What’s Whistling Straits like? 11 initial on-course Ryder Cup impressions

Whistling Straits

Whistling Straits will be quite the stage for this year's Ryder Cup.

Dylan Dethier

Welcome to Wisconsin, folks. And before we tuck into some brats, pick up a custard from Culver’s and turn on the Packers Monday Night game, let’s review some notes from Day 1 scouting the course.

For much of Monday, there were no golfers on the course but there was plenty of golf course nonetheless. So co-worker Luke Kerr-Dineen and I put on our walking shoes and trekked out to explore Whistling Straits. We made this video, which I’ll expand on ever so slightly below…

1. What’s the first tee like?

It’s very cool. Players will walk from the practice green over a little stone bridge and then through the belly of the bleachers before emerging before a roaring crowd. The stands aren’t as big as Le Golf National but they’re plenty big. They’ll be plenty loud. Good stuff.

2. Any chance Bryson drives the first green?

It’s about 350 yards to the front edge and 364 yards to the middle, which means with the right wind Bryson DeChambeau could let the big dog eat and make the home fans happy.

3. What’s up with the red vests?

The powers that be at the Ryder Cup seem to have decided that golf media members aren’t quite dorky enough, so they unleashed these department-store-greeter red vests on us. Good times!

4. What’s the rough like?

It’s…not very rough. At least, not when you miss by just a little bit. Fans were wondering if Captain Stricker would avoid a narrow, long-roughed repeat of Le Golf National — and they were right.

5. What’s the trouble like?

Still, if you miss big, there’s plenty of trouble. Scrub. Sand. Longer grass. Weird lies. This is hardly a revelation, but small misses will be punished a small amount, while big misses will be punished in a big way.

6. Is it windy?

Yes. And on the holes that abut Lake Michigan, you can really feel it. Into the wind, you’ll see plenty of awkward lies and carnage — short rough or not.

7. What’s the coolest tee shot?

I was particularly taken with No. 8 tee, which sits on the edge of Lake Michigan. It’s a 507-yard par-4 where the fairway is…completely invisible. There’s more room than it looks like, a sentence that seems to make Pete Dye happy. But still…

8. What’s Luke’s favorite hole?

No. 7, the par-3 that Daly built.

9. What’s up with the sand?

It’s everywhere. It’s there to mess with you, both visually and practically. And all those little scab bunkers dug out of the hills are worth avoiding.

10. Is Whistling Straits a links course?

Sure! It’s linksy in some ways, connecting the land to the Great Lakes. But it’s an American links, softer, greener and more manicured than its cousins across the pond.

11. What’s No. 18 like?

At the Solheim Cup a couple weeks back, a ridiculous proportion of matches made it to the 18th. We’ll hope to be so lucky here so we can see the world’s best battle it out on a wild, challenging par-4 with a rollicking green and several massive bleachers. Game on!

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Dylan Dethier

Dylan Dethier

Golf.com Editor

Dylan Dethier is a senior writer for GOLF Magazine/GOLF.com, The Williamstown, Mass. native joined GOLF in 2017 after two years scuffling on the mini-tours. Dethier is a 2014 graduate of Williams College, where he majored in English, and he’s the author of 18 in America, which details the year he spent as an 18-year-old living from his car and playing a round of golf in every state.