It’s worth driving to the heart of Wisconsin’s dairyland to play one of the finest and best value courses in all USA. For as little as fifty bucks you can play The Links at Lawsonia, designed in 1930 by William Langford and engineered by Theodore Moreau. How good is that?
Lawsonia has two 18-hole courses – Links and Woodlands – and some golfers find it hard to pick their favorite layout from these two very different tracks. We know which course we prefer, but maybe play both, it won’t break the bank but it will put a smile on your face.
No expense was spared when Lawsonia Links was built at back in the 1930s. $250,000 was invested in the course a figure that equates to around $30,000,000 in today’s money! Blueprints were taken from British Open Championship holes to re-create many copies at Lawsonia, but you will require a vivid imagination to notice the resemblance in most cases.
A tree-clearing programme started in 2000 to return the Links course back to its former treeless glory so expect the wind to play a part on this historical and strategic masterpiece.
Writing in The Confidential Guide to Golf Courses, Tom Doak commented as follows: “Langford and Moreau built many fine courses in their trademark style all over the Midwest, but without question their best-preserved design is Lawsonia, developed just before the Depression from the 1,000-acre Victor Lawson estate overlooking Green Lake, in central Wisconsin…
You might not think that an architect known for major earthworks would need to be good at routing golf holes, but Langford’s design at Lawsonia proves this to be a lie, but it is the juxtaposition of features which makes Lawsonia so captivating…
Most of all, Lawsonia is an exhilarating venue for the
game, and a wonderful example of how earthwork can sometimes be more appealing
Lawsonia links is a wonderful inland layout in the heartland of Wisconsin. It is situated just about midway between the Kohler resort on Lake Michigan and Sand Valley, the new resort by Bandon Dunes creators the Kaiser family. When I was planning a visit to Sand Valley this summer several of my friends recommended that I play the links course on my trip. The course is rated as a "gourmet's choice" in Tom Doak's confidential guide so I no hesitation about playing here.
This course is outstanding in so many ways. There are several blind or near blind tee shots but features such as the cross bunkers on the second help to guide the player to the proper destination. When the tee shot is visible excellent cross bunkering such as the par 4 third provide a great risk reward challenge off the tee. The course flows up and down along both the front and back nines but you are really never left with a severe lie.
The course has apparently undergone a massive tree clearing program and this has opened up beautiful vistas on both the front and back nines. The eighth hole is a great example of where the removal of trees has actually made the hole more difficult. Eight is a short par 4, and trees used to block the right side of the fairway. The removal of the trees has opened up the right side and appears to offer the direct line to the green. However the rough on the right side lends itself to dodgy lies and the narrow green is protected by a deep, deep bunker with a steep slope behind as well.
The course was in magnificent condition and the warm Wisconsin summer had the course playing as firm and fast as any heathland course in the Surrey sand belt of England. On top of all this the course is a great bargain. We played at the peak of high season, on a weekend during a prime tee time and still only payed $100 USA apiece.
Lawsonia is a true gem and well known among midwestern golfers. As the Kohler and Sand Valley resorts grow I believe more golfers should take the time to play this great old course. I was reminded of the fantastic course Old Town in Winston Salem, North Carolina that I played earlier this year because of the beautiful views and terrain. Golfers from the UK may see some similarities with Hankley Common.
Lawsonia captures a lot about what was great about Golden Age architecture and it still presents a challenge to top golfers today. I believe this course will only rise in esteem as more players visit this course.
I was fortunate to play about 70 different courses in 2018, and Lawsonia is comfortably in my top 5 for the year of new courses played, which quickly promoted it securely into my personal USA Top 100.
The state of Wisconsin is blessed with numerous high-end resorts, however the best value and arguably the most fun of the lot is found at Lawsonia. Blueprints from Scotland made their way to the Badger State and we have William Langford to thank for creating an incredible layout across a beautiful rolling topography.
Big bold features, blind shots galore, sunken greens, uphill and downhill golf to picture perfect green-sites is the reason you must make the trip!
