Amateur Golfers Have A Tough Time Tackling Whistling Straits

Whistling Straits - Straits Course Amateur Golfers

How Do Arccos Players Fare at Whistling Straits?

It’s widely considered one of the best, if not the best, representations of pure links-style golf in the U.S. 

The Straits Course at Whistling Straits, designed by legendary Pete Dye, will host the 2020 Ryder Cup in Sheboygan, Wisconsin this week. 

Routed primarily north-to-south along Lake Michigan, it features a raw coastal landscape reminiscent of the great courses of Scotland and Ireland. Scraggy cliffs, shimmering fescue grass and towering mounds combine to create a visually-stunning golf experience unlike any other in “lower 48.” 

The Straits Course has attracted its fair share of Arccos members over the past few years; 566 to be exact. How did they fare against a golf course Dye famously said is “popcorn, but sometimes people choke on popcorn”?

Course Like Popcorn but people choke on popcorn

Here’s the breakdown. 

Traditional Stats

Playing to a course rating of 77.2 and slope of 152 from the tips (black tees), the Straits Course is the most difficult of the four courses at Destination Kohler’s American Club Resort. It was once ranked by Golf Digest as the sixth “Toughest Golf Course in America.” The winds off Lake Michigan can amp up the challenge even more, especially in the early spring and late fall when “high” temps can be in the 40s and 50s. 

Given its prowess and reputation, it comes as no surprise that the Straits Course attracts Arccos members with single digit handicaps. The average handicap of the 566 rounds played is 8.86 and the average score is 88.45. The course scorecard recommends the 7,142-yard blue tees for 3-8 handicaps and the 6,663-yard green tees for 9-14 handicaps. 

Average amateur to play straits course

The course rating from the blue tees is 74.2 and the slope is 145. The course rating from the green tees is 71.9 and the slope is 141. The majority of Arccos member rounds were played from a mix of these tees with a smattering of outliers played from the black and white tees. 

The bottom line? The Straits Course plays significantly harder in reality than it does on paper. Traditional golf course metrics don’t do it justice. Any golfer who’s gazed out upon this links wonderland on a windswept day or seen the waves from Lake Michigan crashing on the shoreline below the green on the par-3 seventh will attest. 


Strokes Gained

When it came down to assembling Team U.S.A., Ryder Cup Captain Steve Stricker made it perfectly clear that average driving distance, and strokes gained off the tee, mattered. The Straits Course plays just a couple football fields short of 8,000 yards for the pros, and only the longest hitters will have scoring iron approach shots into greens on par 4s and eagle opportunities on par 5s.

Strokes Gained Whistling Straits

Utilising data from Arccos Caddie’s Strokes Gained Analytics Feature, we see that Arccos members lost a total of 14.55 strokes over 18 holes on the Straits Course. The breakdown in the four specific categories was -3.53 driving, -5.55 approach, -2.77 short game and -2.78 putting. This collective performance led to bogeys 62.15% of the time, pars 30.78% and birdies just 7.07%. Just like Dye said, popcorn. And Dye designed courses and green complexes, whether wrought by Pete or sons P.B. and Perry, are notoriously difficult on approach shots.

Driving on Straits Course

Digging a bit deeper, we found that Arccos members were losing the most strokes driving on holes longer than 450 yards (-1.07) and shorter than 350 yards (-0.93). Interestingly, they lost more than twice as many strokes on straight holes (-2.24) as on dogleg left (-0.93) and right (-0.73) holes.  

How about on those dreaded approaches? The rough wasn’t as much of a factor as you might expect. Arccos members lost a whopping 2.44 strokes on approach shots from the fairways and just 1.57 strokes from the rough. And they dropped more strokes from 100-150 yards out (-1.70) than they did from 150-200 (-1.57).

Approach shots on whistling straits

On and around the greens, it was short chip shots from the rough (-1.35) and short putts from inside 10 feet (-1.53) that led to the most stroke “leakage.” Reading between the lines, or the data in this case, nerves have much more of an impact on recreational golfers putting under (relatively) no pressure than professional golfers putting under immense pressure. 

Short Game Whistling Straits

Putting On Whistling Straits

Hardest Holes

Dubbed “Snake,” the par-5 fifth hole is the longer of the two par 5s on the front nine at 563 and 543 yards from the blue and green tees, respectively. And this winding three-shotter played the toughest for Arccos members at -1.193 strokes gained. 

High level course numbers for straits course

Meanwhile, the No. 1 handicap hole on the Straits Course, “Glory,” played as just the fifth hardest hole at -0.925. The massive, par-5 11th hole was also a potential round-wrecker for Arccos members at -1.096. Known as “Sand Box” for the railroad tie-lined bunker hugging the left side of the fairway, the hole plays 645 yards from the black tees. 

As for the “easiest” holes on the Straits Course for Arccos members, those would be the two par 3s on the front nine, No. 3 and No. 7, on which they lost just half a stroke each. 

Preview Caddie

Are you an Arccos member who hasn’t played the Straits Course but would like to see how your game stacks up? If you’ve logged five 18-hole rounds or more, you now have access to the Arccos Preview Caddie feature. Not an Arccos member but interested in how Arccos can help with rapid game improvement? For a full overview of our paradigm-shifting platform, click here.

Preview Caddie - Whistling Straits

PS. Be the first to see these reports by following Arccos on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook