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Field guide: Demanding and picturesque, Wisconsin public gem Erin Hills is worth the trek

Ed. note: As GOLF’s chief photographer and visual editor, Christian Hafer visits some of the most gorgeous and exclusive golf courses and properties in the world. Here, in his Field Guide, he’ll take you along for the ride. Lucky for us, Christian never leaves home without his camera. Follow Christian Hafer on Instagram here.

It’s true, Wisconsin is certainly known for things like Kringle, cold winters and football, but what it seems to do better than just about anyone is building amazing modern golf courses. Oh, and cheese curds.

Case in point is Erin Hills, just 35 miles north of Milwaukee and home to the 2017 U.S. Open. I wasn’t sure what to expect driving up from Chicago. Knowing it was a big, burly course that would probably chew up and swallow every golf ball in my quiver was a little daunting. And when you pull into the property — which is literally in the middle of nowhere (always a good sign) — and start seeing these massive and sprawling bunkers, your confidence is not at all-time levels. Yet I couldn’t wait to get out of the car and go play.

Christian Hafer

Erin Hills, put bluntly, is one of the most beautiful courses I have ever seen. (Even better, it’s public.) In the two days I was on property, I took more mind-blowing photographs than I can count (and ate as many cheese curds). The course is so photogenic it’s almost laughable. My only gripe is there isn’t more golf on that rolling green and orange landscape.

The Drumlin putting course had recently opened when I visited, which was also a ball. The massive putting green is 63,000 square feet and boasts head-spinning breaks. You’ll want to putt all night long. Luckily you can, since it has lights. We couldn’t get enough.

Christian Hafer
Christian Hafer

Of course, you can tip it out at 7,735 yards and have the stretcher come for you on 18, but our group decided to play the friendlier combo tees. The fairways are wide and flow through the land, although you seem to surf around these fairways more than anything. It all reminded me of the west coast of Ireland. The par-3 9th hole, while gorgeous, is the toughest par-3 I’ve ever played, and the par-4 12th has one of the coolest blind tee shots I’ve come across. Each tee box opens an entirely new golf course, and that’s sort of the theme at Erin Hills. While it is big and bad, it’s also so pretty and calm out there that you can’t help but love it.

Just two hours from Chicago, or 40 minutes from the closest airport, and you’ll be in the middle of some of the best modern golf in America. Stay on property and enjoy the dunes, bunkers, sunsets and the Drumlin. Oh, and please order some cheese curds for me.