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golf guide

For serious golfers, The Bull may be Wisconsin’s finest challenge


IF Jack Nicklaus’s signature on a golf course doesn’t mean anything to you, perhaps you should stop reading now. If it does however, please take note. The Bull at Pinehurst Farms in Sheboygan Falls – Wisconsin’s only Jack Nicklaus Signature Course – could very well be the state’s finest challenge for the serious golfer.

While I haven’t played every course in the state, I have played what are considered to be some of its most demanding, including Whistling Straits and Erin Hills, and the Bull is definitely the toughest.

That doesn’t mean it’s impossible. If you don’t let your ego get in the way and you play within your game from the appropriate tee (five sets of tees ranging from 5,100 to 7,400 yards), you can walk to the 19th hole feeling like a pro. And it also doesn’t mean that it isn’t fun. In fact, this course is a riot for someone who likes to think their way around a course. The key at the Bull is accuracy. A bit of brawn helps as well, but, for the most part, it’s all about hitting to the right spot.

The course has everything that Whistling Straits and Erin Hills have, and a couple things they don’t, like trees…and plenty of them. Trees change a golfer’s mindset. Without them, you tend to be more relaxed and swing freer. At the Bull, the landing areas on the tree-laden holes (#s 5, 6, 7 & 16) are somewhat narrow and assuredly will tighten things up a little, if you know what I mean.

Then there is water. Except for hole #s 5 & 18 at the Straits, there is no water there or at Erin Hills. (OK, the Straits has Lake Michigan, but you have to be a pretty big duffer to hit one in the Lake. You have to want to; even then it’s difficult.) The Bull has water on #s 2, 3, 8, 10, 11, 14, 15 & 18, and, trust me, it comes into play.

The one thing you don’t need at the Bull is a loan officer to play. Peak season rate is $135, but there are plenty of specials during the season. When I played on June 30, the rate was $50! Also, it won’t take you 5+ hours to play. The average at Erin Hills – even for the best golfers – is over five hours because of the distances between holes. Our foursome teed off at about 8:30 and we were enjoying the view from the clubhouse bar before 12:30.

Every hole is magnificent at the Bull…not a slouch in the bunch. In my estimation, the most challenging are #s 5, 16 & 18.

Number 5 is a par 4 (436 yards from the back tees) dogleg left. The tee shot is through a narrow chute of trees, after which you must clear a ravine with the green perched on the far edge.

Number 16 is an uphill par 4 dogleg left (425 yards from the backs). After an accurate… extremely accurate…tee shot, the second is through another chute of trees to a small, bunker-surrounded green just over a ravine.

And then there’s #18, a long par 4 (485 yards from the backs). The tee shot is all carry over a lake. That’s the easy part. The second shot is to a wide, shallow green (only the flag is visible) situated just over a marsh. For mere mortals like myself, play your second to the left of the
green and then pitch on and hope you can one putt.

The Bull – located about 50 miles due north of downtown Milwaukee – may not have the marketing muscle or the glitzy website of courses like the Straits or Erin Hills. Plus, it hasn’t hosted any major USGA or PGA events. But if you don’t play it, you’re missing out on one of golf’s gems in a state that is becoming an international golf mecca.

Once this Bear Trap sticks its claws in you, it’ll never let go. And I can guarantee you’ll enjoy every shot.

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