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Aug 11

Whistling Straits

Whistling Straits Course a Work of International Art

The PGA will be played this week, and some viewers might turn on their televisions to wonder why an American major is being held overseas. Why are they playing this thing in Ireland? The fourth major of the year, however, is not being played in the old country, but in Kohler, Wisconsin, on the shores of Lake Michigan. This will not disappoint those who tune in to watch. Between the Pete Dye design and the surrounding resort mixed with the natural landscape, Whistling Straits is a pure piece of art, and American art to boot, refuting foreign cheap shots at the youthful nation’s perceived lack of taste.

whistlingstraits_straitscourse3 The upper Midwestern United States has been a crossroads of European and native cultures for centuries, and the designers of the larger resort of Whistling Straits has paid attention to all of them. Still, above all others, is a tip of the hat to French names in some cases, and in most cases, outright tribute to the Irish countryside, complete with a large body of water along the edge of the course – nature’s art mixed with human design to such a degree that the two never argue. Dye’s work, and the surrounding offerings of relaxation and fine dining are the perfect complement to what was already there when fur trappers and native residents rowed along these shores.
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However comforting the scene might be to one who is not playing in the tournament, the golf at Whistling Straits can be harsh, and the punishments for those who go astray range beyond the customary difficulties. As in Ireland, the velvety green covers impenetrable stone, and at the Straits, the rocky outcroppings are folded into pocketed tiers, where even climbing up to take a look seems perilous. Hitting a golf ball there appears, at times, out of the question. On the downward slopes toward the lake, one must discuss bunkers in different terms. They come at you in swarms, and some are set on downward trajectories that require some careful foot work in order to even get there. For the golfer, this brand of art is severe, a terrible beauty. Those who established the vision of a resort somehow managed to replicate the fog coming in from offshore on many days, and players accustomed to more ordinary climes might find the whole package a little daunting.
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With its connection to the old country, some believe that Whistling Straits provides an excellent opportunity for Rory McIlroy to reestablish himself as the dominant force in men’s golf. As a work of natural art, it seems to be right up his alley. The occupancy of #1 is a slow-moving process, and he still sits atop the golf world, but it’s not McIlroy who has been doing all the winning lately. Jordan Spieth has won two of the last three majors, and he’s more interested in adding a third than he is in gazing at beautiful art. Like clockwork, another opportunity for Tiger to get back on the rails has come around, along with a host of other potential stories from those in the field.

Yes, the ongoing drama of the tour will come to Whistling Straits. All of the intrigue, some golf-related and some not, will be painted on the easel of this remarkable canvas of a resort. The changeable will, for one week, be superimposed on the unchangeable. The human commotion of the game of golf will play itself out on a silent and masterful natural creation. In short, the art of golf will be tested on the art of creation itself, a double beauty – not in Galway Bay, but in Kohler, Wisconsin.

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About the author

G.F. Skipworth

has spent every available moment playing golf or studying the greats since the 60s, in between world tours as a classical musician, Harvard studies in Government or as the author of a dozen novels. Nicklaus and Snead may be the statistical greats, but Skipworth is a life-long devotee of Gary Player, and considers meeting the South African at the Jeld-Wen to be an unforgettable milestone. His driving passion in golf these days is to raise viewer interest in the LPGA.