Herb Kohler, owner of Whistling Straits and multi-millionaire King of Bathroom Accessories had a dream. He woke up, gave a wheelbarrow full of dollars to course designer Pete Dye with a brief to bring an Irish links to the shores of Lake Michigan in Wisconsin. At first glance, it is mission accomplished.
But if you look closer, something doesn’t sit quite right. It looks like Ballybunion but it plays like the K Club. It’s just a shame it’s not a links. Shots are played in the air to plop on soft greens rather than bumped along the ground.
“Esthetically, and visually, it does look like a links course, but it just doesn’t play like one,” Rory McIlroy said. “Even with all the rain, you wouldn’t find a links course in Ireland playing soft like this.”
Outside the ropes, there are gravel paths, huge dunes for spectators to dot and wispy grass to slip down and twist your ankle or worse – like spill your ice cream down your shirt (it’s was $5, too – the ice cream, not the shirt). Whistling Straits looks like a long lost cousin of Royal St George’s, Royal Birkdale, Ballybunion and Kingsbarns.
“I love it,” Paul Casey said. “I’d come and play it with my mates. It’s Kingbarns on steroids.” And the drugs do work. It is one of the most spectacular courses I have ever seen. I reckon I could break 100, too. If I only play the front nine.