Last year staff writer Matt Tevsh introduced you to Central Wisconsin, a golf destination on the rise. As the 2018 golf season begins, this region has gone from rising to fully risen thanks to a bevy of top-line courses that are making a national name for themselves.
The hallmark courses of the area include Sand Valley, Golf Digest and GOLF Magazine’s Best New Course of 2017, SentryWorld, Lake Arrowhead, and now two stellar private tracks that can be played by the public with the click on a website or a dial of ten digits.
In an ingenious move, Oliphant Golf Management, the management company behind Stevens Point Country Club in Stevens Point and Bulls Eye Country Club in nearby Wisconsin Rapids, are allowing the public to play the venerable layouts through a newly created website. This is the ideal time to check two stunning private country clubs off your list when making the two and half hour trek north of Milwaukee or less than four hour jaunt from Chicago.
“We are excited that golfers can book unaccompanied guest play through our pro shops, or at our partner site at www.golfcentralwi.com,” stated Brian Jensen, Vice President of Oliphant Golf Management. “It’s a big win/win for the local memberships and for traveling golfers in central Wisconsin who are looking for access to unique places to play. Because both courses are fully private, the tee sheet isn’t overbooked. This means members have access to flexible tee times and golf rounds at a great pace of play. Plus, we can fill some of the built in ‘down time’ with some unaccompanied guests paying a reasonable fee. Our job is to manage that process on site for the clubs and to deliver great experiences for everyone,” added Jensen.
And MGM promises your group will have a memorable experience thanks to immaculate conditioning on both courses, and commitment to service that is second to none. If you enjoy the feeling of being treated like you are more important that you actually are, then a trip to SPCC and Bulls Eye should be in your future.
Brian Jensen has spent the past five years of his life making sure the above statement is accurate. “Both clubs offer a friendly welcome, private club conditioning and very memorable golf,” began Jensen. “At Stevens Point, we work very hard to have great playing surfaces every day of the season. The course has been completely transformed by the recent renovation. It’s a little bit like Sand Valley down the road – the course is now integrated into its native habitat of sand barrens and scrub oak/pine forest but on the scale of a private club. It’s been a lot of fun to see people embrace the changes, and we are excited about 2018, our first full year with the new, fully grown in course.”
Jensen continued, “At Bulls Eye we always talk about the way your tee shot echoes through the pines. It really is a cool, old-school country club course, and people love it. We have worked hard to get the course in consistently excellent condition, and that, paired with the classic architecture, makes for a great day of golf for people traveling to central Wisconsin.”
Adam Swenson, Head Golf Professional at Bulls Eye CC feels that Oliphant’s solid management approach combined with their prime location is a recipe for an exciting future. “Having other Oliphant properties nearby is very helpful,” began Swenson. “Sand Valley and Lawsonia have been great mentioning Bulls Eye Country Club as another course to play while golf groups travel throughout the state. Since they are both well-known on the national level, it’s like free advertising. Once golfers play Bulls Eye Country Club, they will want to play it again. Then when that happens, they will tell the friends. Word of mouth will go a long way for us, and Sand Valley and Lawsonia will play a big role in that,” stated Swenson.
Word of mouth only happens when you have seen something you want others to experience. Our word of mouth is that Bulls Eye is a tree-lined, northwoods gem that makes you feel like your foursome is the only one on the course. When I asked Adam Swenson why Bulls Eye should be on everyone’s Bucket List he added, “the views of the Wisconsin River on the back nine here are second to none. When fall hits and all the leaves change color, you can’t beat it. Pictures don’t do it justice, and it’s something you have to see for yourself,” gleamed Swenson.
Pictures don’t so Stevens Point CC justice, either, as any photo of the course looks like it was taken off the Pinehurst CVB website. This is a country club that oozes style and sophistication – all in the sand belt of Central Wisconsin.
With The Masters still fresh on my mind, I asked head golf professional Mark Puls to offer his version of SPCC’s “Amen Corner,” a collection of three holes that will capture your attention from the start.
“Stevens Point Country Club’s best trio is a combination of holes 10, 11, and 12. The 10th is a 291-yard, slight dogleg left par-4 that plays as a risk/reward hole. For the long hitter, the play is either a right to left swinging shot or a high cut over the trees. Hit it well enough and a player could drive the green. However, with trouble up the left and the right the better play may be a long iron or hybrid. Hole number 11 is a 412-yard, dogleg right par-4 that comes out of a shoot of pines and is well-bunkered on the right side of the fairway. Finally, the 12th hole is a 426-yard dogleg right with room to cut off yardage by hitting the shot up the right rough line. Cut off a little too much and you will be faced with long rough and nearly impossible angle to a well-protected putting surface that slopes severely from back left to front right. Par is a welcoming number even for the best players on any of these three holes,” explained Puls.
There is an embarrassment of riches in Central Wisconsin, and Stevens Point Country Club and Bulls Eye Country Club are not just ancillary courses, they are properties you plan your next buddies trip around. For more information on Wisconsin’s newest dynamic duo, visit their websites at www.bullseyecountryclub.com/ or www.stevenspointcountryclub.com/. Plus, for information on booking an affordable stay and play package that includes rounds on both courses, visit www.golfcentralwi.com.
Turning Tumultuous Times into Triumph – The Revitalization of Steven Point Country Club
By Dan Moore
Stevens Point Country Club course was designed by Larry Packard in 1968. Packard, a greatly under-appreciated golf architect who is best known for the Innisbrook Copperhead course, an esteemed stop on the PGA Tour, scrapped the original nine-hole course which dated to the mid-1920s and delivered a modern, state-of-the-art 18 hole design.
In a devastating development in 2011, over 2,000 trees were lost due to application of the chemical Imprelis, an event that dramatically changed the landscape of the course. In 2016 a settlement was reached providing a unique opportunity to turn crisis into an opportunity. To address this challenge the Club called on Craig Haltom and Oliphant Golf Management. Haltom saw an opportunity to meld Packard’s genius with the natural sand based terrain of the Stevens Point region and reimagined the look of the course by exposing the natural sand base of the land to create vast sandy areas one might see in the Sandbelt of Australia.
Haltom also addressed routing issues caused by a relocated clubhouse. He merged the 16th and 17th holes into a drivable par-4 (today’s 10th hole) adding the variety of a short par-4 to the mix. He then designed a new par-3, 9th hole and rerouted the course so that the 18th hole (the old 9th) would now finish just steps from the Clubhouse door and members bar, a welcome change indeed.
The Club wholeheartedly endorsed Haltom’s vision and the end result is a stunning update that reminds one of the sandy, freeform bunkers Alistair Mackenzie so successfully imported to the sand belt of Australia.