With the 2017 U.S. Open in the rear view mirror, more and more golfers will be trekking to Wisconsin eager to explore the state's golf offerings.
Most of them will point their cars toward Hartford, 40 miles northwest of Milwaukee, to play the host Erin Hills before making a beeline toward Kohler and The American Club, the posh resort on Lake Michigan home to four spectacular Pete Dye courses an hour north of the city.
For the rest of us, the big green fees to play courses that host major championships are not in the budget. It costs $225 to walk Erin Hills (that doesn't include another $80 for the caddie and his tip). The Whistling Straits and Blackwolf Run courses at the American Club are even pricier.
Fear not, because cost-conscious golfers can still play some outstanding golf near Milwaukee over three days for less than $200 during Wisconsin's peak summer season. The formula is tried and true: Mix a little muni golf with a walking round and twilight golf and voila!
The first stop is a choice between the Dretzka Golf Course and Oakwood Park Golf Course, considered two of the best in the 15-course Milwaukee County Parks System. They cost a mere $34 to walk. Water crosses 12 holes of the 6,838-yard Dretzka, located in Milwaukee. Oakwood Park in Franklin is the longest county course at 7,074 yards.
Consider that first round a warm-up for one of the country's best municipal courses, Brown Deer Park, host of the PGA Tour's Milwaukee stop from 1994-2009. Tiger Woods launched his PGA Tour career at the 6,759-yard course, while others kept theirs alive. Veterans Scott Hoch, Jeff Sluman, Loren Roberts and Carlos Franco each won twice on the narrow, tree-lined track. A walk through these woods costs $74 any day of the week.
With a Benjamin (give or take a couple bucks) left in our pockets, it's time to go upscale. There are two great choices north of the city. Arnold Palmer's The Bog in Saulkville is known for fast greens and superior conditioning. The 7,221-yard course has hosted multiple tournaments and state championships since opening in 1995. The cheapest rate of $79 in summer can be had Mondays (all day from 10 a.m.-6 p.m.) and during weekday early bird and twilight tee times. Check the club's Web site for other options as well.
If you don't mind the longer drive and the pain you'll feel being so close to Kohler, The Bull at Pinehurst Farms in Sheboygan Falls will add a bucket-list appeal to the trip. Golf Digest ranked the Jack Nicklaus design no. 77 among America's 100 Greatest Public Courses for 2013-14. It should be renamed "The Beast at Pinehurst Farms." Nicklaus gets nasty, requiring constant carries over cross hazards, wetlands and water. Once mid-June hits and the $135 rack rate kicks in, the only way to afford a midweek tee time is before 8 a.m. ($90) or after 2 p.m. ($95).
An added bonus of playing The Bull is the chance to stop at the beautiful beaches of Sheboygan before or after the round. With the soft sand and views that stretch for miles, Lake Michigan will feel more like an ocean than a Great Lake. Try playing golf on courses the caliber of The Bull, The Bog and Brown Deer Park in California or Florida for less than $200. Yeah, right.