Friday, July 22, 2011

Erin-Hills If you want to ask Travelin' Joe a question, e-mail him at askjoe@golf.com. Dear Joe, I will be in Milwaukee, Wisc., next week for a conference. It looks like I will have one free day to play. Are there courses that are a cab ride away worth playing or should I just leave the sticks at home? Keith Cooper Via email I can't say there are any public-access trophy courses that are an urban cab ride away, but if you're willing to cough up a fare, there's at least one layout worthy of bringing your own clubs. Closest to town is Brown Deer Park ($81.50-103.50; 414-352-8080, milwaukeecountygolfcourses.com), a 20-minute ride from Milwaukee's General Mitchell Airport. A long-time PGA Tour venue (1994-2009), where winners included Jeff Sluman, Corey Pavin and Kenny Perry, this tree- and rough-choked muni features few memorable holes, but is a good test of shotmaking - and if you can get aboard, is a relative bargain.
If you're willing to travel, another quality option is The Bog ($79-$109; 262-284-7075, golfthebog.com) in Saukville, 25 miles north of Milwaukee. This aptly named 1995 Arnold Palmer design zigzags through woods and wetlands for its 7,221-yard journey, with superbly conditioned greens the reward for finding them.
Finally, the course for which you need to haul your own clubs along is Erin Hills ($200; 262-670-8600, erinhills.com). Host to the U.S. Amateur this August - and to the Big Enchilada, the U.S. Open, in 2017, this Hurdzan/Fry/Ron Whitten design (image above) is the ultimate lay-of-the-land wild ride. From the gargantuan 7,820-yard tips, all four par-5s stretch more than 600 yards - but it's the chaotic contours and fescue roughs that will elevate your scores. You might need a can to cover all that yardage, but alas, it's walking-only. Caddies are available, at $50 per bag, plus a minimum $40 tips. Whatever route you take, you'll never forget it. Chamlers-BayDear Joe, I'm a GOLF Magazine subscriber and headed to Seattle for a wedding. I'm looking for a public course or two that is moderately priced. I think we are going to play Chambers Bay (image right) one day at the Twilight rate if we can get out. Any other suggestions? Andrew Blighton Via email You picked a sweet city for a summer wedding and good affordable golf. One of my favorite values in the U.S. is Gold Mountain Golf Club (360-415-5432, goldmt.com), host to this week's U.S. Junior Amateur, and site of the 2006 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship, when Anthony Kim advanced to the final, before losing to Casey Watabu. The Olympic course - a 7,104-yard, 1996 John Harbottle III design - features a flattish, forested front nine. The back nine is a hilly journey, highlighted by the 357-yard, par-4 15th, which plays to a peninsular green at lake's edge. It's $42 to walk it (M-Th), $46 Friday and $60 Saturday/Sunday, and an extra $16 to ride. Maybe the best value is the $27 rate on weekends after 3 p.m. Nearly as appealing, at least in value, if not challenge, is Olympic's elder sibling, the Cascade course. The most you'll pay there to walk it is $40. Trophy Lake Golf & Casting Club ($49-$85; 360-874-8337, trophylakegolf.com) in Port Orchard will hook you with a John Fought creation that dazzles with several option-laden holes that feature split fairways, cavernous bunkers and dense stands of Douglas firs.
If you're looking to save some coin, but still relish a terrific layout, go west young man - to West Seattle Golf Course ($32-$50; 206-935-5187, premiergc.com/west-seattle). H. Chandler Egan, who had a hand in Pebble Beach's design, crafted this one in 1939, and it features ravines, steep sidehills and outstanding vistas of the downtown skyline. The longer front nine skirts Longfellow Creek, highlighted by the par-4 second, which sports a view of the city's landmark Space Needle. Precision is paramount on the back nine. Hey Joe, I'm going to Cape May, N.J., for a wedding, and I've gotten permission to disappear one morning for a quick round. I'll be a single looking for something not too difficult or too crowded - with a budget of $50-$100. K. Laird Via email Good Laird, this isn't the easiest of tasks! Almost by definition, the budget courses are going to be the most crowded, but if you call ahead, on what are typically the quietest days, you might get lucky. In recent years, Sand Barrens ($80-$120; 609-465-3555, sandbarrensgolf.com) in Swainton, a few miles north of Cape May, has been the region's leading layout, and its 27 holes offer good flexibility, but if sand is your bugaboo, avoid this one. Plus, it's still recovering from some atrocious spring conditions, but recent reports are encouraging.
A gentler, slightly more affordable alternative is Avalon ($69-$84; 609-465-GOLF, avalongolfclub.net) in Cape May Court House, a 40-year-old track that's perched fairly close to the shore, making for regular steady breezes. Although there are lakes-a-plenty, this is a relatively flat course and is only 6,325 yards from the tips, so even if play is slow, you should be able to buzz around without much fuss. While it's hardly considered a trophy course, it might be just what you're looking for. (Photos: Fred Vuich/SI)

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