lessons and practice, practice, practice.
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 OnMilwaukee.com 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.