50 Words or Less
The Irish Course at Whistling Straits is the less-heralded brother of The Straits Course. A mix of challenge and scoring opportunities on a rugged landscape.
Having a super famous sibling can be tough. No matter how good you are, your sister is the one everyone pays attention to.
This is the plight of The Irish Course. The Straits Course, host of multiple majors and the 2020 Ryder Cup, is so well known that it has taken the name of the entire property, Whistling Straits, for itself.
Despite being overshadowed in the popular consciousness, The Irish is a course that every visitor to Kohler needs to play at least once.
The Irish shares its practice facilities with The Straits. There is a large range just a short walk from the clubhouse, and two putting greens. Given the importance of quality ball striking at both courses, I would suggest spending ample time on the range even if it means skimping on putts.
Customer Service & Amenities
Whistling Straits is home to one of the most beautiful clubhouses I’ve seen. The two story stone building houses the Whistling Straits restaurant and the pro shop. When there’s a frost delay, the fireplace in the pro shop becomes a very popular attraction.
Next to the clubhouse is the Whistling Straits Irish Barn, a venue for large groups and weddings. With a view that overlooks holes 9 and 18 on The Straits, it would be a dream site for a golfer’s nuptials.
The Irish Course does allow carts, but I’d strongly recommend walking. The caddies that we encountered at Whistling Straits were excellent and can definitely add to your experience.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning that Kohler offers great deals in the early and late parts of the season. If you’re looking to book a spring golf trip, Whistling Straits should be high on your list. You can play The Irish for as little as $80 until May 9. Green fees bump up to $130 from May 10 to June 3.
Beauty & Scenery
The Irish and The Straits share a similar aesthetic, with the notable exception that The Irish is not on Lake Michigan. Both courses feature long views, mounds and elevation changes of all sizes, and countless bunkers.
One of my favorite visual elements of The Irish is that you can often see many holes from where you are, but you never feel crowded by other golfers. The scale of the course and the features are so large that you can feel like you’re adventuring across the entire state.
While length is not unimportant at The Irish, finding fairways is the priority. Pete Dye makes that challenging by providing very few straights holes. Nearly every fairway bends, snakes, or doglegs in some way so that you’re thinking about both the direction and distance of the optimal tee shot.
Missing fairways at The Irish is not as painful as it is at The Straits, but there are plenty of opportunities to lose balls and strokes. To paraphrase our caddie, “There’s more room between the fairway and the junk” at The Irish, but there’s still plenty of junk if you get crooked off the tee. Choose your tees with your brain, not your ego, so you can have a reasonable chance of hitting fairways and greens.
Just like the drives, there aren’t many straightforward approaches at The Irish. Most shots will require some adjustment for elevation, playing around a curve, or staring down a major hazard.
While the approach shots at The Irish certainly aren’t easy, the course is much more forgiving than The Straits. The greens are larger, and the “safe sides” of the green are larger and safer. High quality iron play is still a must if you want to shoot a good score, but you can make a lot of easy bogeys with good course management.
Greens & Surrounds
The greens are the one area where Pete Dye takes it easy on the golfer at The Irish. While there are plenty of wrinkles and small breaks, you won’t find the wild contours that turn GIRs into bogeys.
The primary defense around the greens is an army of bunkers. From the tiny one shown above to traps that could swallow a house, bunkers are everywhere. If you play away from them, you’ll find the up and downs are mostly straightforward. Trust your caddie to point you toward the smart side of the green and focus on executing good shots.
Early in my round at The Irish, I thought that the course was just an easier version of The Straits. However, as we started to near the turn, The Irish showed that it has teeth, too. If you plan to put together a good score, you need to get some birdies early or at least get all your mediocre swings out. By the time you hit the back nine, there is limited room for error.
The Irish, like many Pete Dye courses, demands quality ball striking. If you aren’t consistently finding the fairways and greens, it’s nearly impossible to score well.
#2 – Par 4 – Giant’s Leap
Shown above, this tee shot dares you to take a big risk in search of a big reward. Depending on your tees and the wind, this hole almost feels driveable, but the far part of the fairway is very narrow.
#13 – Par 3 – Blind Man’s Bluff
This is one of the wilder holes I’ve played. There are two tees and an enormous green. This mid-length par 3 can play dozens of different ways depending on the course set up, but no matter the situation, you need to stay out of the deep bunkers.
The Irish, much like The Meadow Valley at Blackwolf Run, will never be the best-known course on its property. However, wise golfers will flock to it for quality holes, smaller crowds and lower green fees. Once you’ve checked The Straits off your “Must Play” list, be sure to get at least one round in on The Irish.