The Wisconsin Dells has been "the" upper Midwest family getaway spot for nearly 150 years. Here you'll find fishing, hiking, boating, camping, water-skiing shows, "Duck Boat" tours, zip-lining, amusement parks, casinos and mini-golf, among other attractions.
But only relatively recently has real golf factored into the plethora of recreational diversions available here. As such, options for visitors looking to tee it up in The Dells are somewhat narrow, but the quality is nevertheless top-notch.
Three Dells-area courses in particular stand up to even the most discerning tastes and accomplished players. Golfers visiting The Dells could rotate through this outstanding trifecta several times and never get bored.
Best of the Dells: Wild Rock Golf Club
Wild Rock Golf Club is located on the grounds of the sprawling Wilderness Territory Resort. This 7,414-yard Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry design opened in 2008 and was immediately recognized as one of the best in the state.
The course was laid out to take advantage of the area's rolling hills, plentiful water, limestone bluffs and outcroppings. It is an artful blend of resort-style forgiveness -- with wide fairways and easy-to-read greens along with a multitude of fairway bunkers and ever-present woods, grasslands and water hazards. You won't lose a lot of balls, but you'll need accuracy and some power to score well. With at least five tee boxes on every hole, golfers of all skill levels can be assured of an enjoyable yet memorable round.
As a bonus, the Woods Family Course at Wild Rock Golf Club offers nine player-friendly holes perfect for golfers of all ages. Afterwards, head to the seemingly endless outdoor or indoor waterparks at the Wilderness Territory Resort.
Best of the Dells: Northern Bay Golf Resort
Northern Bay Golf Resort sits about 30 minutes from the center of the Wisconsin Dells, in what is referred to as the Upper Dells. Here you'll find a truly memorable and completely unexpected course that consists of seven replica holes and 11 original -- and equally beautiful -- holes.
The 7,223-yard track at Northern Bay was laid out by Matt Mootz and Tour 18, which is a Houston operation specializing in replica holes and courses.
The first replica hole is the 170-yard third, which mimics the famed 16th at Augusta National. The 10th hole is a spot-on replica of the infamous 132-yard 17th on the Players Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, with its island green.
The other replica holes fit nicely into the tasty, meaty smorgasbord that is Northern Bay: the 465-yard fourth (no. 5 at Oakland Hills Golf Club), 625-yard sixth (no. 16 at Firestone Country Club), 510-yard 11th (no. 13 at Augusta), 433-yard 12th (no. 3 at Oakmont Country Club), and the 462-yard 18th (no. 18 at Bay Hills Golf Club). These last two are my favorites, but to be honest, I would put the course's own 543-yard eighth, 401-yard 13th and 641-yard 15th up against them any day.
The resort itself includes rental cabins and condos, along with arguably the best marina in the area.
Best of the Dells: Trappers Turn Golf Club
In 1991 Trappers Turn opened as the first real championship golf course in The Dells. Now owned and operated by the Kalahari Resort, Trappers Turn offers 27 meticulously groomed holes of golf designed by Andy North and Roger Packard.
The bucolic topography of The Dells makes for a pleasing assortment of golf holes, with about one-third of them linksy, one-third water-lined, and one-third heavily wooded. The three nines -- the Canyon, Lake, and Arbor -- can be played in any combination, but whichever you choose, yardages will be just less than 7,000 from the tips and around 6,500 from the blues.
On all three nines, you'll find plenty of water, many opportunities to work the ball in both directions and a few forced carries that will challenge club selection. Take a few extra sleeves of balls along and enjoy the beautifully landscaped grounds. After your round, head into the The Mystic restaurant in the clubhouse, which is one of the better dining experiences in The Dells.