Location: River Hills, WI
Architect: H.S. Colt & C.H. Alison
June 11, 2009
After finishing up my morning game at Whistling Straits I hopped in the car and drove about an hour south to Milwaukee where I would be playing Milwaukee Country Club. The Milwaukee Country Club was founded in 1894 and was strictly a social and family club at the time of its birth. Just about a year later golf was introduced to the club and land was leased for a 9 hole course. In 1909 the club found out that their lease on the land would not be renewed and they moved to the present day location. In 1929 the new course designed by H.S. Colt and C.H. Alison was opened. Since its opening the club has hosted 3 amateur events of note, the 1969 Walker Cup, the 1988 U.S. Senior Amateur and the 2008 U.S. Mid-Amateur.
Today I was going to have the pleasure of playing with a local golf celebrity. An acquaintance of mine had arranged for me to gave a game with his girlfriend Dee Dee and Wisconsin golf legend Katie Falk. Katie was the nationâ€™s 10th ranked golfer in 1973, has won six Wisconsin State Amateur titles, played in three U.S. Opens, a U.S. Amateur and a Canadian Amateur. She also defeated LPGA Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez while en route to one of her two Western Open victories. In 1993 Katie was inducted into the Wisconsin Golf Hall of Fame in honor of her long and accomplished career as an amateur golfer.
I met Katie and Dee Dee outside the proshop where they directed me to the locker room to change shoes. There are as many types of locker rooms as there are different types of golf courses. The modern high end clubs seem to favor the extravagant overstated facilities with the large wooden lockers, fancy showers and huge overstuffed furniture. At the other end of the spectrum you have the classic clubs with their no frills facilities. At these clubs you may see old metal lockers, worn out carpet and spike marked benches that are preserved from the eras when Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus laced their shoes up there. Milwaukee Country Clubâ€™s locker room is in a league of its own. The appointments are tasteful and modest without being over the top. The feel is classic all the way. In addition to the standard lockers and benches you find in all clubs facilities there is also a bar and several tables which make the locker room the de facto hang out spot for the male members of the club. I was just waiting for Judge Smails from Caddyshack to walk in and say â€śDonâ€™t you people have homes?â€ť Overall, one of the best locker rooms Iâ€™ve seen.
After getting my shoes changed I went back outside and had the pleasure of meeting another Wisconsin Golf Hall of Famer, Manuel de la Torre. Mr. de la Torre was the head golf professional at Milwaukee Country Club from 1951 through 1996 and is considered a teaching legend. Though officially retired, Mr. de la Torre still comes to the club every day to dispense his great knowledge of the game to members both young and old who are striving to improve their game or learn the basics. In 1986 Mr. de la Torre added to his long list of honors and distinctions by being the first person recognized by the PGA as the Golf Teacher of the Year. Quite a legend who continues to give back to the game well into his 80s.
Once we were ready to go our caddies met us outside the pro shop and we were off. The 1st hole at MCC is a beautiful dog leg right from an elevated tee box just off the clubhouse door and visually a great way to start off a game. We played it from 415 yards but the downhill nature of the first shot made it play a bit shorter. The picture below is of the approach to the first green.
The 2nd hole was another mid length dogleg right par 4 that we played from 401 yards. The photo below is of the approach shot on the 2nd hole. Note how deep the bunker on the right looks even from this distance.
The 3rd hole is the first par 5 and a relatively short one from the middle tees at 493 yards. As you can see from the photo of the 3rd green below players going to for the green in 2 will want to miss in the center to avoid the two bunkers on the sides of this green.
The 4th hole is the first par 3 we played with a moderate yardage of 160 from the middle tees. Although the yardage is not terribly long I played my tee shot a club longer because of the uphill.
The 6th hole is a par 4 of 386 yards that plays 100% uphill. Even in the photo below of the 6th green below you can tell the huge uphill slope of the hole.
The 7th hole is a short par 5 that we played from 471 yards. In the U.S. Mid-Amateur tournament they played it as a par 4. As you can see from the photo of the green below there is more great bunkering around this green complex.
The 8th hole is a nice little par 3 that we played from 160 yards. The safe shot here is to the middle of the green. Shots that come up short end up in the huge bunker you see in the photo below. Shots that go long will run off the shaved back side of the green and find their way down to a gully. If your ball goes to the gully your chip had better reach the green or else youâ€™ll be chipping again. As usual you can take my word on that.
I normally donâ€™t include photos of on course bathrooms, but I couldnâ€™t resist this one. Its located between the 8th green and 9th tee.
The 9th hole is a great short par 4 that we played from just 300 yards. In the Mid-Amateur the hole was set up on some days to be a driveable par 4 for those who wanted to take the risk. The photo below is taken from about 150 yards out from the green.
The 10th hole is another short par 5 that the Mid-Amateurs played as a par 4. We played it from a mere 465. Take note the river in the background. Until very recently the trees and shrubbery were so far overgrown that the river was not even visible. Thankfully the work Tom Doak did to prepare the course for the Mid-Amateur included reclaiming the river views on several holes. The photo below is taken from the tee of the 10th hole.
The 11th hole is a shorter par 4 that was just a scant 375 from the back tees. Its is a dogleg left with a serious bunker complex (pictured below) that can come into play on the drive for those players who go too far left or attempt the carry.
Pictured below is yet another deep greenside bunker to catch errant approach shots on this hole. This bunker flanks the left side of the 11th green. I really liked this hole.
The photo below is of the 12th hole which is a short par 3 over the Milwaukee River that we played from 130 yards. Those bunkers on the bank of the river are close enough to the water that when the river gets high they are at risk of being flooded.
The photo below is of the bridge across the the river at the 12th hole. When the course originally opened the bridge was not there and members were actually paddled across the river in a canoe.
Unfortunately the setting sun wreaked havoc on my photos of the second nine so I didnâ€™t get many that turned out. The last photo below is taken from the 18th tee which is a par 4 where the drive plays uphill and there are bunkers on the left and right in play. A great finishing hole.
I loved Milwaukee Country Club. It is a great parkland course with really excellent bunkering that offers a good mix of challenging and fun holes. Iâ€™d never playd a Colt/Alison design before and it felt very similar to a Tillinghast course to me. The club itself is a fantastic daily use, family oriented country club. They are strong supporters of the Evans Scholars Foundation and the club has an exceptionally warm and friendly feel to it. It was a real treat to get to see Katieâ€™s excellent golf game in action as well. I may have out driven her, but her short game was dynamite and she gave me a sound thumping on the scorecard. As always, regardless of the score, a good time was had by all!