Review: Wild Rock Golf Course, WI
Wisconsin Dells is famous for its water parks, its exciting rides, its acrobatic shows, and its beautiful nature. Now it has a golf course worthy of the destination. You may want to consider going to the Dells just to play Wild Rock. That might be a pretty bold statement with all the other things to do in the Dells, but Wild Rock is that good.
The design team of Hurdzan/Fry sculpted 18 holes out of the beautiful canyon property behind the Wilderness Resort, just a block from Lake Delton. Even though it has been open less than a year, it feels and plays like a course that has been in place for years, even decades.
The adventure began when we entered a nice log-cabin style clubhouse. After dropping off bags at the bag drop and checking in, we meandered through the bar area and out to the staging area. The friendly starter invited us to grab a bag of practice balls and spend a little time at the range.
This would be our only disappointment of the whole day. We had to hit off mats. The range had real grass stalls, but for some reason, unbeknown to us, it was mats only. Off to the left corner of the range there was chipping area. It had a nice bunker and plenty of rough to practice your short game. It was nice, but way to close to the line of fire for my comfort.
We used it once the range was free from hitters, but if the range had people hitting it was easily in range for a shank off the range, which we all know can be common while warming up. After some good warm-up swings we found our way to the putting green. It too was a little close to the range. Off the far end right corner, (slicers landing zone) was a nice big green that offered an exact replication of what we find on the course. The GPS on the cart had a clock that let us know our time to start had come. Not 100% sure of what we would be in for, we drove and drove, and drove some more until we finally reached the first tee. (This alone would discourage anyone from walking.) There was a really helpful, informative starter to greet us and explain the tee boxes. He encouraged us to pick accordingly.
Since we had examined the scorecard ahead of time we knew that the tips were not an options for any of us at 7400yards, the next up made a good fit for my game at 6900 while my playing partners moved up to the 6500 tees. Looking down the first tee we saw a relatively flat and wide opening hole. It was very encouraging on the first tee to see some width and framing with bunkers. We all striped our drives on the first tee, which is one of the best feelings in golf. After that we encountered a risk reward par 5 right off the bat. The second shot need to be played short of the stream/pond off the front right corner and in front of the green. But with such confidence after the drive it was a green light to go for it. After just missing the green, it left me with an easy little chip and a 2-putt par. While the first hole felt somewhat tame, hole 2 gives you a taste of the rugged nature of this course. A large ravine separated the tee from the fairway on this short par 4 dogleg. Hole 3 also had a huge canyon separating the tee and fairway. This one needed a little more length with a straight away par 4. Hole 4 is an intimidating par 3 with the water feature of hole 1 now all along the right side of this hole and green. The kidney shaped green has bailouts long and a little left but not too far or OB comes into play. After a short trek under the road, you encounter a wonderful short, up-hill par 4. There is a bunker right in the middle right in the perfect landing zone. But even if you land in the bunker, it still is a manageable shot into the green. This hole is followed by a beautiful par 5 with awesome vistas of the area from the elevated back tees. But there is no time to let off the gas when you come to hole 7. It is simply a massive par 4. It might be about as wide as I have ever seen a par 4, yet it is long too at almost 500 yards. Just pound it. Hole 8 has a scary little green perched out on a peninsula of cliff. Long is dead. The front nine wraps up with a nice par 3 cut into the side of a hill.
There is no safety to return to between 9’s, you just move right on to the next 9-holes with little more than a sign that says hole 10. You start the second 9 with another par 5 that looks huge and uphill. It might be reachable in two for the bighitters, but with a slightly blind approach using three shots might be preferable. Hole 11 is a long flat par 3. The green is gigantic so pin placement and distance management is important. 12 takes you to an elevated tee again to a great par 4 that pinches the fairway right in the ideal landing zone with a rock wall as a back stop. After making your way through the tricky par 4, 13 which has the green and left side of the dogleg par 4 guarded by a rock quarry, you embark upon a down hill par 5. Distance wise, it is reachable in two, but because the green is so small and so well guarded, it is not the wise play. After this you get an intimidating par 3. The green is set out on a peninsula in a rock quarry. The day we played, the pin was only 3 paces from the front edge. As you start nearing the home stretch, you encounter a fun medium length par 4 with a picturesque barn near the green. To finish you need to cross the road again and find 2 great holes to wrap up the round. A short part 4, 17th has its teeth on the severely undulated green. 18 allows you one last time to bomb the driver with a slight fade it will roll down the hill toward the green leaving just a wedge or short iron into the final green.
After putting all our energy into taming the Wild Rock, we came away pleased with our scores and wowed by the scenery. The course itself lived up to its billing and even superceded our expectations. Every square tee-box was perfectly flat, each fairway was carpet smooth and every green while quite undulated, offered a fair fast putting surface. You would never guess this course was so new. This course will move up the rankings of best courses in WI very quickly. Having played the top courses in WI, this one is in the top 5 public courses in the state. That is pretty impressive considering the competition. The layout allows just about anyone to play, with its wide fairways and numerous tees, yet can be challenging enough at 7400 to crush the most accomplished player. Hurdzan/Fry continue to impress me with their design work, having now played a handful of their courses, Wild Rock is one of their best. One side note, the Wild Rock website might be one of the best I have ever seen. It gives you all the information you need and the flyovers of every hole really allow you to experience the course, or plan out your play before you arrive.
If you going to Dells, bring your clubs and your camera along with your swimsuit and see if you can tame the course at Wild Rock.
For more information: www.wildrockgolf.com