5 Best Public Golf Courses In Wisconsin

Wisconsin boasts some of the finest public golf courses in the nation, offering golfers a blend of challenging layouts, stunning scenery, and world-class design.

Here are the top five public golf courses in Wisconsin: Whistling Straits, Erin Hills, Sand Valley Golf Resort, SentryWorld, and Lawsonia Links.

Keep reading for a more detailed explanation of what makes each of these courses exceptional.

Whistling Straits (Straits Course) – Haven, WI

Whistling Straits (Straits Course) is a premier golfing destination in Haven, Wisconsin, known for its challenging links-style layout and stunning views of Lake Michigan.

Designed by the legendary Pete Dye, this course has garnered acclaim for its resemblance to the coastal courses of Ireland and Scotland.

Historical Background

Pete Dye, one of golf's most renowned course architects, designed Whistling Straits with a vision to replicate the traditional links courses found in Ireland and Scotland.

This ambitious project transformed a former airfield into a world-class golfing venue that has hosted major tournaments such as the PGA Championship and the Ryder Cup.

The course's rugged terrain and strategic design reflect Dye's expertise in creating challenging yet playable layouts.

Course Features

Whistling Straits offers a links-style layout characterized by dramatic elevation changes, deep bunkers, and undulating fairways.

The course stretches along two miles of Lake Michigan's shoreline, providing golfers with breathtaking views and a unique coastal golfing experience.

Key features include:

  • Links-Style Layout: The course’s design emphasizes natural landscapes, with minimal tree coverage and an emphasis on wind and sand as primary obstacles.
  • Elevation Changes: Significant elevation variations add complexity to the course, requiring precise shot-making and strategic planning.
  • Bunkers: Over 1,000 bunkers are strategically placed throughout the course, posing a constant challenge even for experienced golfers.
  • Lake Michigan Views: The proximity to Lake Michigan not only offers stunning vistas but also influences the playing conditions with variable winds.

Playing Experience

Golfers of all skill levels find Whistling Straits both challenging and rewarding.

The course demands accuracy, creativity, and a strategic approach to navigate its many hazards and elevation changes.

Key aspects of the playing experience include:

  • Challenge for All Skill Levels: While the course is challenging, its design allows for an enjoyable round for both amateurs and professionals.
  • Memorable Challenges: Iconic holes, such as the 17th, known as “Pinched Nerve,” provide memorable tests of skill and nerve.
  • Scenic Beauty: The stunning scenery, with panoramic views of Lake Michigan and rugged landscapes, enhances the overall golfing experience, making each round unforgettable.

Booking Information

Due to its popularity and reputation, advanced booking at Whistling Straits is essential.

Here are some key points to consider:

  • Advanced Booking: It is highly recommended to book your tee time well in advance, particularly if you plan to visit during peak golfing seasons.
  • Peak Times: Summer and early fall are the busiest periods, with ideal weather conditions attracting golfers from around the world.
  • Off-Peak Recommendations: For a potentially less crowded experience, consider booking in late spring or early fall, when the weather is still favorable, but the course is less busy.

Erin Hills – Hartford, WI

Erin Hills in Hartford, Wisconsin, is a premier public golf course renowned for its challenging design and natural beauty.

This course, designed by Dr. Michael Hurdzan, Dana Fry, and Ron Whitten, gained international acclaim when it hosted the 2017 U.S. Open.

Historical Background

Erin Hills was meticulously crafted by the talented trio of Dr. Michael Hurdzan, Dana Fry, and Ron Whitten.

Their vision was to create a course that blends seamlessly with the natural contours of the land, resulting in a minimalist design that emphasizes the natural beauty of the Wisconsin landscape.

The course's reputation was solidified when it was chosen as the venue for the 2017 U.S. Open, showcasing its ability to challenge the world's best golfers.

Course Features

Erin Hills stands out for its minimalist design, which makes full use of the natural terrain to create a unique and challenging golfing experience.

