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Hidden Gem of the Day: Mascoutin Golf Club in Berlin, Wisconsin

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These aren’t the traditional “top-100” golf courses in America, or the ultra-private golf clubs you can’t get onto. These are the hidden gems; they’re accessible to the public, they cost less than $50, but they’re unique, beautiful and fun to play in their own right. We recently asked our GolfWRX Members to help us find these “hidden gems.” We’re treating this as a bucket list of golf courses to play across the country, and the world. If you have a personal favorite hidden gem, submit it here!

Today’s Hidden Gem of the Day was submitted by GolfWRX member rich s, who takes us to Mascoutin Golf Club in Berlin, Wisconsin. The course features 27 holes, and in his excellent description of the track, rich s praises the challenge the course provides, as well as the exciting wildlife that you can expect to see should you visit.

“Mascoutin is not a long course but is very challenging. Narrow fairways, tree-lined and sloping greens make it tough to put up a good score. It has 27 holes, and people from all over the country come to play the blue nine. The course is always in immaculate shape, and the greens roll perfectly. Its only about 10 minutes from Lawsonia so makes for a perfect addition to anyone going to play the links.

Course is by a small town and rarely busy. I could count on one hand the amount of times I actually had to wait to hit. Staff is always friendly and willing to help. Always have nice carts and seeing deer, bald eagles, turkeys and hawks are quite common during your round.  They also have an awesome junior program for growing the game. If you are coming to Wisconsin to play, this is a true gem for under $50.”

According to Mascoutin Golf Club’s website, 18 holes midweek costs $48, while the rate rises to $53 on the weekend, with both prices including carts. Twenty-seven holes will set you back $69.

Check out the full forum thread here, and submit your Hidden Gem.

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Gianni is a freelance writer. He holds a Bachelor of Arts as well as a Diploma in Sports Journalism. He can be contacted at gmagliocco@outlook.com. Follow him on Twitter @giancarlomag

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  1. Kurt Krueger

    Dec 4, 2018 at 1:06 pm

    Tom & Kalynn Dolby run a great program here. Classic parkland golf for 18 plus the interesting blue 9 make this a fun golf experience.

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Courses

Say it, Jim Nantz: “A golf destination like no other”

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Millions-year-old limestone formations were integrated into the design at Mountain Top Golf Course near Branson, Missouri. The new course was designed by Gary Player in tandem with Bass Pros Shops Founder Johnny Morris.

Maybe it was while hitting to greens surrounded by stunning millions-year-old exposed limestone at Mountain Top Course.

Or it could have been when sipping a tequila concoction while riding my golf cart past underground waterfalls on the Lost Canyon Cave and Nature Trail, an unexpected mind-blower included with my greens fee at the adjacent Jack Nicklaus-designed Top of the Rock Golf Course.

No, I’m certain it came as I stood by the rustic-yet-luxury cabin at Big Cedar Lodge where I was attending the PGA TOUR Champions Bass Pro Legends of Golf. Waiting for a shuttle bus to the resort, I looked up from my mobile phone as a vehicle approached slowly on the narrow roads that wind throughout the property. Expecting it to be my ride, instead I see World Golf Hall of Famer Gary Player peering at me from the passenger seat of an SUV. He tips his hat to me and smiles, a first-class gesture from perhaps the game’s most renowned gentleman.

cavern, cave, golf course, geology, waterfalls

A view from inside the Lost Canyon Cave and Nature Trail, admission to which comes with your greens fee at Top of the Rock Golf Course.

It’s not easy to pinpoint precisely when I knew I was in a truly unique golf place. But it didn’t take long as one first-of-its-kind experience followed another. Moreover, there are approximately 17,500 courses in North America, but only one place where they’re coming online so fast and so distinctly. The burgeoning golf development in the Branson area features a who’s who of golf legends and course designers, including Tiger Woods, Nicklaus, Player, Tom Fazio and Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw.

