“Limit the number of water hazards to three. Two might be better.” So wrote Donald Ross in his Golf Has Never Failed Me. That said, he needed an exception to prove the rule, and that exception may be Kenosha Country Club, just south of Milwaukee.
The property is defined by the Pike River, a wide creek that splits the grounds. Ross would have faced a significant struggle in routing the course if he had used it fewer times as a hazard, and the result is a distinct take on the architect’s approach.
The river most often comes into play as a detour for those who struggled off of the tee: Those who hit a good first shot on the par five No. 4 or par four No. 16 won’t need to worry much about crossing the creek, but those in the rough may have their time to the putting surface lengthened. That said, there are a few holes that will require uncharacteristically heroic carries to reach the fairway for those playing the back tees.
Those who attempt to generalize Ross’s wide body of work are unwise, and Kenosha is yet another example.
Kenosha CC dates back to 1898. The current manifestation is a 1922 Donald Ross design.
The first hole is a demanding long uphill par 4. Take an extra club on your approach. The 2nd is a slight dogleg left and downhill. On the approach you do have to carry a creek but the green is about 40 yards behind it. The first par 3 is short and uphill. Definitely, hit at least one extra club. A tricky green protected by two bunkers left and two bunkers right. The first par 5 is reachable, but the fairway is bisected by the creek in the landing area. The 6th is an elevated tee to an elevated green. The green appears to be perched on a ledge, however, there is at least twenty yards between the ridge and the green. The short 7th and 8th are two of the easiest holes on the course. The 8th is a long par 3 with a guitar pick shaped green that is protected by two bunkers left and one right. The 9th is a long tough par 4. One of the tightest fairways on the course .
The back starts off with one of the best holes on the course. Dogleg right over the creek, how big is your appetite. The 11th is a ho-hum par 4 with one of the longest and narrowest greens on the course. Pay attention to pin location, there are also long thin bunkers on both sides of the green. The 12th is non-reachable par five, the longest hole on the course. The creek cuts in front and to the right of the green about 50 yards out. The 13th is another straight par 4, however, this green is at least an extra club due to elevation. The fairway stops at the bottom of the hill, so make sure you get there. The 14th is a long downhill par 3, at least on club less. The 15th is the toughest hole on the course. Straightaway, uphill and long. Right is death on your approach. The 16th is downhill and your approach must clear the creek. Once again, there is a good 40 yards between the creek and the putting service. The last par 3 is uphill. Make sure you take an extra club. The downhill 18 lists right with a large tree on each side hourglassing the hole. Best play is down the right side, this should leave you a wedge into a green surrounded by four bunkers.
Wisconsin is blessed with many outstanding golf courses. This is not one of them. Donald Ross designed two courses in Wisconsin over his career. I have not played the other, but I am confidant in stating this is one of his top two in the state.