Courses and Travel

Whistling Straits Irish Course

What to do for an encore after moving a little heaven and a lot of earth to produce Whistling Straits, a course that nearly out-Ballybunions Ballybunion, a walkers-only links set along bluffs above Lake Michigan that will host the 2004 PGA Championship? For a sly old dirt devil like Pete Dye, a chance to build a second course at Whistling Straits was a gleeful return to the drawing board with his old friend and sparring partner, Herb Kohler, the plumbing fixtures baron who has collaborated with Dye in the creation of world-beaters since the mid-1980s. But here, set back from the lake in the shadow of the Straits, the order was tall.


JOHN & JEANNINE HENEBRY
WHISTLING STRAITS IRISH COURSE, 6TH HOLE

Claiming to employ "every trick I've ever learned," Dye melded the jumbled landscape into a quirky but endearing patchwork quilt of a course. Originally conceived as a subtle parkland test, the Irish Course evolved into a counter-puncher with a multiple personality that defies better players to settle in and get comfortable. How can you get comfortable on a course that sings you an Irish lullaby one moment and knocks you blind the next?

This one-of-a-kind hybrid, unveiled last summer, features nine holes routed through man-made dunes flashed with sand; six parkland-style holes crisscrossed by creeks; and three holes wrapped around ponds. And then there's the par-three 13th, "blind man's bluff," where only the top of the 12-foot-high pin and a tiny portion of the enormous, rippled putting surface are visible from the five sets of hilltop tees, which range from 111 to 183 yards. If the tee shot is a hit-and-hope affair, the first putt on the sunken green -- 15,000 square feet of roiling bentgrass enclosed by steep walls and ringed by nasty bunkers -- is even more so.

Challenging, unnerving, but memorable, with views of the lake from five holes, the Irish, which carries a 146 Slope and 75.6 Course Rating, is a wild-eyed cousin to the Straits. Carry a pocketful of shamrocks. Pete and Herb have done it again.

Preferred tee times are available to guests of The American Club and the Inn on Woodlake in Kohler. Reservations: 800-344-2838. Tee times: 800-618-5535. Web site: www.whistlingstraits.com.

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