The geological theme runs through the area golf product, thanks in part to Bass Pro Shops Founder Johnny Morris, who is building many courses as amenities of his Big Cedar Lodge. Mountain Top joins Top of the Rock and Buffalo Ridge Springs Golf Course with geology and conservation inspiration illuminating the Missouri Ozarks’ natural gifts. Buffalo graze adjacent to the latter course, and Top of the Rock sits perched high above the expansive, pristine Table Rock Lake. The course clubhouse includes 150-year-old wood beams transported from a barn in Arnold Palmer’s hometown in Latrobe, Pa. (Palmer designed the mind-boggling all-synthetic-turf driving range, and he and Morris became good friends.)

lake branson big cedar lodge

Top of the Rock Golf Course overlooks Table Rock Lake, and its clubhouse (“Arnie’s Barn”) includes 150-year-old wood beams from a barn in Latrobe, Pa.

Two new courses will open in 2019 and 2020 – Ozarks National and Payne’s Valley – both highly anticipated because the former will be played along with Top of the Rock in the Legends of Golf tourney taking place this week (Friday-Sunday), and the latter is authored by Tiger Woods and his golf architecture firm, TGR Design. It is Woods’ first ever public course – and includes a spectacular 19th hole with remarkable stone outcroppings and waterfalls – bringing to five the number of new courses that will have recently opened in the destination. That’s supersonic speed compared to the turtle’s pace that is post-recession golf course development worldwide.

Designed by Coore and Crenshaw, Ozarks National opens to the public on April 29, a day after of the Legends of Golf concludes. You can be among the first folks ever to see the course by watching Golf Channel’s coverage of the Legends of Golf on Friday through Sunday. If you tune in, you’ll see a course lovingly integrated into Morris’ beloved Ozarks (he hails from nearby Springfield). He’s spent most of his live extolling the area’s natural virtues, and he’s gone to great lengths to preserve and illuminate them.

Golf Course, Big Cedar Golf, Branson, Missouri

Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw’s Ozarks National Golf Course will open to the public on Monday, April 29, one day after the Bass Pro Legends of Golf PGA TOUR Champions event concludes.

If you’re looking for a different kind of place for your next golf trip, you might consider this Ozarks oasis in Southwest Missouri. The grandeur of the setting and the world-class golf courses will astound. But don’t take my word for it. Watch this video clip and image Jim Nantz cooing about the grace and beauty of this inimitable golf place.

Big Cedar Lodge’s Mountain Top golf course April 2018 from Bass Pro Shops Video Productions on Vimeo.

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Courses

The Harding Park experience

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When you turn onto the road that leads to the clubhouse at TPC Harding Park, it doesn’t take long for your eyes to focus on the 18th hole. The road winds between the par-3 17th green on your right and the back tees of the 18th on your left, presenting a direct view down the beautifully doglegged left finishing fairway. And if you weren’t already excited about your upcoming round, this ought to do the trick.

TPC Harding Park is San Francisco’s top public track. It was opened in 1925 and was designed by Willie Watson, who also is responsible for the nearby Lake Course at Olympic Club. And Harding Park has already been pegged to host the 2020 PGA Championship, which will only be the second time a municipally owned golf course will host the PGA. And even though the event is over a year away, the facilities are already being prepared for the major.

The clubhouse itself is impressive for a municipal layout; two stories with an event space on the second floor, the layout runs parallel with the 18th fairway, allowing for great views of the back dining patio and balcony. They already have it decorated in anticipation or the PGA Championship with large wallpaper photos of the Wanamaker Trophy, which gives off a serious feeling of legitimacy in the clubhouse entryway. The Cypress Grill, which comes with a full bar, is finished with a full wall of glass overlooking both the final hole and Lake Merced. It was packed at lunch on a Friday when I played…and not just crowded with golfers. The food and view must be good enough to attract regular patrons.