Key features include:

  • Minimalist Design: The course layout respects the natural contours of the land, avoiding unnecessary alterations and emphasizing a raw, natural aesthetic.
  • Wide Fairways: Generous fairways provide some forgiveness off the tee, but the strategic placement of hazards demands thoughtful shot selection.
  • Natural Fescue Grasses: The use of native fescue grasses adds both beauty and challenge, as these areas can be punishing for errant shots.
  • Elevation Changes: Significant elevation changes across the course add complexity and require golfers to carefully consider club selection and shot placement.

Playing Experience

Playing at Erin Hills requires strategic thinking and precision.

The course tests golfers' skills while offering a rewarding experience.

Key aspects of the playing experience include:

  • Strategic Play Requirements: Golfers must navigate a variety of challenges, including strategic bunkering and natural hazards, demanding careful planning and execution.
  • Challenges and Skill Tests: The course's design ensures that golfers face a variety of tests, from long, demanding par-fours to risk-reward par-fives, requiring a full range of skills.
  • Natural Beauty: The scenic vistas and natural landscapes provide a serene backdrop, enhancing the overall enjoyment of the round.

Booking Information

Due to its high profile and popularity, securing a tee time at Erin Hills requires planning. Important booking details include:

  • Reservation Essentials: Advanced reservations are crucial, especially during peak seasons, to ensure a tee time at this sought-after course.
  • Seasonal Considerations: The best times to play are late spring through early fall, when the weather is most favorable. During these peak periods, demand is highest, so booking well in advance is recommended.

Sand Valley Golf Resort – Nekoosa, WI

Sand Valley Golf Resort in Nekoosa, Wisconsin, is a premier golfing destination featuring two acclaimed courses: Sand Valley and Mammoth Dunes.

Designed by Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw and David McLay Kidd respectively, this resort offers a unique golfing experience amidst stunning natural landscapes.

Historical Background

Sand Valley Golf Resort emerged as a top golfing destination with the creation of its two courses by renowned designers.

Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw designed Sand Valley, emphasizing traditional golfing values and the natural landscape.

Mammoth Dunes, designed by David McLay Kidd, introduced dramatic and innovative features that distinguish it from traditional layouts.

The combination of these two world-class designs has solidified Sand Valley Golf Resort's reputation as a must-visit location for golf enthusiasts.

Course Features

The resort boasts distinct features in its two courses, making each one a unique experience for golfers.

  • Rolling Sand Dunes and Wide Fairways: Both courses are characterized by their expansive sand dunes and generous fairways, creating a visually stunning and challenging landscape.
  • Traditional Golfing Values at Sand Valley: The Sand Valley course emphasizes classic golfing principles, with a focus on strategic play and natural terrain. This course offers a purist's approach to golf, with minimal interference with the natural environment.
  • Dramatic Features at Mammoth Dunes: Mammoth Dunes stands out for its bold design elements, including large, dramatic features that challenge golfers to take risks and be creative with their shots. The course is known for its playability and fun factor, appealing to a broad range of golfers.

Playing Experience

Playing at Sand Valley Golf Resort provides golfers with diverse and memorable experiences across its two courses.

  • Differences Between the Two Courses: Sand Valley and Mammoth Dunes offer contrasting yet complementary experiences. Sand Valley focuses on a more traditional, strategic game, while Mammoth Dunes encourages creative and bold play with its dramatic features and forgiving fairways.
  • Overall Golfing Experience at the Resort: The resort's setting amidst rolling sand dunes provides a serene and picturesque backdrop, enhancing the overall enjoyment of the game. Both courses are meticulously maintained and offer challenging yet rewarding rounds, catering to golfers of all skill levels.

Booking Information

Given the resort's growing popularity, securing tee times requires advance planning.

