Crooked Stick is a delightful pilgrimage for any fan of Pete Dye’s designs. It’s not as visually intimidating as many of his other designs (Whistling Straits, Kampen, The Ocean Course, to name a few) but mainly because it sits on what otherwise would be a so-so piece of land for a golf course. That said, it is expertly routed; I’d only describe a couple of holes (#1 and #4) as unremarkable.
The course begins with a front nine that’s on a slightly more flat piece of ground, which on the rainy morning I played caused some casual water on the bentgrass fairways. In my opinion, the course truly starts on #6, a pretty par three with Dye’s signature railroad ties. The blind #7 tee shot begins a long stretch of holes where angles created by the architect mess with the player’s head. #8 and #12 in particular stand out in that regard: both are par fours where the optimal tee shot is the side of the fairway closest to the trouble to provide the best angle into the well-protected green complexes. The back nine provides more elevation changes and scenery; when the player stands on the back tee of #11, they are able to see quite a bit of the course around them, which is a pleasant surprise after the somewhat more isolated nature of the holes on the front side. The “dogleg” par three #13 is memorable, as is the huge, banana-shaped green on the par five #15. Sadly, I never played the par three #17 before the very artificial-looking pond was added in place of the deep bunkers, but I have to believe it was a better hole prior to that change; the pond is far too penal a hazard for such a long and narrow green. #18 is a classic finish; I summoned my inner John Daly walking up the fairway at the finish.
All in all, Crooked Stick is a special experience, from the Pro V1 practice balls to the excellently maintained greens which played firm and fast despite all the rain. It’s one I would recommend to anyone who is given the opportunity.
Played August 21, 2018
Date: August 24, 2018