Whiffle: verb – to blow lightly in puffs or gusts; noun – something light or insignificant.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

A Day at Whistling Straits

Wow, what an amazing day at Whistling Straits on Tuesday, where The Whiffler took part in the Stacey Elizabeth Mayer Foundation golf outing. Amazing weather. A beautiful course. Fun playing partners. Great people and a great cause. Here are a few of highlights and observations ...

The Irish Course. The less-famous little sister of the formidable Straits Course is still a hoot to play. Pete Dye himself graces the scorecard to tell us that "There's nothing in the United States that has the look and feel of this course" (if he does say so himself). The terrain is very similar: jagged sand dunes, gaping traps and waste areas, knee-high (at least) grass, and barely a flat lie anywhere but the tee boxes. Instead of Lake Michigan (which comes into view on several holes), water hazards are courtesy of a few ponds and a winding creek. (Click photos to enlarge.)

#10 on the Irish ("Shepherd's Post"): 361 White; 398 Black.

One of the things that struck me about the course is how "accessible" it was from the White tees (the second-shortest set), from which Duane, Bob, Donna, and I played our four-ball scramble. The White tees measure just 5,992 yards; the Greens add up to 6,336; the Blues 6,750; and the Blacks 7,201. From the Whites (Donna played the Reds), we generally had no difficulty keeping the ball in play. On only one occasion did none of us manage to hit the fairway, which for the most part had fairly generous landing areas. However, it was clear that off-target tee shots would be punished severely in a regular round. Even though we shot what felt like an impressive 61 for our scramble (we were several strokes off the winning score, though we took pride in the fact we didn't use any pre-purchased mulligans), I hit enough bad shots to know that my individual score would have been higher than I would've liked.

#11 on the Irish ("Lamb Chop"): 169 White; 208 Black.

While the Straits course is famously walking only, with a caddie required, the Irish Course allows carts, but the rule is "cart paths only" at all times. This helps keep the fairways in pristine condition and helps preserve the feel of a traditional Irish layout.

Normally, I'm not a big fan of the scramble format; I usually find myself wishing I could just play for my own score. The format also tends to mess with my head a little bit. If my team doesn't yet have a ball safelyin play when I step up, the pressure gets to me. Conversely, when we are safely in the fairway it's hard not to try to kill the ball, which of course usually throws everything off. In this case, however, I thoroughly enjoyed the team competition. Bob, Donna, Duane and I had a great time together – and we all seemed to come through for the team at various times.
     And, against all odds, I hit two of my longest drives ever on our 16th and 17th holes (#4 and #5; we started on #7), when I swung for the fences with a ball already in play. Both were a little flukey and a lot lucky, cutting the corner on two doglegs, but they set us up for a birdie and an eagle. I also sank the biridie putt on our final hole, making the final three holes among the most satisfying I've ever played. A great way to finish.

#4 on the Irish, a long dogleg par-4 (489 yards from the Black tees; 407 from the White), the site of my longest-ever drive "on paper."

#2 on the Irish ("Giant's Leap"): 340 White; 372 Black.

The Irish Course was described in this 2006 article at golf.com as a "quirky but endearing patchwork quilt of a course" featuring "nine holes routed through man-made dunes flashed with sand; six parkland-style holes crisscrossed by creeks; and three holes wrapped around ponds." Frankly, I don't remember noticing quite so much of a stark contrast among the holes, which seemed to blend well together to me. The pond holes, however, such as #2 above, definitely provided a change of pace (though now that I think about it, I think #2 is probably one of the "parkland" holes).

The Straits Course. I only got a glimpse of the Straits of course: holes 1, 9, 10, and 18 from the clubhouse, and a couple others from high spots on the Irish. But it was exciting to see that preparations (such as the construction of grandstands) are already underway for the PGA Championship in August.
     In 2004, pre-tournament fears that the course would play too hard led organizers to take it easy – too easy! – on the golfers in the first round, in particular. I seem to recall that -7 was the leading score after Thursday, which prompted a local radio commentator to speculate that course owner Herb Kohler (of Kohler plumbing fame) was probably hurling toilets through windows at the American Club (which he also owns) in a fit of rage. The course played harder and harder as the week wore on, however, and was positively brutalizing the players by Sunday. Vijay Singh shot a final round 76 to squeak into a three-hole playoff with Justin Leonard and Chris DiMarco, which Singh won.
     With one major championship already in the books, I expect they'll set the course up a little more consistently (that is, consistently difficult) in 2010, which should be absolutely fascinating to watch. And if the wind blows (which it didn't much in 2004), look out! I'll be there on Friday, and I expect to find the proceedings very entertaining.

#10 on the Straits as seen from the tips, the Black tees. At 389 yards, it will offer the PGA pros one of their best birdie opportunities. It's the hole Vijay Singh birdied in the playoff to claim the 2004 title.

#11 on the Straits, as seen from an unfortunate spot on the Irish Course. In the center of of the photo is a massive sand trap, 8- or 10-feet deep, that challenges anyone crazy enough to go for the green in two on this 608-yard (Black tees) par-5.

The 18th green on the Straits in the late afternoon light. The massive clover-shaped green occupies more than 18,000 square feet.

The Stacey Elizabeth Mayer Foundation. As I mentioned in my previous post, I was offered a "scholarship" to play in this fundraiser by Steve and Sue Mayer, the parents of Stacey, who was killed in a car accident in July 2007 at the age of 19. She was home at the time from attending the Capernwray Bible College in England. Steve and Sue established the foundation to provide scholarships for deserving students to attend Capernwray. It's a wonderful cause, a great foundation, and a fitting way to both both remember Stacey and honor Jesus.
     After the round, Mrs. Whiffler drove up for the dinner, where we reconnected with a number of people we hadn't seen in a while. So thank you, Steve and Sue, and the entire Mayer family, for including us in this wonderful event! It was a true blessing to be a part of it.

1 comment:

  1. Is this place as scary looking in person as it is in the pictures?! I'm wondering if you could find a flat lie and how many people are reported missing each year after hitting a ball into the rough!

    great post!