A golf course does not have to be crazy-expensive or uber-exclusive in order to host great championships.
It's generally accepted as true nowadays, but it was not always so self-evident. It's taken a relatively sustained campaign by golf institutions like the USGA and PGA of America to involve more publicly-accessible courses in their championship schedules to gradually shift the public's perception of what a championship golf course can be.
Municipal courses like Bethpage Black and Torrey Pines South have shone under the spotlight of the PGA Championship and U.S. Open, adding such accessible courses to millions of golfers' bucket lists by virtue of the historic stages they've provided.
Down-ballot championship rotas are also becoming more diverse. Last week, the USGA announced it will host the 2023 U.S. Senior Open at central Wisconsin's SentryWorld, a daily-fee layout that helped turn the Badger State into one of America's great golf destinations.
Opened in the early 1980s in Stevens Point, Wisc., SentryWorld brought the concept of destination golf to the Upper Midwest. Owned by Sentry Insurance, it brought curious road-tripping golfers from several hours afield, including Chicago and the Twin Cities, to a verdant parkland layout that included a famous "Flower Hole" par-3 16th with thousands of blooming annuals planted from tee to green.
In the years since, Herb Kohler's Whistling Straits and Blackwolf Run and Mike Keiser's Sand Valley resort have overshadowed SentryWorld somewhat, but the Robert Trent Jones II layout received a crucial makeover from longtime collaborator Jay Blasi in 2014. After hosting the 2019 U.S. Girls' Junior, SentryWorld's 2023 U.S. Senior Open commission represents a step up in prestige for a course that works very hard to justify its peak public rates of $175.
SentryWorld golf: quick travel tips
- SentryWorld is only 45 minutes north of Sand Valley Golf Resort. Its lush parkland look is in stark contrast to Sand Valley's more rugged aesthetic, which makes for a nice pairing. I would recommend tacking a round at SentryWorld onto any Sand Valley trip.
- PJ's, SentryWorld's clubhouse restaurant, is one of the best I've encountered on my travels. It's an ideal place to sip a Spotted Cow, Wisconsin's heralded local beer.
- The club will be opening The Inn at SentryWorld, a 60-room hotel, this spring, morphing into a boutique resort in the process.
Other golf course news and notes
WORLD'S LONGEST ONCE AGAIN - Bolton, Massachusetts' International Golf Club's 8,325-yard Pines Course had the distinction of being the world's longest golf course for decades, until the club shuttered amid the spring 2020 coronavirus shutdown. Private club operator Escalante Golf just purchased the 36-hole facility, which also includes the Tom Fazio-designed Oaks Course, and plans to return it to its former glory. [LINK: The International Golf Club]
"NO STRINGS ATTACHED" - The Keiser family's contributions to golf is not limited to premium destination golf. Michael Keiser, Jr., and his wife Jocelyn will be donating the funds necessary to renovate the Glenway Golf Course in Madison, Wisc., where they live. The objective: reimagine Glenway as "a progressive golf course, one that’s inclusive and designed architecturally for all golfers," Keiser said. [LINK: Madison Magazine]
TOPGOLF GOES GREENGRASS? - Skeptics are not convinced of the company's ability to create a pipeline of range-to-course converts, but the golfertainment brand's recent expansion announcement figures to put those theories to the test. TopGolf's new location in El Segundo, Calif., will include a redesign of the city's 9-hole executive-length Lakes Golf Course, in addition to a 102-bay range and food & beverage facility. [LINK: Spectrum News 1]
NEW PALM BEACH PAR 3 GOLF - The oceanside Palm Beach Par 3 course is known as one of Florida's most scenic, but it will have competition soon from a new inland short course. In addition to a new, private Nicklaus Design layout called Panther National, the massive Avenir development currently forming in Palm Beach Gardens will include public 18-hole short layout that will reside next to the town's main municipal course, Sandhill Crane. [LINK: Palm Beach Post]
GOLF-ADJACENT - Artist and IT consultant Janne Pyykkö and a group of volunteers in Finland have created an intricate work of art: a system of snowflakes traced by footsteps on fresh-fallen snow. Their canvas: the Lofkulla golf course in Espoo, near Helsinki. [LINK: CTV News]
LATE-BREAKING - Rick Mack and Tom Sunnarborg, who were instrumental in the initial development of Streamsong Resort in Florida, have purchased Forest Dunes in Northern Michigan, from longtime owner Lew Thompson. New lodging and a new golf course on some exciting property are reportedly all on the table for the new regime. [LINK: The Fire Pit Collective]