Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry are best known in the Wisconsin golf scene for their work at Erin Hills, the host of the 2017 U.S. Open, but they had been to the state before. In fact, the pair’s work at Wild Rock (the course of The Wilderness resort) seems almost like a precursor for their next project in the state.
First, Wild Rock is not shy from the tee. Although it may not reach the 8,000 yards of the aforementioned U.S. Open host, scratch players will be able to find all they can handle from the back tees here, which tip out at 7,400 yards. More interestingly, Wild Rock also features significant emphasis on centerline bunkers, both forcing players to think off of the tee, or complicating approaches into the greens.
There is also significant altitude change, although in Wild Rock’s case, that ties back to the property’s former life as a stone quarry. Pockets of rock and piles of boulders add a unique visage to the course, even if they rarely play much of a strategic role.
The course’s showcase hole is No. 15, a short par three (180 yards from the back tees) that plays over the tree line and across a deep quarry, which lends an almost desert air to this Midwestern property.
One of the hardest things with course assessments comes when making a visit to a State with a healthy mix of quality private and public offerings. Wisconsin has become a major destination for architectural connoisseurs. Credit Herb Kohler for a big chunk of the attention via his efforts at The American Club. Throw in the likes of the emergence of Sand Valley, Erin Hills and you have plenty of firepower. On the older side of things -- you have Milwaukee, Blue Mound and Lawsonia, to name just a few. One can also mention University Ridge and Sentry World.
During the playing of the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits I had the opportunity to chat with a few golf journalists from Wisconsin and they mentioned a few places I should make a visit to play. I took them up on their offer and one of them I am recommending is Wild Rock Golf Club. I was really impressed with what Dr. Michael Hurdzan and Dama Fry designed. The tandem worked together for a number of years and for whatever reason do not get much attention although they did a fair number of stellar layouts that have all the right ingredients.
The routing at Wild Rock is out and back. You don't return to the clubhouse at the turn and the benefit in having such a configuration is how the talented design duo routed the holes. There's constant movement and kudos to them both in not overloading the course with plenty of superfluous bunkers. There are bunkers -- but they are judiciously placed in all the right spots. The smart thing the twosome did was allow the land to breathe and slot the holes naturally.
When the US Open was played at Erin Hills in 2017 I made it a point to make a return visit to see if my initial thoughts were still valid. If anything -- my rapture with the course intensified. The only issue is that the turf quality can be inconsistent at times -- I am quite finicky on tees being level and green speeds being uniform. That's not a huge knock because the quality and diversity of the holes is clearly present.
Wild Rock is a rollicking ride where golfers had best deliver when called upon. For those who are planning to attend the '21 Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits I highly recommend you schedule a time frame to see what this quality layout clearly provides.
M. James Ward