Ever since it opened in the late 1980s, Destination Kohler has been one of America's most serious golf resorts. Upscale accommodations, impeccable service and four acclaimed golf courses that have held several major championships have earned it a place on practically every golfer's bucket list. Those courses include the River Course at Blackwolf Run and Whistling Straits, which along with their respective sister courses form a quartet of great Pete Dye designs with a reputation for at times brutal levels of challenge. The state-of-the-art Kohler showers available in every guestroom and suite can be a welcome relief after a round of golf on such difficult courses.
So, too, will a new short course, set to debut on property in 2021, ahead of the rescheduled Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits. It's called The Baths at Blackwolf Run, and will be located beside that property's River and Meadow Valleys layouts. Combining a 10-hole par-3 course and a two-acre putting course, it will add Destination Kohler to a growing fraternity of prominent resorts and destinations making sizable bets on small-ball golf via new short courses.
In keeping with the styling of the resort's golf, it will be take on the distinctive look of Pete Dye's courses. The task of imagining what Dye might have done with the available land falls to architect Chris Lutzke, who worked with Dye on projects such as the Pete Dye Course at French Lick Resort and Dye Fore at Casa De Campo. Expect undulating greens, pot bunkers and evocative shaping to provide a gentle challenge with a bit of mischief.
In addition to being objectively fun and welcoming amenities to add to a golf facility, short courses are viewed as trendy, in light of several high-profile openings in the last decade, from 2012's unveiling of the 13-hole Bandon Preserve up to the opening of Forest Dunes' new 10-hole Short Course, crafted by up-and-coming architects Riley Johns and Keith Rhebb.
But short courses have been part of resort golf - not to mention more local community golf - longer than many people realize. The Peter Hay course at Pebble Beach Resorts dates to 1957, though when it reopens after Tiger Woods' revamp next year, it will essentially be brand new.
The early 1990s saw a mini-boom in construction of complimentary par-3 courses at established facilities. That was the year that the Threetops course at Treetops Resort came on the scene in Northern Michigan. And between 1992 and 1993, the Robert Trent Jones Trail incorporated both 9- and 18-hole short courses into seven of its own facilities.
Part of the recent increase in attention on short courses is a function of economics. New-course construction is currently a trickle compared to the early 90s, so while a single entity building four new short courses in 2020 would be major news, it likely got lost in the shuffle in a busy year for new championship and short courses alike.