There isn’t much that hasn’t already been said on the internet about Lawsonia’s utterly spectacular Links course. It’s the best daily fee value in the United States, and quite possibly the most heavily underrated golf course listed on this site. The fact that it’s not listed in the US Top 100 is a bit of a crime.
William Langford and Theodore Moreau were Chicago-based architects (and civil engineers!) whose design work is having something of a renaissance in recent years. The Links wasn’t the first Langford & Moreau layout I’d ever played, incidentally, but experiencing Lawsonia first hand made the others – Ozaukee and Harrison Hills – look even better in retrospect. I’d have to believe Lawsonia Links is their best work, although I’m going to try and play more of them to find out.
Wisconsin as a whole is a beautiful state, especially so the farther you get from Chicago. The area around Lawsonia, which is nearly in the center of the state, is mostly rural and gently rolling forested areas, dairy farms, and small towns dotted with the occasional glacially carved lake. It’s an extremely pleasant, pastoral setting during golf season, and the mild summer climate lends itself to excellent course conditions. The season is shorter here than a lot of places, but if that is the sacrifice we must make to enjoy such splendor, so be it.
There are so many great holes on this course that it’s hard to name just a few to highlight, but I’ll try. The front nine takes up a bit more of the property on the western side of the clubhouse and provides more of a variety in terms of hole directions and wind conditions. #1 is a specatcular opening par four; the fairway slopes right to left off the tee, which makes the tee shot even more difficult as the best angle to the hole is from the right. From the left rough, the approach is semi-blind due to the massive bunker face fronting the green. #2 is a par four with a completely blind tee shot and downhill approach that begs you to attack the flagstick.
#6 is a wild, roller-coaster par four that requires a tee shot either to the left of or over a massive mound face, then an approach to a nearly square green with a pronounced upper tier on the front right and surrounded by steep slopes and sand.
Photos simply do not do the #6 green complex justice – it’s wild. This hole alone leads me to disagree with the other review on this course noting the lack of variety in green complexes; what could that person possibly want?
#7 is the famous “boxcar” par three – legend has it that a railroad boxcar is buried underneath the green, which may explain the narrow shape and severe slopes on each side. #9 is a gorgeous reachable par five that challenges the player to pick and trust a line off the tee when not many landmarks are present and the fairway angles diagonally left to right. Assuming one finds the fairway, they face an uphill approach to a well-guarded green.
The back nine sits to the east of the clubhouse on a gradually sloping, wide-open meadow with spectacular views of Green Lake, and has the odd distinction of having an evenly distributed routing: three each of par threes, fours, and fives.
#10 is a massively scaled par three; it plays to 240 yards and has an enormous green that falls off severly on all sides, with mounds and swales galore. #13 is a long, downhill par five that provides some great strategic options on the second shot after a good drive: attack the green, lay up in a massive valley immediately short of the green which leads to a blind third, or lay up short of the valley to a straightforward, but longer approach.
#14 is another great par three with a massively undulating shelf green that falls off on three sides towards sand and other trouble. #15 is a mean uphill par four that plays significantly longer than its yardage attests and is one of the few holes on the course where a wooded area even remotely comes into play. #18 is another long par five which sits on one of the highest areas on the course and finishes the round with some impressive vistas of both Green Lake as well as the rest of the back nine.
I can’t even begin to describe how much fun this golf course is. We were on site for two days and had considered playing the Woodlands course for the second day; after playing the Links the first day, we didn’t hestitate to play again. I suppose given enough opportunities to play the Links, I might play say, one in every ten rounds on the Woodlands for the sake of variety. But what value is variety when you have the opportunity to play a course of this quality? Thus, my bold statement: if I had to choose only one course I’ve played to this point in my life to be forced to play over and over again for the rest of my life, Lawsonia Links would be it. In reality, I just plain can’t wait to play it again someday.
Played July 17 &19, 2015
A great course in the middle of nowhere! The conditioning is fantastic and I really liked the routing with both two nines. The par 3 with the severe slope to the right is outrageous and a must play.
The only downside is that there is too much similarity in green complexes (most holes you have to hit uphill to the green no matter how long or short the hole). If you like Pete Dye courses, see the course that probably served as the template for all that was to come.