And with very few trees.
“Mr. Kohler’s vision was to make it look wild and unkempt, with bunkers that seemed as if they had been formed over hundreds of years by the wind and weather,” says
Steve Friedlander, who served as PGA director of golf at Whistling Straits until 2006.
Top: The slated-rough and stone exterior of Whistling Straits’ clubhouse adds to the authentic links feel of the facility. Above: Pete Dye (left) with Kohler Co. Chairman and CEO Herb Kohler.
In the Beginning
Dye got started by moving a lot of earth to
give the unvarying property the ethos and
undulations of an Irish links. That meant
bringing in some 13,000 truckloads of sand
from a pit 10 miles away and using it to
construct more than 500 bunkers and form
the towering dunes and devilish
depressions Kohler wanted. “There was a
lot of dirt moved,” says architect Tim Liddy,
who helped Dye lay out the new course.
“And that made the project pretty complex,
because there is so much work involved in
that type of construction. You just are
doing so much to the land, working it and
working it until you get it right.”
Liddy recalls how the routing for the
Straits course took shape as the bunkers
and dunes were being built. “Pete took a
scorecard from one of the Blackwolf Run
courses and then laid out a potential
routing for the new layout on the back of
that,” he says. “He was looking at how
many holes would be on the water, how
much variety there would be between shots
requiring draws and cuts. Then I’d make
plans from those, recording Pete’s thoughts
as if I was a draftsman.”
And Dye’s thoughts were fairly cut and
62 THE OFFICIAL PROGRAM OF THE 2010 PGA CHAMPIONSHIP
dry. “I was looking to create a good balance
of golf,” the Hall of Fame designer says.
“Balance between the par 4s and par 5s,
balance between the way different holes
looked and played off the tees, playing shots
in different directions and taking good
advantage of the conditions that lakeside
land gave us.”
Create is a good word to use in this case,
because that truly is what Pete Dye did
with Whistling Straits. “He took nothing
and turned it into something very, very
special,” says Friedlander.
The finished product opened for play on July 6, 1998, the day of the 18-hole playoff for the U.S. Women’s Open at Blackwolf Run just down the road. Players that day included former President George H. W. Bush, singer Amy Grant and PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem. The par- 72 course that measured more than 7,300 yards from the tips had just the linksy feel Kohler wanted.
Bringing Coastal Ireland to
And the sense of being in Ireland was further enhanced by the slate-roofed clubhouse he had built there, with the rubble stones used for the exterior turned around so the rougher parts were showing on the outside, giving it a more authentic, aged look. The fescue fairways and rough also harkened to golf in that ancient land, as did a walking-only policy and the introduction of a herd of black-faced sheep that roamed the property.
Golfers could admire seemingly endless expanses of Lake Michigan from every hole, with eight of them actually hugging the shoreline and offering views as compelling as the course design. Wind frequently buffeted the layout, providing plenty of shot-making challenges for players as well as untold variety in the way it played, and temperatures ranged as much as 20 degrees on any given day. In fact, adverse weather conditions were such a signature feature that it induced Kohler to give the track its name – Whistling Straits – after he was walking among the bluffs and dunes there one particularly blustery day.
The Straits course received rave reviews from the very beginning, and understandably so. For one thing, it boasts what may well be the finest collection of par 3s ever assembled on a single track. It’s beautiful, too, with dramatically sculpted dunes and