Best golf courses in Wisconsin, according to GOLF Magazine’s expert course raters

whistling straits

Whistling Straits has long been No. 1 in Wisconsin.

Courtesy Photo

For every great course that made GOLF’s 2020-21 ranking of the Top 100 Courses in the U.S., dozens of more must-plays were left on the outside looking in — including at least a handful in your home state. Some of these designs just missed out on a Top 100 nomination, others finished deeper down the ranking, but all are worthy of your time. To shed light on the best courses in every state, we broke out the full results of our Top 100 Courses polling into state-by-state lists. Here’s a closer look at Wisconsin.

Wisconsin golf by the numbers:

Number of courses and U.S. rank: 532 (10)*
Number of golfers per capita rank: 6*
Average public-course greens fees: $$ out of $$$*
Average daily temp and rank: 43.1 (43)
Annual precipitation and rank: 32.6 in. (33)

*Source: National Golf Foundation

Best Wisconsin golf courses (2020/2021)

1. Whistling Straits – Straits (Sheboygan) [1, 2, 3, P]

Venue of the 2004, ’10 and ’15 PGA Championships, this 1998 Pete Dye design on Lake Michigan was once a poker table-flat military training base in World War II. Eventually it became a site for illegal dumping of toxic waste. Dye and owner Herb Kohler engineered a mind-boggling cleanup, moved 3 million cubic yards of dirt, trucked in 7,000 loads of sand to create the hills and bunkers and relocated the bluffs back off the shore. All Kohler told Dye was “I want the course to look like it’s in Ireland.” Mission accomplished.

Book a tee time at Whistling Straits.

2. Milwaukee (River Hills) [1]

A Golden Age classic too rarely mentioned in discussions of great Midwestern courses. Designed by C.H. Alison, Milwaukee Country Club is a charming old-school layout that challenges the modern player with fast greens and deep bunkers. Holes 8 through 12 are an epic stretch that ends with a par-3 over the Milwaukee River. The design is without a doubt one of Alison’s best, and as Pete Dye once said of Milwaukee, “Great grass.”

3. Lawsonia – Links (Green Lake) [1, P]

Golden Age masters Langford & Moreau spent nearly $4 million in 2020 dollars to build this literally ground-breaking Wisconsin layout. Steam shovels shaped its most spectacular features, including some of the boldest putting complexes on the planet. Rumor has it a boxcar was buried under the 7th green to create the dramatic 20-foot drop-off. The result of all this mechanical wizardry? Possibly the most underrated course in America and its greatest golfing value. We almost feel guilty finally sharing the secret.

Book a tee time at Lawsonia.

Pure trouble surrounds some of the greens at Lawsonia.

Patrick Koenig

4. Sand Valley – Sand Valley (Nekoosa) [1, 3, P]

Like Lennon and McCartney, Coore and Crenshaw can’t stop turning out hits that thrill the public and critics alike, this time working their magic on a sea of prehistoric Wisconsin sand. After an opening tee shot from a massive dune dubbed The Volcano, Sand Valley bewitches players with firm fairways, majestic bunkers and one of the great punchbowl greens. Visionary owner Mike Keiser said the land reminded him of a cross between Sand Hills and Pine Valley. Coore and Crenshaw more than delivered on that promise.

Book a tee time at Sand Valley.

5. Sand Valley – Mammoth Dunes (Nekoosa) [1, 3, P]

The first thing you notice at Mammoth Dunes is how big it is. Surrounded by sand and playing to a par of 73, the massive layout winds around a towering V-shaped ridge. But the point is beauty, not intimidation. Architect David McLay Kidd, once known as a staunch defender of par, intentionally softened his approach here, following his grand success at the equally player friendly Gamble Sands. The wide, nearly unmissable fairways offer players multiple angles of attack into generous greens. The result? Mammoth Dunes is a welcome reminder that a great course can also be eminently fair and fun to play.

Book a tee time at Mammoth Dunes.

6. Erin Hills (Erin) [3, P]

Book a tee time at Erin Hills.

7. Blackwolf Run – River (Kohler) [3, P]

Book a tee time at Blackwolf Run.

8. Blue Mound (Wauwatosa)

9. West Bend (West Bend)

10. Bull at Pinehurst Farms (Sheboygan Falls) [P]

Book at tee time at The Bull.

SYMBOL GUIDE

1 = GOLF Top 100 Course in the U.S.
2 = GOLF Top 100 Course in the World
3 = GOLF Top 100 Resort
P = Resort/public golf course

Ed. note: Some courses were omitted from our rankings because they did not receive enough votes.

Course spotlight: Blue Mound CC (Wautatosa, Wisc.), ranked 8th in Wisconsin. Blue Mound Country Club is a festival of Raynor’s greatest hits. An elevated “Short” fires to a bunkered island and the magnificent 8th escalates players up a canted hill to one of the most festive punchbowls in the Raynor catalog. The Redan delivers a helping of brawn (do not go over the right side). Blue Mound is woefully underrated and shadowed by the bigger dogs of Erin Hills, Milwaukee CC, Kohler and the Sand Valley complex. Neither sand-duned nor shore-lined, it is a golfer’s sanctuary, a fantastic walk overdue for a promotion. — GOLF Top 100 Course Rater

The 2nd green at Blue Mound Country Club.

Paul Hundley

How we rank America’s best golf courses

For the newly released 2020-21 U.S. list, each panelist was provided a list of 489 courses. Beside that list of courses were 11 “buckets,” or groupings. If our panelists considered a course to be among the top three in the country, they ticked that box. If they believed the course to be among Nos. 4-10 in the U.S., they checked that box, followed by 11-25, 26-50, and so on.

Panelists were also free to write in courses that they felt should have been included on the ballot (we had fewer than a handful of such additions in the U.S. vote).

Points were assigned to each bucket; to arrive at an average score for each course, we divide its aggregate score by the number of votes. From those point tallies, the courses are then ranked accordingly. It is an intentionally simple and straightforward process. Why? Because it invariably produces results that are widely lauded. Like the game itself, there’s no need to unnecessarily overcomplicate things.

For much more on how we rate courses, click or tap here.

Erin Hills is a perfect stop on a trip between Whistling Straits and Sand Valley.

Christian Hafer

Meet our course raters

We empower and hold accountable a group of 97 well-traveled — and well-connected — golfers/aficionados, each capable of expressing their own sense of design excellence at the highest level. The group is seasoned and experienced — we look for raters who know what’s out there, what’s changing and what’s coming down the pike. And from judging posts across four continents, our panelists are positioned to place courses from different regions around the globe into proper context, one of the main reasons GOLF’s Top 100 Courses rankings are the most esteemed in the game.

Other ranking outlets employ thousands of raters. Our less-is-more approach creates a more meaningful and thoughtful list. Think about it: When you plan a golf trip, do you call every golfer you know for their take? No. You contact a handful of people whose opinions you value most.

Meet our full crew of panelists here.

Pro shop

Explore GOLF’s Pro Shop

Start Shopping
generic profile image

Golf.com Contributor