Let’s face it, the very best Midwest golf destinations are in Wisconsin. Now, you can argue about other places, but the Badger State many more high ranking public golf courses than states many times its population. Wisconsin, in fact, is the top golf destination in the Midwest and, quite likely, the country!
According to Golf Magazine, six of the top 50 public-access courses in the United States are located in the Badger State. And Golfweek placed four of the state’s courses in its top twenty-five.
Here’s a rundown of some of the best golf courses Wisconsin has to offer and some trip-planning suggestions that will let you pack three or four amazing rounds into your next golf vacation.
This one is almost too easy. Destination Kohler is a resort that serves as home to four 18-hole courses in one place, all designed by the legendary Pete Dye. The Straits Course at Whistling Straits, located on the shores of Lake Michigan, has hosted the U.S. Open, PGA Championship, and the Ryder Cup. The River at Blackwolf Run, another of the courses at Kohler, has hosted the U.S. Women’s Open and the World Golf Championships. The other two primary courses, the Irish at Whistling Straits and Meadow Valleys at Blackwolf Run, are well-respected in their own right.
You could spend a weekend visiting Kohler and not even have enough time to play all the world-class golf courses it offers. Destination Kohler itself is a resort featuring 5-star hotels, multiple restaurants, and a luxury spa, so there are plenty of amenities off the course(s) as well.
If you’ve got family members who aren’t as into golfing, the Kohler area boasts plenty of other things to do. The town of Kohler is located about halfway between Green Bay and Milwaukee, just outside Sheboygan. Kohler-Andrae State Park is a wildlife refuge located about 10 miles south of the Destination Kohler Resort. The park features sand dunes, pine forests, and miles of beach along Lake Michigan.
Sand Valley is central Wisconsin’s answer to Kohler. Another destination golf resort, Sand Valley, is located in the town of Nekoosa and is home to two impressive golf courses. The eponymous Sand Valley course was co-designed by former pro golfer Ben Crenshaw and is famous for its massive sand traps (which you’ll want to appreciate from afar, obviously). Its sister course, Mammoth Dunes, also features plenty of sand, with the course built into and around the area’s dunes.
Both of these courses are generally rated in the top 20 public golf courses in the country. The resort also features a third course called Sedge Valley that is modeled after links-style courses in England and Scotland.
The Sand Valley resort features a number of enjoyable non-golf activities as well, including a large tennis center that features grass courts, miles of hiking and biking trails, and access to the tranquil Lake Leopold. Nekoosa itself is located about two hours north of the state’s capital, Madison, and two hours west of Green Bay.
Lawsonia and Erin Hills
Here’s where you may want to get a bit more creative with your golf vacation logistics. Lawsonia is another of the Midwest’s best golf destinations. Located in the town of Green Lake, this golf resort boasts two famous courses. About 90 minutes away, in the town of Hartford, is Erin Hills Golf Course, home to the 2017 U.S. Open. With a bit of planning, it’s not too difficult to play all three of these courses in one trip.
Lawsonia’s offerings include the Links course and the Woodlands course. Each is highly rated, with the Links course perhaps a bit more famous due to its unique, treeless layout. Built in the 1930s to resemble famous British Open courses, the Links remains known as one of the best value courses in the country. You can play a round for under $100. It’s a must-play for any golfer looking to test their strategic shot-making skills.
Erin Hills, meanwhile, is a championship course with championship facilities, including multiple practice areas and an endless driving range. It’s an epic course that sits on over 600 acres of land and boasts several blind tee shots that will test your resolve.
Hartford, home of the Erin Hills Golf Course, is about 45 minutes northwest of Milwaukee. If you’re looking for a non-golf activity while you’re in the area, the town is home to a stop along the fascinating Ice Age Trail. One of 11 National Scenic Trails, this 1,000+ mile pathway winds its way through the state along the edge of the last continental glacier, making for some fabulous natural scenery.
Perhaps not quite as acclaimed as the prior entries on this list, the golf courses at Grand Geneva Resort still merit a mention. The Brute is every bit as punishing an 18 holes as the name implies. The course is long, the greens are fast, and the chances you’ll keep your ball dry all day aren’t very high. Its companion course, The Highlands, is another links-style course that was originally designed by the famous team of Jack Nicklas and Pete Dye. The layout is tricky, and there are plenty of holes that will require you to outthink, rather than outhit, the course.
Grand Geneva is located in the southern Wisconsin town of Lake Geneva, just over the Illinois border. Besides Grand Geneva, the city boasts a number of other well-regarded resorts, a gorgeous lakeside Shore Path that winds past a series of Gilded Age mansions, and plenty of opportunities for enjoying the waters and beaches of the lake itself. It’s the type of vacation destination with a little something for everyone.
Wisconsin, Your Next Golf Destination
As with any list of this type, there are a number of highly-rated courses that haven’t even received a mention. One particularly noteworthy one is the Washington County Golf Course, which is located only about 7 miles from Erin Hills. Perhaps the most storied municipally-run course in the state, this Arthur Hills design is another beautiful spot for tee-ing off.
Likewise, University Ridge Golf Course in Madison is another spectacular public course that hosts the University of Wisconsin golf teams and serves as an annual stop on the PGA tour. And SentryWorld at Stevens Point is home to some of the most colorful, flower-lined holes in the state (as well as the 2023 U.S. Senior Open Championship).
We could go on, but we’ve got to stop somewhere. Anyway, you probably get the point by now — Wisconsin is a premier destination for golf in the Midwest!
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