43rd Ryder Cup Golf Course Preview: Whistling Straits


When is a golf course not just a golf course?

There is only one answer: when it is also a stadium.

Pete Dye introduced the concept of stadium golf to the world in the 1980s, with groundbreaking courses on American shores. Both host annual PGA Tour events. In Florida, it’s TPC Sawgrass; in the Californian desert, it’s PGA West.

Although not so named, Whistling Straits is also a stadium course, specially designed for busy championship golf… like, say, the Ryder Cup.

This week, fans will spill over the impressive metal bleachers and drape themselves over the hills lining the strait corridors like woolen blankets from the course’s resident sheep.

Spectators, even several rows away from the ropes on the artificial terraces, will nevertheless be able to see the action unfolding below them. For the two dozen contenders from the American and European teams, the sensation of thousands of eyes peering at them will add even more warmth to the moment surrounding each shot, especially late in the game.

Beneath the earthen and metal bleachers is a golf course designed to serve as the stage for a drama of as Shakespearean level as golf can reach. There will be some comedy, in the form of generous fairways, raw and immaculate well cut greens which, while undulating, should see several putts, birdies, eagles made throughout the matches.

But there will also be a tragedy, especially if the wind blows. Few courses in the world place stray shots in places as difficult as the Whistling Strait, with fairways and greens suspended over sheer drops, irregularly bushy tall grass and a 22,000 square mile Lake Michigan. This elasticity of possible results from one hole – heck, suddenly – to the next should make this Ryder Cup one of the most captivating in history.

Whistling Straits: What You Need To Know About The Ryder Cup Host Golf Course

Whistling Straits is the cure for your average park, which blends into the background as a nice yet low-key platform for gamer talents. This golf demands to be noticed. He will actively participate in matches like no Ryder Cup host since the Ocean Course on Kiawah Island in 1991, Pete Dye’s last design to host the matches.

The inimitable Indian, who died in early 2020, knew how to test, frustrate and reward golfers of the highest caliber. Although Whistling Straits and The Ocean Course feature tail tees that can be added to produce frightening lengths, they exist as options to make holes play differently from day to day, rather than as a crushing monster. singular. This is also the case this year: the official distance of 7,390 meters of the course for the Ryder Cup is 400 meters shorter than the maximum length of its scorecard.

Like on Dye’s best courses, the strait is all about angles. The fairways are trimmed in such a way as to constantly force players to choose a very specific line and engage in it before walking away. Dye sank several back tees as low as he could, knowing the pros look down on semi-blind shots.

The doctrine of confusing angles extends to the approach shots of the course. Even if the fairways of the straits are not excessively wide, it often happens that two tee shots 10 or 20 meters apart – horizontally or downstream – will give a flag sufficiently different looks that it is important for players to play. plan the game. in advance.

The dye immediately introduces this dynamic. At the 364-yard first hole, an aggressive tee shot will give the golfer a direct view of the green, while a more conservative layup will give an approach that must face the angle of the putting surface. Here, players can use the adrenaline rush of the first tee frenzy to their advantage, if they can keep their cool.

The visual drama and expressiveness of the design will make every hole exciting, but the real core of the golf course is its par 3 and its long par 4. One-shotters come in at numbers 3, 7, 12 and 17 which means both teams will want their best irons to start on the odd holes of the Foursomes sessions. They feature the variety that is essential to irresistible golf: two southern courses and two northern courses, and they range from medium-long-short-long respectively in length.

The new rear short holes look great. The 143-yard 12th wiggles a right back green finger that seems almost too small to be fair, especially in any type of wind. Hole 17 is aptly called the “pinched nerve”. There, a typically cheeky ‘volcano’ of Pete Dye sand erupts from the landscape made to obscure the front third of the green, making the putting surface appear much smaller than it already does at over 220 yards.

The long two-shotters at Whistling Straits are Nos. 4, 8, 15 and 18, with the 11e reduced from a par 5 of 600 yards to a par 4. descent to 8) in order to find the greens in regulation. Being the first to strike here will give you the opportunity to put extra pressure on an opponent.

The 15the and 18e bookends one of golf’s most demanding four-hole finishes. Both can play over 500 yards, and while focusing on the narrow fairway and the green in the middle of a panoramic view will be the challenge of the former, for matches that go far, the closing hole will be a cauldron of pressure, with the slanted cross – a layered green in a wide amphitheater over 200 yards, on meanders of Sevenmile Creek and plenty of sand, where even the best tee shots are likely to end. If the Ryder Cup were to come down to a final game on the 18th, the moments surrounding the approach shots would be some of the most dramatic in golf history, with all credit going to Pete Dye for setting the stage.

Best Eagle Opportunity

The three par 5s should be accessible, but No 5, with its zigzagging fairway, has the greatest potential for fireworks. The longest hitters in the field can cut up to 100 yards, seemingly aiming incredibly far off the tee, as Bubba Watson did in the 2015 PGA Championship. After the heroic carry, Watson had just a corner in the green. at the edge of the pond.

The greatest potential for disaster

A capricious tee shot on any hole in Whistling Strait can result in a pickup, but the par-3 7e stands out because of certain historical histrionics. In 2015, John Daly threw three shots into Lake Michigan, then placed a club next to them for good measure.

Whistling Straits Golf Course to host 2020 Ryder Cup

Best match-flip hole

Par 4 13e the hole should be decisive in several matches. It’s short and delicate, with a green sitting well below the landing zone and a drop into oblivion at its right edge. It seems inevitable that someone will sail to this point, only to make a critical error that allows their opponent to come back into a match.

Whistling Strait Pictures

Most underrated hole

Guests at the resort are likely ignoring it as it’s the first hole away from Lake Michigan, but No. 9 is a solid mid-length par 4 with a small green. If the hole is cut on the small domed front section, it will look like it is sitting on the roof of a Mini Cooper. It will also be the players’ first glimpse of the huge bowl that encompasses the last greens on every nine, getting them to think about the potential scene if they turn 18.

Whistling Strait Pictures

“The sandbox”

Any pit with such a name deserves special recognition. Although that shouldn’t come into play with the 11e being shortened to a par 4, every approach shot will be hit by players gazing at this 12-foot-deep, 65-yard-long giant coffin, surrounded by railroad ties. It’s Pete Dye unleashed.

Whistling Straits Golf Course to host 2020 Ryder Cup

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