The vision of course owner Bob Lang, Erin Hills is the only track ever to be awarded a USGA Championship prior to it’s opening. It will host the US Amateur Women’s Public Links Championship in 2008 and don't be too surprised if a US Open is contested there in the future. The course and pro shop are run by a pro who is no stranger to world-class golf, Kent Instefjord, the former head professional at Whistling Straits.
So how tough is the course? Well, should a golfer choose to play from a tee box not commensurate with their level of expertise, Erin Hills will bring them to their knees, turn them toward the Holy Shrine of Mary and force them to beg the Golf Gods for forgiveness. However, if one plays from the proper set of tees, the course offers generous landing areas and fair approach shots to greens that range from a minuscule 1,800 square feet to over an acre in size.
A word to the wise, when deciding which tee box to use, the rule of thumb is, NEVER play the back tees. Unless of course your driver’s license says "Eldrick Woods," in which case... never mind that... NEVER play the back tees.
You begin your round staring down the throat of a 600-yard, par 5 (680 from the back blacks). A par-4 follows, where a shot to the wrong side of the fairway gives you no view of the green. The course gets a bit more manageable as straight drives and good mid-irons can put you in birdie position on the next three holes. Which brings us to back-to-back par-3s. When reading the description of hole No. 6, it says "as you proceed to the green, look to your left to check the pin position on No. 7." When you reach the No. 7 tee, you realize why. The green is completely hidden in a dell 30 feet below the fairway. Select your club, hit it at the white rock and cross your fingers. With any luck you'll hit the green. Smart course management on No. 8 and No. 9 can salvage the front nine.
If you dare start the back nine, you will again begin on a 575-yard, par-5. Two great shots will give you a wedge into a green so large that most NFL quarterbacks could barely throw a football from one side to the other. A measly 78 yards deep, it is a six club green depending on the pin position. To make it even easier, the middle of the green sits in a 5- foot basin that separates the front and back. Hit it above or behind the hole with the pin in the hollow and your putt will be riding the half-pipe like Shaun White. Hit it in the dell with the pin on either side and it will need to catch air on the way to the hole.
Holes 11 through 17 may restore your self-confidence with smartly played tee shots and patience into the greens. As you turn for home, the 18th hole is a stunning par-5 offering a breathtaking straightaway look at Holy Hill. Get a good look at the shrine. You will hit your tee shot right at the steeple. Chances are you will also be stopping there on your ride home to redeem your golfing soul. Lastly, an extra 19th hole, is a short par-three designed to settle friendly wagers and determine ultimate bragging rights.
At $125 a round for Wisconsin residents, Erin Hills is the arguably the greatest value in golf in the upper Midwest. Perhaps even the country. Do yourself a favor and experience it first-hand. Even if you shoot 120 and lose a dozen balls, it will be the greatest round of your life. Just don't be in the foursome ahead of me.
The course is open and taking reservations at (262) 646-3331. Carts are available. The Web site is www.erinhills.com.
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