Our Midwest road trip was not built upon a deep-seated desire to visit Cleveland, Detroit or Milwaukee — though each had its charms as noted in prior posts. No, this trip came about because my frugal German-Polish wife suggested we go play Whistling Straights, home to the most-recent Ryder Cup and several other major professional golf tournaments. I spent about a half second waiting to say “I’m in!” Moths fly out of that wallet when opened, and Kohler is a high-end resort and priced as such.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way. Kohler is home to the bathroom and kitchen fixtures company of the same name. It appears to be the consummate company town. Kohler remains privately held and is still run by members of the founding family. The HQ remains here as does a manufacturing plant. (The company has facilities elsewhere.) The decision to also go into the golf resort business was driven by the company’s late patriarch Herb Kohler, who coincidentally died at 83 the weekend we arrived. The town feels like it’s straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting. Either that or it was the setting for the Stepford Wives, we couldn’t decide which.
I’m not going to bore anyone with the minutiae of our golf rounds, but we had an absolute blast. If playing the Whistling Straights course is on your bucket list, we say ignore the cost and go. Walking that course with caddies makes you feel a bit like the pros. We were lucky that we have had a solid week of mostly sunny skies with moderate temps and light wind. The Straights course offers multiple stunning views of Lake Michigan, but would be very tough on a windy day.
It helped that we got paired with a couple of fun guys, each named Mike, who didn’t know each other before meeting on the first tee but were the best of friends by the end of the round. One was from Basking Ridge, NJ, so we had the Garden State in common. The other was from Chicago. Chicago Mike snapped the above photo of Pat and I. He was a teaching golf pro, but an older man with a severe heart condition. Had to stop to catch his breath a couple times, but he could still hit the ball and was a joy to play with. It’s those kind of travel experiences we cherish.
Our first venue, the River Course at Blackwolf Run, offers equally amazing views of the Sheboygan River. (There were several people fly fishing on the day we played.) There is a second course at Blackwolf Run called Meadow Valley that we didn’t get to play, but the golf package we were on allowed us to wrap up with a turn around the resort’s newest venue, the Baths. It’s a 10-hole par three course that is a lot of fun to play. I’m sure it is the scene of many male-bonding events likely featuring a few wagers and more that a few adult beverages.
We also played the Irish Course that abuts Whistling Straights. It is another links style course, but while the Straights is walking only, the Irish allows carts. We opted for a fore caddie, which was helpful. It appeared as though the Irish would have been a tough walk. Those courses are a roughly 15 minute ride from the main resort. You can get there via a resort shuttle, or do as we did and drive yourself. Blackwolf Run was just five minutes from the hotel.
Lastly a word about the accommodations. You can stay at the original American Club or the Inn at Woodlake. We opted for the latter as it had rooms available and also was the less pricey of the two but still very nice. The American Club feels “clubbier,” with lots of burnished wood and the like. I’m sure it is very nice.
We dined exclusively on the property. Our package included a breakfast that we found adequate, and all of the meals we had were very good. The golf courses offered plenty of free bottled water, and if you wanted a bratwurst or a hot dog at the turn it was complementary. It’s a small thing, but we have been at other high end resort courses where they nickel and dime you on top of expensive greens fees, so it was a plus. Timing for a brat was only good one day, but we had one. Overall it was an excellent experience, pleasant enough that we would consider doing it again.