ELKHORN, Wis. -- There are three nines at Evergreen Golf Club, but in the eyes of most customers, there is only one.
Most golfers who make a tee time request the North nine be a part of their round.
The North nine starts with a sweeping downhill dogleg and just keeps getting better the next three holes. The second is a dangerous short par 4 with a pond left and woods right. The par-3 third plays back over the pond from an elevated tee. The fourth tee shot, straight up a hill toward a bottleneck of a fairway through trees and wetlands on the right, is a white-knuckler.
"It's a fun course. It is challenging with all the evergreen trees," said Mike Woitowicz, a golfer from nearby Williams Bay.
Evergreen has been a local favorite since opening the North-South Course in 1973 on 150 acres of a former dairy farm. It's considered a gem of an experience for the cost. Golf can be pricey in trendy Lake Geneva, but Elkhorn (15 minutes down the road) provides value in the market.
"We are more true to our rates than anybody else (in the region)," said Bill Rogers, the course's general manager and a minority owner. "We are the volume leader and the price leader. People can't believe how good of condition we are in for the rounds we do."
The East nine opened on 52 acres in 1994. It's tighter and a little trickier, especially the dogleg 444-yard, par-5 third hole. The pond guarding the green at the par-4 ninth was enlarged in 2011 to add more character to the approach shot. Over on the South nine, the par-5 third and the par-4 ninth holes are laced with strategic water hazards.
It will be interesting to see how Evergreen Golf Club looks in a year or two. Some of the beautiful pines and evergreens that gave the course its name are struggling to survive.
Rogers said the course could lose as many as 400 trees to the controversial Imprelis herbicide, which DuPont introduced last year for commercial use. Imprelis is blamed for killing pines and spruces around the Midwest. DuPont has suspended the sale of the product and has launched a website for courses to log claims.
The Evergreen course superintendent is currently tagging trees that may be in danger of dying and monitoring them closely. Rogers tried to downplay the effects of potentially losing all those trees.
"Like a lot of courses, we were overplanted (with trees)," he said. "There are some key trees that will have to be replaced. I’ve read about courses where losing trees opens up angles and makes the course play more strategic. Some (we lose) might open up angles and help."
Others worry about the long-term impact.
"It (the losses) will probably hurt from a scenic point of view," said Woitowicz. "A lot of trees could come out, the big ones. They can't be replaced. It's a shame."
Evergreen's business model has allowed it to stay strong through the recession. It attracts up to 200 golf outings and charity fundraisers a year. Rogers said the big tees and big greens are conducive to hosting events.
"It's a parkland course that doesn't beat you up too badly," he said.
The new 12,000-square-foot clubhouse, built in 2005, is also a draw for the outings. The facility holds a weekly Friday night fish fry and events like comedy nights in the 250-person banquet hall. The old clubhouse, which used to be a restaurant, is still in use as the Bunker Bar and Grill, which seats up to 100 people. It is connected to a 300-person pavilion added in 1998.
Evergreen Golf Club: The verdict
Evergreen G.C. isn't as good as the higher profile golf courses in Lake Geneva, such as the three at Geneva National or the two at Grand Geneva Resort & Spa. But it probably has more "bang for your buck" quotient and you have a better chance to shoot a number. To some golfers, those options are more significant than playing a trophy course.