The pro shop is a nice size and the members of the staff were incredibly welcoming and friendly. Most of the apparel was Nike, Adidas and Under Armour but there were a few smaller brands as well. FootJoy was also present and the course’s logo on shirts and hats alternated between the traditional Harding Park logo with the lone tree and the PGA Harding Park logo. There is, of course, already 2020 PGA Championship gear for sale as well.

The course offers carts and pushcarts for rent, but if you do decide to ride, the course is cart path only year round. Rates range from $49-$188 depending on the day and if you are a San Francisco or Bay Area resident.

As you can imagine, Harding Park gets a substantial amount of play, being a first-rate daily fee in a highly populated city. My buddy and I opted to walk as we both believe that’s the best way to experience a course for the first time.

The bad weather earlier this year had left the driving range in disrepair. It was closed during my visit but they are planning to turn that area into a pavilion space for the PGA Championship anyway. Harding Park also has a short course called The Fleming 9 which weaves in between the holes of the Harding 18. That Fleming 9 space will be used as the professionals’ range during the major event.

The course conditions were top quality, especially for a daily fee course with so much traffic. The only real complaint from my group was the presence of so many ball marks on the greens. This can be expected from a course with that number of daily golfers added to the wet conditions of a place like San Francisco. I would imagine that the greens would run much smoother as we get closer to the 2020 PGA. Still, this was nit-picking; the greens were not in bad shape at all.

   

The first thirteen holes at Harding Park are good but don’t rise to the level of “great.” A friendly starter helps maintain pace of play off number one, a slightly right bending par four. The second hole is much like the first, which was a theme of the first 13. Looking back on my round, it’s tough for me to differentiate between each of the first 13 holes. Every hole was really solid, but not exactly unique, with the exception of number 4 and number 10, both fun par 5’s with some character.

Harding Park plays at 6,845 yards from the blue tees, which were the back tees on the day I played. There is a championship tee box that plays at 7169 but they were not set up for us. I would imagine that they’d be willing to do so with a special request. I heard the course is even better from back there. I was told that they will be working to lengthen some of the holes in anticipation of the 2020 PGA.

Along those lines, we were also treated with a special view of what the course will look like for the major next year. The PGA had been out to the course the week prior to my visit and had staked out each fairway with little red flags denoting where they want the first cut of rough to reach. On most holes, these flags were five-to-10 paces inside of where the rough currently was being cut, which showed us exactly how tiny these fairways will be for the pros. It was amazing to see some of the narrow landing spots these guys will be aiming for in a year.

As you walk off the 13th green, the course turns one final time back towards the clubhouse. And though I didn’t realize it at the time, you are about to play five incredible holes in a row to close out your round. The teebox on 14 is snuggled up next to the lake but elevated enough to give you a tremendous view of the water below and Olympic Club Golf Course across the way. The hole in front of you is a 440-yard par 4 that steadily climbs uphill with a gently slanting fairway to the left, pushing landing drives towards the water. As I stood over my approach shot, I looked around and then wrote “best hole so far” down on my scorecard. That was true. Until the next hole.

The 15th and 16th holes both follow the same blueprint: fairway bunkers at the elbow of the dogleg, grabbing the longer drives and forcing a club selection decision off the tee. The lake is still running along the left side of each fairway, giving a completely different feel to these holes than you had on the course’s first 13. At only 330 yards, hole 16 plays much shorter than the previous two lake-side par 4s. But the green slopes enough to make you nervous on your putts and keeps the hole from being an easy birdie. Honestly, after these holes were behind me, I took a moment to look back down the fairway and appreciate how good these holes were.

Hole 17 is a 175-yard par 3 that was playing much longer with a solid wind in our faces. The green is positioned near the entrance into Harding Park and, as I previously mentioned, one of the first views of the course you get as you arrive. The green is slightly elevated and protected by two bunkers in front. It requires a long and accurate tee shot, which is difficult because the 18th hole looms large to the right of the green. And once you finish on 17, it’s just a short walk over to the 18th tee.

The final hole is Harding Park’s most special. A 440-yard par 4, the tee shot requires a carry over the lake to a dogleg left fairway. The longer hitters can take a more aggressive line over the trees to cut off a substantial amount of distance. And by longer hitters, I mean guys like Tiger Woods and John Daly.

