As the holidays approach, golf in this part of the country is pretty much concluded. A few die-hards hope to squeeze out a few more holes for 2017. Major League Baseball has its hot stove league, speculation on player movement and team strategy for next season. Golf too has similar conversations. Maybe you call it the “hot iron” league.
Up in Wisconsin there is still much debate swirling around Kohler Golf’s new fifth course along Lake Michigan. Currently it appears the Town of Wilson, the small enclave just south of Sheboygan, is attempting to gain a temporary injunction against any construction. The “he said — she said” battle is ongoing. While it is probable one day Herb Kohler will secure the rights to build a new course in Sheboygan County, the question is when?
Why Kohler needs a fifth course is puzzling. The destination already sports four very strong Pete Dye courses offering different topography and vistas. Some say it’s the best collection of holes contained at one destination. However once Mike Keiser introduced Bandon Dunes on the Oregon coast, the debate heated up. Yet that is another topic and one I’ve previously addressed. Being a shrewd businessman, what exactly is Herb Kohler looking for in another golf course?
Some talk centers around the luring of a men’s US Open to the area. While Blackwolf Run has hosted the women on occasion, nothing says the USGA would be interested in a new, unproven site unless it was over-the-top exceptional. I doubt if their Executive Board was thrilled with birdie-fest at Erin Hills this summer. Whistling Straits will likely host its last major competition with the Ryder Cup now that the PGA of America has moved its championship to May. I’m sure when that shoe dropped Herb Kohler uttered a few choice words. But you have to commend him for bringing three major championships to Wisconsin along with the premier international golf competition in 2020.
The fate of Kohler Golf now lies in its ability to deliver guests to one of the finest lodging experiences world wide. You can thoroughly enjoy the place without playing golf. The relaxed setting offers a unique get-away from the rigors of everyday life. Gourmet wining and dining, invigorating spa services, tennis, hunting, hiking or even shopping for bath and kitchen fixtures are some of the available activities. So what is that one thing to further enhance a golfer’s experience? I don’t believe it’s a fifth course. It doesn’t make business sense. Rather I think if Herb wants to add more holes, do it in a par three layout.
Just as the Jones Trail in Alabama introduced the added attraction of par three layouts, others have followed suit. The newest resort golf facility in Wisconsin, Keiser’s Sand Valley currently has two courses and a par three with room to add thirty-six more holes if desired. I’m sure the concept of a Kohler par three has been discussed. They have the land. Here is why it makes sense.
For golfers spending three days or more at the resort the option of a par three attracts the attention of avid players wondering what to do after they have completed their rounds. Playing thirty-six holes in one day at either Blackwolf Run or Whistling Straits is demanding. Replaying nine holes can be done at the Irish, Straits and Meadow/Valleys but is dependent on availability. There are cost and time considerations as well. It usually takes 5 hours or more to play one of the courses. Grab lunch, tell a few tales, down a beer or two and the question comes up. “What should we do now?”
A par three offering will attract more play from a variety of players — guys, couples, beginners, juniors, families, instructional opportunities, the versatility makes dollars and cents, so to speak. It adds in a different way than a fifth course. It is known to be successful for other golf properties. Why not Kohler?
I’m not proposing this as a way to “keep up with the Keisers”, instead I see it as a way to add to the golfer’s experience. As I said, hanging their hopes on attracting another men’s major championship is unlikely. Revenue is going to be derived from the affluent clientele that walks through the American Club’s doors. The more activities, the better the adventure. It should be considered and something that could be done now without waiting for the legal ramifications to play out along the shores of Lake Michigan.