Review: Erin Hills Golf Course, WI -2017

Championships Are Rolling In Erin
Bob Lang envisioned a Championship course in the rolling hills of Erin, just a short drive outside of Milwaukee.  He brought in a great team of designers in Hurdzan, Fry and Whitten.  It opened to accolades in 2006.  It was an expansive unique link style course designed to host championships.  Unfortunately, the struggles of course maintenance, redesigns and power carts caused the downfall of this dream.  Enter Andrew Ziegler who bought the course from Lang and completed his vision.  He shut the course down, completed a proper redesign, put money into the maintenance and made it a walking only course.  It almost instantly was awarded the 2011 US Amateur and the 2017 US Open.
So is this public course worthy of such prestigious championships?  When I played it back in 2006 I would have said no.  The design was cool, but no way was any part of it ready for the world’s best golfers.  After playing it, I confidently say, YES!!

Besides being a great test for the best golfers around, how will it be for a public daily fee course?  I brought my dad, and brothers-in-law to see how a wide variety of golfer would play on this course.  I’m a single digit handicap and I played from the black tees (the same as the US Amateurs) which played at 7750.  (I wouldn’t recommend playing these tees unless you can drive at least 275 yards consistently.) The rest of my group played from the green tees which played around 6600 yards.  They ranged from a 14 handicap to about a 25.  The one thing that we all noticed was that the course is fair off the tee.  We all hit driver on every par 4 and par 5.  This is appealing to many golfers, I hate having a whole bunch of holes that keep the driver in the bag.  The 2nd shot is really the tricky shot at Erin Hills.  From the back tees there are many holes that will require long irons, hybrids or 3-woods for even scratch golfers.  (Especially if the wind was blowing like it was when we started playing)  But there is also a good mix of shorter holes which requires the use of all the clubs in your bag.   The greens putted true and smooth while we were there.  They were not real fast while I was there, but can get them super speedy for championship golf.

The over all feel of the property is old school.  The bag drop is at the caddie barn, the club house has a weathered old traditional feel.  The signs, the cottages, the setting, everything just feels very traditional.  Even down to the walking only;  no push carts, or power carts allowed.  It is highly recommended to take a caddie, the 8.5 miles walking (that is if you are hitting it straight) is plenty, then add carrying an extra 20lbs on your back, it is exhausting.

The course opens with 2 really solid holes.  The sweeping dogleg left par 5 opening hole is much better after the redesign.  While it looked cool with the old lone oak tree, it just played too difficult.  Now it is reachable in two with solid shots.  The 2nd hole is an amazing natural hole.  It cuts around and over some knolls and has the smallest toughest green on the course.  It is not long, but it is all about ball placement and accuracy.  From there the next few holes are bombs away;  long, long, and long again.  The 6th hole is a very tough par 3.  It is long, with a false front and the green slopes away so distance control is important.  The old seventh hole is missing.  It was a completely blind par 3 called the dell hole, you just aimed over a white rock and trusted the distance.  All that remains is the bell.  The 8th hole is in my opinion one of the toughest holes on the course.  It plays long up the hill to a sloping fairway, then down and back up a hill again to a tough green with a front and center bunker.  The 9th hole is probably my favorite hole on the course.  It used to be the betting hole/19th hole, but that was sad because it is such a great short par 3. I’m really glad they added as a regular hole. It has very difficult bunkers surrounding this narrow green.  I think I hit the shot of my life to get up and down from the green side bunker.

 At the turn there is a little snack bar/restrooms done up in very old rugged style building.  It looks very nice in its setting.  

Off to the backside there is a great collection of holes starting with the new 10.  It used to be a long par 5 with a giant biarritz green.  Now it is a manageable par 4.  Again kind of an up and down over some hills.  The next two holes are some of my favorite on the property.  The shorter par 4 11th is a great down hill hole which offers an awesome vantage point to see most of the course.  It is shorter so that you will only be hitting a wedge into this green.  The 12th is another excellent hole.  If you can hit your drive over the hill and hit the speed slot you can hit huge drives, even though the hole plays plenty long.  The down hill approach to the green is a tricky little shot.  The next par 3 is no slouch, but not overly dramatic.  Then you come to another great stretch of 3 holes.  The par 5 14th plays up hill to a severely elevated green with lots of slope and pitch.  The short par 4 15th is an excellent short hole.  It is drivable for the big hitters. The green on this hole has 2 very distinct sections divided by a spine.  The par 3 16th hole is fun as it can play very different depending on pin location into this long and narrow green.  The final hole on the back side hole 18 is long.  It plays 675 from the back tees.  It is bombs away to finish.  It takes 3 well struck shots to reach this green.  The Holy Hill Basilica is in the background along with the other buildings on the property which makes for a dramatic finish with the setting sun behind you.

It is truly a great test of golf as it will test all aspects of your game.  While length is sometimes the talk about this course, some of the short holes are just as tricky as the long ones.  If you are looking to play where the pros play put Erin Hills on your must play list.  It will continue to mature and grow into a true championship course as they keep things rolling in the hills of Erin.  I can’t wait to see it host the 2017 US Open this week.

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 Quick Hits:
+ Public course you can play after hosting the 2017 US Open
+Beautiful hybrid links style course
+Great variety of holes and styles
+Secluded setting

–8.5+ miles of walking only golf
–Gets expensive with highly recommended caddie