The Irish at Whistling Straits sits close to Lake Michigan with the Straits course between itself and the shores of the lake. As a result it lacks the links style character of the Straits, it does not have the vast wild look set among the rugged dunes areas strewn with hundreds of small bunkers and natural grasses. Rather it is a cute sister with a unique personality of it’s own. Pete and Alice Dye sculpted the land to create a very original blend holes that share the influence of the Lake Michigan winds in a more parkland setting. There is a bigness to the scale of this course-the engineering feat and tactical drama they created easily equals that of the Straits it just does it in a slightly more demure way.
The Irish has a more manicured look with smooth edges and curves. Much like Pete’s work at TPC Sawgrass there are more defined water hazards and vast manicured waste bunkers here that create distinct target areas collared by strife. The pressure is constant from the very first hole to make precise tactical decisions and execute specific shots. Mistakes translate into scorecard cash register ringing, so you are going to have to be on your game to protect your score from disasters. Once you have been through the course the first time, I think the shot lines are much less psychologically intimidating since you are better aware of the bordering parameters. Over the long haul your scores should be improve as a result.
Every Dye course I have played has the “startle factor” and this one is no exception. You stand on the tee of many of the holes and think “Wow!” usually followed by “Oy Vey!”. He just has a way of laying holes out that are so splendid to the eye with the flow of the fairway, demarcation of the hazards, and uniqueness of the green complex presentation. At the same time you cannot help but feel intimidated by what he is apparently asking you to do. But, as with TPC Sawgrass, if you keep your wits about you, I think there is a fair and conservative line you can choose on every hole that is not an unreasonable challenge. Playing to your handicap is very doable on this course.
The three pars lack the stunning beauty of those on the Straits because they do not have the cliff hanging green sets against the lake backdrop. But the four pars more than make up for this drama through a very clever use of segmentation of the landing areas and sharp turns in the doglegs. Greens are very large, segmented, and have plenty of pitch and roll to them so you have to be very articulate in your approach shots to avoid lots of three putt drama. The biggest factor to your scoring will be the wind effect off the lake in conjunction with the large waste bunkers and water hazards adjacent to the driving areas. There are a number of partial forced carries you have to calibrate properly to minimize your risk. It is the cumulative effect of having to deal with this hole after hole that will wear on you.
This is a wonderful golfing challenge dressed up with splendid visuals. In the end the Irish will not assault your scorecard as directly as the Straits, but the net result is likely to be the same-a feeling of exhausted accomplishment after a day of sensory overload.
Architect: Pete Dye (2004)
Tees Par Rating Slope Yardage
Black 72 75.6 146 7201
Blue 72 73.5 141 6750
Green 72 72.0 137 6366
Red 72 70.0 126 5109