My home course just suffered a serious injury — and now I hurt, too
My home muni course, Whitnall Park, was vandalized. Whitnall Park, part of my Milwaukee County Parks rota, 6,508 yards from the tips and around 6,000 for the average-hitting folk like me, was vandalized. Whitnall Park, my home of clubhouse brats and Leinenkugel’s beer (on tap!), my home of all-you-can-play-for-five-bucks-after-6 summer golf, my home of bachelor party rounds and pre-wedding rounds, was vandalized.
Damn it. Damn it. Damn it.
Earlier this month, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “some unwelcome guests” (the Facebook and Twitter comments had juicer descriptions) rode through the 13th and 14th greens and left large tire tracks on both. The County Parks’ Facebook page said it would carve out temporary greens in the fairways on the par-4s, and that “unfortunately, that means that the greens will not be in good condition for the rest of fall 2020 and potentially into next spring 2021.”
My home was broken into. Someone came in and robbed me of the short grass of the two smallish, front-to-back sloping greens. They tore out two of its 18 teeth, too. The 13th hole is uphill for the last 150 or so yards of its 328-yard journey, so it’ll likely become a par-3 now. And the 398-yard 14th starts downhill, then ends uphill toward the green, so it might become a driveable par-4. Easier, yes. Hard to deal with, yes.
My home needs a hug.
In this Muni Monday space, muni aficionados have penned odes to their publicly owned playgrounds. I’m also going to. I need to. For therapy. I’ve played no other course more times in my 25-plus years of playing this game.
The 360-yard, dogleg-right, par-4 1st (so many trees on the right). The 390-yard, straightaway, par-4 2nd (even more trees on the right). The 175-yard, par-3 3rd. (The beer cart usually stops here!) The 360-yard, par-4 4th (with a dang tree in the middle of the fairway!). The 330-yard, dogleg right, par-4 5th. (I’ve been left on this hole. And right. But never straight.) The 180-yard, downhill, par-3 6th. (Another beer cart hole. Hey, it’s Milwaukee.) The 510-yard, downhill-then-uphill, par-5 7th (with a ball-eating marsh on the right!). The 370-yard, par-4 8th. (I’ve hit the storage shed on the right tooooo many times.) The 360-yard, dogleg-left, par-4 9th (site of my notorious high school cheating event, previously described on these web pages.)
The 280-yard, par-4 10th. (It’s been remodeled to be longer, but I’ll always remember it as where you can load up with golf sodas at the turn, then unload with a driver.) The 420-yard, par-4 11th (monstrous). The 490-yard, par-5 12th. (Watch out for that creek.) The 13th and 14th. The 130-yard, par-3 15th. (This is a Whitnall love story, but I hate this green.) The 410-yard, dogleg-right, par-4 16th (I wanna say the best score I’ve ever made on this hole is triple bogey.) The 360-yard, dogleg-right, par-4 17th. (Watch out for shots from the adjacent 8th.) The 290-yard, par-4 18th (Yeah, I know, an easy finishing hole. But us muni players will take it.)
Sidenote: I actually tested myself there. Those aren’t the actual yardages. They’re just from my memory. Could I rattle off a short description of every hole without looking? I was off by 240 total yards, which feels close enough to be proud of. I’ve played Whitnall plenty.
I’ve made memories at Whitnall, too. Many. As it and I both heal, here are my top three. Let’s reminiscence together.
The (blood-sucking) twilight rate
Whitnall and other Milwaukee County courses, when I was in high school and college, offered a deal where you could play as many holes as possible for 5 bucks starting around 6 p.m. One time, I think, my friend Matt and I played all 18. Walking. What a bargain.
But (There’s always a but, right? — and this one was an itchy pain in one.) there were the mosquitoes. Whitnall summers always brought out the skeeters. You could suck at golf, and they would suck your blood. We’d leave smelling like golf course, sweat and deep-woods Off!
But it was still a small price to pay. Both financially and physically.
Ride or die
Whitnall, one summer afternoon, had one cart left. And there were three of us. We did the math. One person would walk six holes apiece (or, shh, ride on the back.) I’d ride the first six. I’d walk the second six.
We finished the front nine. We approached the back. Dark clouds did, too.
It started to rain on the 11th tee. It started to rain rain on the 11th fairway.
“Oh, (four-letter),” I said.
“Oh, (four-letter),” the aforementioned Matt said.
“Oh, (four-letter),” my other friend, also named Matt, said.
Our two-seat cart needed to get three seats back to the clubhouse.
“I don’t care,” I said to passenger Matt. “I’m sitting on your lap.”
Three dry-ish seats got back. Awkwardly.
A course became a home
I played Whitnall with my high school golf team my junior and senior years. Whitnall was our “home” course. We’d drink Mountain Dews and figure out to ask girls to Homecoming at the picnic benches near the 9th green.
I played Whitnall with both Matts before their weddings. We played it during their bachelor parties. I played it with my friend Todd sometime before his wedding. I played it with my friend Ethan sometime before his wedding. I played it with my future brother-in-law before my sister’s wedding.
I’ve played Whitnall nearly every year after I left Milwaukee.
Ironically, I’ve never really played it well. I’ve even, on occasion, have replaced the “W” with an “S” in its name. (I can’t spell it here, so you’ll just have to say it out loud.) It’s weird, right?
But when you eat a warm brat there, and you drink a cold Leine’s there, and you play twilight there, and you get bit by mosquitoes there, and you sit on your friend’s lap in a cart in a rainstorm there, and you say goodbye to bachelorhood there, and you memorize every single yardage on every single hole there, it becomes more than just a place where you post a score.
It becomes your home. You all have one. And you all have only one.
Get well soon, Whitnall Park.