50 Words or Less
The Links at Lawsonia Golf is a challenging course that’s full of character. A wonderful example of how good course design never goes out of style.
While the names Langford and Moreau may be relatively unknown in the wider golf world, among golf course architecture fans, they are some of the most revered. Bill Langford and Ted Moreau are the two men who designed Lawsonia Links in the 1920s, and, nearly a century later, the track still holds up. Lawsonia’s Links Course is annually rated as one of the best public courses in the US, so I made the drive north from Chicago to see if it lived up to the hype.
Customer Service & Amenities
Despite its high rankings, Lawsonia is a homey, welcoming place. The clubhouse is home to an average-sized pro shop that’s well-stocked with soft goods and a smattering of clubs and shoes. You’ll also find Langford’s Pub where you can have a beer and burger after your round. I can’t speak to the quality of Langford’s, but the food at the turn stand gives me confidence that it’s quite good. One nice amenity is that each cart has a laser rangefinder tethered to it.
More important than any amenity is the positive atmosphere. From the starter to the people driving the beer carts, everyone was extremely friendly and helpful. Our cart died midway through our second round, and someone had a fresh cart out to us in minutes.
Beauty & Scenery
Lawsonia Links gets a lot of its aesthetic appeal from being such an unusual course for the Midwest. To start with, there are very few trees on the course. Trees do wrap the perimeter of the property, but the back nine is almost entirely devoid of trees that are in play. This allows for the kind of long sight lines that you rarely get in Wisconsin.
The other thing that makes Lawsonia Links beautiful is the elevation within each hole. When I think of Midwest golf, I don’t envision every green sitting high above the fairway, but that’s exactly what you get here. Fairways rise and fall dramatically, holes are dotted with large mounds, and it adds up to a landscape that is unique for this area.
The Links Course at Lawsonia is wide open. There are a handful of trees, but they’re almost exclusively at the edges of the course. The other side of that coin is that the fairways are not terribly wide. You’ll almost always be able to find your drive, but that’s no guarantee of an easy shot into the green. When I played, the rough was thick, wet, and taxing. I suspect that when it’s dry, the rough is easier to chop out of but less predictable.
What makes the tee shots at Lawsonia Links challenging are the visuals. The first two tee shots are partially or fully blind, and then Langford and Moreau use mounds and hollows to distort your perception. Hole 6 is prototypical: from the tee, you see a short run of fairway which bends right and disappears behind a huge mound. You know you need to play over the mound, but only local knowledge will give you confidence in picking an exact line and distance.
Your approach shots will define your success at Lawsonia Links. The first challenge in this part of the game is dealing with a variety of lies. The fairways roll, rise, and dip dramatically, leaving you few flat stances. Add in the mounds that can disrupt your view and the aforementioned rough and you have the possibility for some very taxing second shots. It’s also worth mentioning that there’s wonderful variety in the length of the par 4s, so you’ll get to hit a lot of different clubs.
More than your stance or lie, what makes the approach shots at Lawsonia Links so tough is the fact that every green sits well above its surround. Despite the word “Links” in the name, this is a course that demands a precise, high-flying iron game if you’re going to score well. The greens are slightly above average in size, but if you miss the green, you will have a lot of work to do to save par.
Greens & Surrounds
The greens are undoubtedly the best part of the Links at Lawsonia. Even on a wet, cold day, they were smooth and quick which enhanced their beautiful shaping. Finding a straight putt is nearly impossible, and when the course firms up, being below the cup is essential. That said, the greens never feel gimmicky – all the contours fit together and no putt feels unmakeable.
The steep surrounds at Lawsonia Links are a severe test for your short game. There are plenty of instances where you can narrowly miss a green and be six or more feet below the putting surface. If you don’t choose your targets thoughtfully, you can hit decent approaches and shoot 100+.
When I played, the rough was thick which was a mixed blessing – it robbed short shots of spin but usually propped the ball up for a high flop or pitch.
Lawsonia Links is, in my opinion, the epitome of great course design because it’s tough without feeling tough. It gives you room to mess around off the tee, so you’re not going to lose balls or take a lot of penalty shots. That gives the course the leeway to be unforgiving around the green. Since every player is always moving forward, pace of play is better and golfers are happier, even if no one is threatening the course record. It’s a shame that this style of design was forgotten for so long.
Wisconsin is fast becoming one of the best states for golf, and it’s not entirely because of the new courses. Make sure to check out this classic so you can gain an appreciation of Golden Age architecture and wonder, as I do, why it ever went out of fashion.