Golf ranking lists are as prevalent as the latest swing tip guaranteed to change your game. We’ve all seen rankings for the best public, resort, casino and even university courses in every major golf publication. These checklists drive debates and when looked at in totality, create a who’s who ledger of golf properties throughout the world.
But of all the rankings available, the one I give the most credence to is Golf Digest’s Annual Buddies List, a collection of golf-rich destinations sure to provide your traveling golf group a memorable experience. According to the list, Lake Geneva ranks as the no. 24 finest buddies golf destination in the nation, going head-to-head against such notables as Las Vegas (no. 19), Hilton Head Island (no. 21) and even besting the greater Chicago area (no. 26).
Lake Geneva’s high ranking is a head-turner for sure, as oftentimes small cities never receive their proper due when stacked up against warm-weather metro areas. This phenomenon can be likened to forgetting to be a tourist in your own town even though thousands of people visit an attraction that’s right in your backyard.
So the next logical question to ask is how does a city of only 8,000 full-time residents crack the top-25 golf buddies destination list when it is a good hour from any large metropolitan destination? To begin with, it starts with the fact that Lake Geneva is home to a trio of the finest multi-course properties in the Midwest: Geneva National Resort, Grand Geneva resort and Hawk’s View Golf Course. Combine that with single course gems such as Abbey Springs and Majestic Oaks Golf Course at Lake Lawn Resort, and it’s no wonder Lake Geneva boasts a lineup that’s hard to beat.
Jesse Seykora, Geneva National’s Director of Sales and Marketing, offers his opinion on why Lake Geneva is so highly thought of by the readers of Golf Digest. “What makes Lake Geneva so noteworthy is the ability to plan a completely different golf itinerary for as many days as you want,” begins Seykora. “As a golfer, you are offered such a variety of courses. You can visit as a beginner and ease your way into the game with the plethora of novice courses in the area. On the other hand, a serious golfer will be continually tested with the numerous world class tracks built by some of the most legendary figures in the game such as Palmer, Player, Trevino, Nicklaus and Dye,” concludes Seykora.
Matt Boesch, head golf professional at Hawk’s View Golf Course, expands upon Seykora’s position. “Another reason that makes Lake Geneva the perfect Midwestern golf destination is the fact that there is a lot more to do than just golf. With a multitude of hotels and resorts located on or near one of the many lakes in this area (including Geneva Lake), the golfing vacationer can take a day or an afternoon away from the links and still have a blast. …And in my opinion, maybe just as important as the quality of the courses, is the service and hospitality in Lake Geneva. The friendly Wisconsinite staffs have a genuine pleasantness and enthusiasm to serve that I have not seen in any other part of the country,” states Boesch.
So with all those pleasantries aside, let’s look at Lake Geneva’s golf scorecard and what the traveling golfer can expect when visiting this palatial destination.
Geneva National Resort
Geneva National Resort is home to a collection of arguably the most iconic signature courses in the Midwest, let alone Lake Geneva. Three 18-hole championship layouts grace the 1,600-acre property, one each designed by Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Lee Trevino. Another facet that makes Geneva National Resort so unique is the fact it’s both a private and public facility at the same time. Having a three course rotation allows members to always have one private course while the public is allowed to play the other two on any given day.
A buddies trip just became more memorable thanks to Geneva National Resort’s acquisition of the nearby Geneva Ridge Resort (now known as The Ridge) and the Inns of Geneva National in 2013. the 146-room resort, which overlooks the Palmer Course from high above Lake Como, is the perfect complement to GNR as now guests will be able to take advantage of an all-inclusive Stay and Play experience. “The opening of Geneva Ridge places us into a completely new category,” says Geneva National Resort owner Garth Chambers. “Coupled with our acquisition of the Inns of Geneva National, it puts us among the leading resorts in this region.”
Grand Geneva Resort & Spa
The 1,310-acre facility is highlighted by two stunning designs, the Brute and the Highlands. In fact, the Highlands is the only course in the state to be co-designed by Pete Dye and Jack Nicklaus and is a tribute to the great inland links-style courses of Scotland. The 600-plus room resort was renovated in 2010 and is replete with a full-service spa, five on-site restaurants and their adjacent Timber Ridge Lodge and Waterpark.
“In my opinion, our property sets itself apart from our competition with service, course conditions and history,” explains Kyle Kunash, head golf pro at the resort. “Our staff is known for going above and beyond to create a grand experience. Our grounds crew does a great job not only keeping the courses perfectly manicured but the entire property as well. The history of this property speaks for itself, originally designed as the Playboy Club, we have many guests that come back to our property with great stories and memories. It is our job to create new experiences and memories that will last.”
Hawk’s View Golf Club
The final multi-course property of excellence is Hawk’s View, located just north of downtown Lake Geneva off Highway 120. Opened to the public in 2001, Hawk’s View utilizes all of its 312 acres to create a breathtaking experience for the novice to the Tour Pro alike. Matt Boesch, head golf professional, explains what sets his property apart from the competition. “We are so blessed to be equipped with two distinctly different 18-hole courses; Hawk’s View has something for everyone. Como Crossings, our five-star rated championship course named for Como Creek that meanders through the course, boasts tremendous changes in elevation, including two par-3 holes with 100 feet of drop from tee to green,” states Boesch.
Hawk’s View’s other course, Barn Hollow, is a unique 18-hole, par-3 course that is named for the abandoned nostalgic barn that overlooks the course. “Don’t let the term par-3 fool you into preconceived notions,” begins Boesch. “Built at the same time and with the same standards as its big brother, Barn Hollow is one of the best par-3 courses anyone will ever play. With yardages ranging from 106 to 222 yards, you’ll use just about every club in the bag.”
This article originally appeared in the 2015 spring/summer issue of Experience Wisconsin magazine. The contents of this article were checked for accuracy when it was published; however, it’s possible some of the information has changed. We recommend you call first if you have specific questions for the destinations, attractions or restaurants mentioned in this article.
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