Destination Kohler is one of America's bucket-list golf resorts. It is also a little eclectic, even eccentric. Rather than one large, contiguous site, its domain encompasses several, mostly centered around its historic namesake village, laid out as one of America's first "company towns" by Frederick Law Olmsted to serve as the seat of one of the best-known home fixture makers in the world.
Due to its somewhat scattered nature, planning a trip to Kohler can be somewhat daunting, and it can even be a little confusing once you're on the ground. But getting the hang of things is rewarding, as navigating both the town and the spread between different golf, lodging and dining sites instills a sense of adventure and gives visitors a unique sense of the place.
If you plan a trip to this slice of heaven in eastern Wisconsin, here are a few helpful tips that I hope will help you wring every ounce of enjoyment out of it.
Kohler's two main lodging options are the Inn on Woodlake and The American Club. The former is the place to stay for a buddies trip: modern, bright, with all the furnishings and functionality needed after a long day on the golf course. The elaborate Kohler shower setups come in handy here for working out any aches and pains. The American Club averages about $200 more per night, and its plush, intimate furnishings and romantic, low lighting - not to mention its proximity to Kohler's award-winning spa - make it particularly well-suited to visiting couples.
Thrive on arrival
Shuttle buses can be summoned to the hotels to take golfers to Blackwolf Run - a five-minute trip - on demand. But Whistling Straits is closer to 20 minutes away, and their shuttles leave on the hour. This means that groups can be scrambling a bit if they are a little late checking in with a first round scheduled by the lake. My advice: if you are getting in early enough for an arrival-day round, try and schedule it for one of the Blackwolf Run courses to start your trip off with some easy logistics.
Dining at Destination Kohler: quick tips
- Get the cheese curds at the Horse & Plow, the pub-style eatery at The American Club.
- If you go to Whistling Straits and don't have a bratwurst, you're doing it wrong.
- There's a casual spot for flatbread pizzas and beers adjacent to the Kohler Swing Studio next to the Inn on Woodlake. Go there for a low-key bite while you watch a game.
- River Wildlife is a private club within Destination Kohler, but its restaurant is open to resort guests by advance reservation. Local game like pheasant and elk feature on its menus.
Righteous replay policy
Most golf packages at Destination Kohler give the option of a perk that is fairly rare among high-end, multi-course resorts: complimentary replay green fees on the Meadow Valleys or Irish courses. Even better: you can book these second rounds when you book your initial trip, rather than having to stand by to see if there's availability after your first round of the day. Keep in mind that this doesn't mean your entire second loop is free; Kohler charges a cart fee and if you want a forecaddie, that base fee is not included either. But even so, you're saving an easy $150 off the rack rate for the same round, which helps get you some bang for your buck on a golf-intensive trip.
Plan your 36-hole days properly
Because of the replay advantages, for the main days of most trips, groups like to play 36 holes. If I were scheduling out a group trip, I would aim to keep my two-round days to the same facility. A bucket-list morning round on the Straits, followed by lunch and then an afternoon jaunt around the Irish Course, appeals much more than switching venues between tee times just for the sake of a change of scenery. Both Whistling Straits and Blackwolf Run are worthy of full-day immersion.
With the summer 2021 opening of the 10-hole par-3 Baths of Blackwolf Run and a connected putting course, Kohler has something it had always been missing: a relaxed, fun, not-so-difficult golf option. I love the four big courses, but they're difficult, and a loop - or two - around the Baths can help heal the scars from prior rounds. It's free to play if you're on one of the resort's great golf packages, while a-la-carte rounds are $75.