stands of knee-high fescue waving in the breeze. The rolling landscape and rustic clubhouse give it a charming feel, and so does an open-faced shelter behind the ninth green that is built in the style of an Irish hay barn. Then, there are the hundreds of bunkers, which Golf Digest architecture editor Ron Whitten aptly described as looking as if they had been “scattered about like laundry in the aftermath of a tornado.” Only, there is nothing arbitrary about the way Pete Dye works, and every one of those hazards on the Straits has a purpose, whether as an actual physical obstacle or as a visual impediment designed to take a golfer out of his, or her, comfort zone.
Even before he opened his first golf course at Blackwolf Run in 1988, Herb Kohler determined that he wanted to host major championships. He hoped his resort guests would find it a pleasurable place to tee it up, but Kohler also insisted that it be truly challenging for the best golfers in the world. He maintained that mission as Blackwolf Run grew to 36 holes, and also when Whistling Straits came to be.
His reasoning was born primarily from simple business sense. Courses good enough to host majors are generally good enough to induce golfers to travel far and wide to play them. In addition, internationally televised tournaments serve as weeklong advertisements, providing visibility for golf properties that further enhances their stature as it builds demand to play them.
Playing Host to The PGA of
Whistling Straits had been opened a year when it hosted the PGA Professional National Championship in the summer of 1999. Jeff Freeman, a 37-year-old PGA assistant professional from Tamarisk Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif., was the only competitor to break par as he took home the title. And a total of 18,000 spectators per day came to watch. That was about four times the normal amount for the 42-year-old PGA Professional National Championship.
Hosting that event served in many ways as an audition for Whistling Straits. And soon after, Kohler received his coveted major when The PGA of America agreed to hold the 86th PGA Championship there in 2004.
Preparations for the PGA Championship
began almost immediately. “Among other
things, we wanted to make sure we had
enough room for spectator stands,
concession stands and corporate hospitality
tents,” recalls Friedlander. “We bought 250
acres from a neighboring farmer to ensure
we had enough land for parking.”
Kohler and Dye focused on making the
course as challenging as possible by
reducing the total fair way area from 41 acres
to 20 by the time the tournament started.
They also sought to make the Straits —
which is what the original course on the old
Army base had come to be called after Dye
had built a second track on the property,
Top: During the final round of the 2004 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, the crowd gathered around hole 18 to watch the battle for the Wanamaker Trophy. Below: When Jeff Freeman captured the 1999 PGA Professional National Championship at Whistling Straits, he was the only player to break par at 1-under 287.
THE PGA OF AMERICA
THE OFFICIAL PROGRAM OF THE 2010 PGA CHAMPIONSHIP 63