The fairway is picturesque. 18 is one of those holes that you want to take your time on. It just has a different feeling. The green is slightly elevated, providing amazing views of the clubhouse and Lake Merced. It is the perfect finishing par 4, giving you everything you could possibly want in a golf hole: strategy, challenge, and beauty all wrapped into one. And then it leaves you feeling grateful for having decided to play Harding Park.

 

 

 

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Courses

No. 12 at Augusta National: The Golden Bell tolls for Koepka, Molinari

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On Sunday, Tiger Woods accomplished what many thought he could never do by winning another major championship, the 2019 Masters. In collecting his fifth green jacket, Tiger added a new luster to what was already a brilliant legacy. Woods overcame unusual start times, difficult conditions and a generation of young golf warriors that he helped to create. And like every champion before him, Woods had to contend with holes 11 through 13 on Sunday, the beautiful beast nicknamed Amen Corner by the great golf writer Herbert Warren Wind.

Of the three holes, it seems that 12 is the one that has drowned more hopes and dreams in the creek that winds through the terrible trio than either of the other two. Arnold Palmer made six on Sunday in 1959 on the way to losing to Art Wall by two. Tom Weiskopf made a mind-boggling 13 in 1980. Greg Norman had a double bogey during his Sunday collapse in 1986. And there’s Jordan Speith’s quadruple bogey in 2016, which some think he has still not recovered from. Through the generations, the hole named Golden Bell has sounded a death knell for many a would-be champion.

This week, I had the opportunity to walk the back nine at Augusta National with Robert Trent Jones, Jr. Jones is an acclaimed golf course designer in his own right but he is also the son of the legendary Robert Trent Jones, the man who designed the second nine at Augusta National as we know it today and therefore shaped history and the outcome of so many Sundays for so many players.

As we walked along the holes Jones described the changes both dramatic and subtle that his father had made in 1948 to shape the second nine, and I came to a greater understanding of why the stretch is so special. The second nine was deliberately crafted as the ultimate offer of risk/reward. It was designed to create heroes and tragic figures of epic proportions. As we got to the tee box at number 12, Mr. Jones’ well-known face (as well as the microphone I was holding in front of it) caused a crowd together around us as he described what his father had done with the most famous par three in golf.

Jones pointed out how the wide, narrow green on the 12th follows the path of Rae’s Creek which runs in front of it.

“It appears that the creek and the green are running almost perpendicular to the tee box at 12, but the right side of the green is actually significantly further away from the golfer than the left side. This is critical when it comes to playing the Sunday hole location on the right side of the green. Because of the way the hole is framed by water and bunkers, the golfer is deceived into either selecting the wrong club or taking a half swing, which often leads to a shot into the water.”

Jones’s words proved prophetic, as Brooks Koepka and Francisco Molinari made watery double bogeys that doomed their championship hopes. Woods, on the other hand, made par on 12, providing the spark that eventually led to his victory. How did Woods negotiate the 12th?

Again, RTJII shared his crystal ball. “Jack Nicklaus played the 12th better than anyone because he always played to the middle of the green,” noted Jones. “Jack felt that whether the pin was on the right or the left, a shot over the front bunker to the center of the green would take a big number out of play and maybe leave an opportunity for a birdie.”

Sure enough, on Sunday while pretenders to the throne went pin seeking with either the wrong club or ill-advised half swings, Woods channeled his inner Nicklaus, hitting a full-swing 9-iron with conviction to the middle of the green and safely two-putting. It was at once humble and heroic. It was the thing that heroes and champions do: survive demons in order to slay dragons. The moment his tee shot on 12 landed safely was the moment that I, and many others, knew in our hearts that Tiger Woods was, in fact, going to win again at Augusta. It is a singular accomplishment, made possible by his combination of wisdom and nerve at number 12 on Sunday. Amen, indeed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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