  • High Demand for Both Courses: Sand Valley and Mammoth Dunes are highly sought after, attracting golfers from around the world. Their unique designs and exceptional quality drive high demand, especially during peak seasons.
  • Importance of Early Booking: To ensure a spot on either course, it is essential to book well in advance. This is particularly true during the summer months when the resort experiences the highest traffic. Early booking not only secures a tee time but also allows for better accommodation and travel planning.

SentryWorld – Stevens Point, WI

SentryWorld, located in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, is renowned for its beautiful parkland setting and the famous “Flower Hole.”

Designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr., this course combines strategic design with stunning visuals, offering a memorable experience for golfers.

Historical Background

SentryWorld was designed by the esteemed architect Robert Trent Jones Jr., who envisioned a course that blends natural beauty with challenging play.

In 2013, the course underwent a significant renovation to enhance its playability and aesthetics, ensuring it remains a top choice for golfers.

This renovation introduced modern elements while preserving the original charm, making SentryWorld a standout destination.

Course Features

The course at SentryWorld is noted for its picturesque parkland setting and innovative design elements.

  • Parkland Setting and the Iconic “Flower Hole”: The lush, green parkland setting provides a tranquil backdrop for a round of golf. The 16th hole, known as the “Flower Hole,” is particularly famous, surrounded by thousands of flowers that create a stunning visual display. This hole is a highlight for many visitors and is often cited as one of the most beautiful holes in golf.
  • Strategic Design and Stunning Visuals: SentryWorld's layout requires strategic thinking, with well-placed hazards and undulating greens that challenge players. The course's design emphasizes both aesthetics and functionality, ensuring that each hole presents a unique challenge while being visually captivating.

Playing Experience

Golfers of all skill levels will find SentryWorld both challenging and enjoyable.

  • Challenges and Enjoyment for All Golfers: The course's design caters to a wide range of skill levels, offering a balance of difficulty and playability. Beginners and seasoned golfers alike will appreciate the strategic elements and the opportunities to test their skills. The variety of holes, from short par-threes to long, demanding par-fives, ensures a diverse and engaging round.
  • Scenic and Memorable Rounds: The scenic beauty of SentryWorld, combined with its thoughtfully designed holes, makes for a memorable golfing experience. The tranquility of the parkland setting and the iconic Flower Hole add to the course's charm, making each round special.

Booking Information

Due to its unique features and popularity, advance reservations at SentryWorld are highly recommended.

  • Advance Reservations Due to Unique Features and Popularity: SentryWorld's reputation and distinctive features, such as the Flower Hole, attract many golfers, making it essential to book tee times in advance. Planning ahead ensures you secure a spot and allows you to enjoy the course at your preferred time. The course is especially busy during peak seasons, so early booking is advisable to avoid disappointment.

Lawsonia Links – Green Lake, WI

Lawsonia Links in Green Lake, Wisconsin, is a classic course that offers a traditional links-style golfing experience.

Designed by William Langford and Theodore Moreau, this course is celebrated for its timeless design and challenging play.

Historical Background

Lawsonia Links was designed by the renowned duo William Langford and Theodore Moreau, who are known for their expertise in creating courses that blend natural landscapes with strategic play.

The course has stood the test of time, maintaining its reputation as a favorite among golfers who appreciate its classic design and historical significance.

Course Features

The features of Lawsonia Links make it a standout destination for golfers seeking a traditional and challenging experience.

  • Traditional Links-Style Layout: The course follows a traditional links-style layout, characterized by its open, windswept fairways and minimal tree coverage. This design allows golfers to experience the game as it was originally played, with a focus on strategic shot-making.
  • Large Greens and Deep Bunkers: The greens at Lawsonia Links are notably large and undulating, requiring precise putting skills. The deep bunkers, strategically placed throughout the course, add to the challenge, demanding accuracy and careful planning from golfers.
  • Rolling Terrain Reminiscent of Scottish Courses: The rolling terrain of Lawsonia Links provides a dynamic playing field, reminiscent of the classic courses found in Scotland. This natural topography adds an extra layer of difficulty and beauty to the course.

