WITH ITS WINDSWEPT SAND DUNES, NATIVE grasses and stately stone bridges, the Straits course at Whistling Straits looks as if it has been perched on the edge of Lake Michigan for centuries. That makes it difficult to remember that the course was only six years old when it hosted the 2004 PGA Championship – a remarkably young age to host a major championship, even for such a precocious property.
Time, and a few tweaks from Pete Dye, have brought subtle improvements to Whistling Straits
By Don Jozwiak
Pick your spots: Pete Dye’s design provides
several risk-reward options. Choosing the
right times to go for it means evaluating
the wind, your score and your game on the
Keys for playing
According to PGA Head Professional Mike O'Reilly:
Trust the yardage: On many holes, there are few visual references to help frame shots to the green. Players who are used to playing by feel will need to rely on their caddies and their yardage books to dial in the right distances.
Be flexible: Each approach shot has a distinct strategy. Some holes require a shot that flies all the way to the flag, while others demand a running approach.
Fine-tune your short game: The Straits course has large greens, but be ready to scramble when you miss one. From shaved collection areas to native grass rough, shots around the green will be played with everything from bumped hybrids to 64- degree lob wedges.
Don’t get blown away: The wind along the shore blows constantly, but not always from the same direction. In August, the wind has been known to shift as many as four times in a day.
Now a sturdy 12-year-old, the Straits course faces golf’s strongest field this week with added maturity and a few new touches that will add to the options and challenge presented by Pete Dye’s layout. The maturity will be seen in the way the greens roll – the more mature root systems of the grass mean it can be cut closer for quicker speeds.
Meanwhile, Dye returned to Kohler and tweaked his links-inspired original design in ways both subtle and spectacular. The subtle changes include a handful of new tee boxes to provide course setup flexibility in different weather conditions, firmer areas in front of some greens that will allow for bump-and-run approach shots, as well as new chipping areas around the third and sixth greens.
More noticeable and notable is the
addition of a second fairway to the
left of the creek that runs through the
18th hole. The 500-yard par- 4 hole
now presents a pair of options for
competitors off the tee. If a player is
trying to preserve a slim lead, he may
choose to play to the fairway to the
right of the river – an easier fairway to
hit, but a strategy that leaves a longer
approach shot. Conversely, a player
needing to make up a stroke can go
for birdie by trying to fly a drive 300
yards over a series of bunkers to the
new left fair way, leaving a
dramatically shorter approach shot.
THE OFFICIAL PROGRAM OF THE 2010 PGA CHAMPIONSHIP