Playing Experience

Golfers at Lawsonia Links can expect a pure and challenging golfing experience that tests their strategic skills.

  • Pure Golfing Experience: The design of Lawsonia Links emphasizes the fundamental elements of golf, offering a pure and unadulterated experience. The course's layout encourages players to think strategically and adapt to the natural elements, making each round unique.
  • Strategic Play and Challenges: The combination of large, undulating greens and deep bunkers requires golfers to employ strategic play. Each hole presents its own set of challenges, from navigating the rolling terrain to managing the wind conditions typical of a links-style course. This demands a high level of skill and thoughtful shot selection, providing a rewarding experience for golfers.

Booking Information

Lawsonia Links is accessible to the public, but advanced booking is advised to ensure a smooth and enjoyable visit.

  • Accessibility and Need for Advanced Booking: While Lawsonia Links is open to the public, its popularity means that securing a tee time in advance is highly recommended. This is especially true during peak golfing seasons when the course attracts numerous visitors. Early booking ensures that you can play at your preferred time and fully enjoy the experience.

Tips for Booking and Playing at Wisconsin’s Top Public Courses

When planning a visit to Wisconsin’s top public golf courses, it’s essential to consider various factors to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience.

Here are detailed tips to help you make the most of your golfing adventure in Wisconsin.

Best Times to Visit and Play

The best time to play golf in Wisconsin is generally from late spring to early fall, with optimal conditions typically found between May and September.

During these months, the weather is conducive to outdoor activities, and the courses are in their best condition.

Summer is particularly popular due to warm temperatures and long daylight hours, providing ample time for leisurely rounds.

However, if you prefer less crowded conditions, consider visiting in late spring or early fall.

These times offer pleasant weather and fewer players, allowing for a more relaxed experience.

How to Secure Tee Times at Popular Courses

Securing tee times at Wisconsin’s premier public golf courses requires advance planning, especially for the most sought-after locations.

Here are some strategies to help you secure your spot:

  • Book Well in Advance: Given the popularity of courses like Whistling Straits and Erin Hills, booking several months in advance is crucial. This is particularly important for weekend and holiday slots, which fill up quickly.
  • Use Online Booking Systems: Most top courses offer online booking options, making it easy to check availability and secure tee times from the convenience of your home.
  • Consider Weekday Play: If your schedule allows, opt for weekday tee times. These are generally less busy than weekends, increasing your chances of securing a preferred time.
  • Stay at Course-Associated Lodging: Some courses, like Sand Valley Golf Resort, offer lodging packages that include guaranteed tee times. Staying on-site can enhance your experience and simplify the booking process.
  • Join a Waitlist: If your desired time is unavailable, join the waitlist. Cancellations happen, and you might secure a spot if you’re flexible with your timing.

What to Expect During Peak and Off-Peak Seasons

Understanding the dynamics of peak and off-peak seasons can help you plan your visit more effectively.

  • Peak Season (June to August): During peak season, expect higher green fees, more crowded courses, and the need for advanced bookings. Courses are in prime condition, and the weather is ideal for golfing. It's an excellent time for social play and enjoying the vibrant atmosphere.
  • Off-Peak Season (April to May, September to October): Off-peak seasons offer a quieter, more relaxed experience. Green fees are often lower, and courses are less crowded. The weather can be slightly cooler, but still suitable for golfing. It's an excellent time to enjoy a more peaceful round and take advantage of any off-season discounts.
  • Course Maintenance: Be aware of scheduled maintenance periods, which can affect course conditions. Checking the course’s maintenance schedule ahead of time can help you avoid any disruptions to your play.


Wisconsin's top public golf courses offer a blend of challenging layouts, stunning scenery, and world-class design.

By planning ahead and considering peak and off-peak seasons, golfers can make the most of their visits to these exceptional courses.

Whether you're tackling the dramatic landscapes of Whistling Straits or the serene beauty of Lawsonia Links, a well-prepared trip will ensure an unforgettable golfing experience.