The Golf Courses of Lawsonia is a 36-hole daily fee resort facility located in Green Lake, Wisconsin. While the courses are favorites amongst Wisconsinites they are very much under the radar to others, except for the golf nerd types who have made a hobby of traveling to visit great courses. Having grown up in Green Bay, about 80 miles to the northeast of Lawsonia, I had the good fortune of visiting these courses on many occasions. The Woodlands is the newer of the two and is a fun golf course carved out of – you guessed it – the woods. Other features of The Woodlands course are a small abandoned quarry and numerous water hazards. In contrast to the modern feel of The Woodslands, the second course at Lawsonia, The Links, is a pure classic.
The Links was built in 1929 by William Langford and Theodore Moreau. To most golfers Langford and Moreau are considered to be an unheralded duo. They were never given spectacular land like Mackenzie and Hunter (Cypress Point) or Macdonald and Raynor (National Golf Links and Fishers Island), but they always made the most of the property they were given. The land at Lawsonia has some soft rolling hills as well as some more severe slopes that were masterfully incorporated into the routing. One interesting side note is that Moreau, like Seth Raynor, had a civil engineering degree which may be why some golfers mistake The Links as a Raynor design.
As is the case with most Golden Age courses, Lawsonia is not very long from the Blue (back) tees at 6,853 yards. The featured holes are all described from the back tees.
Hole 1 – Par 4 – 418 Yards
The opening hole is not long by any means, but the landing area is blind off the tee. Once you get to your ball you will find a bunker on the inside of the dogleg. The real challenge is the green complex. As you can see in the photo below, anything left is not good due to the extremely severe slope. This makes the right side of the fairway the prime spot to approach from, if you can avoid the fairway bunker.
Hole 2 – Par 4 – 431 Yards
This is a great hole, once again featuring a blind tee shot. The target is the walking path through the directional bunkers as you can see in the photo below.
This is the view from the landing area.
Hole 3 – Par 4 – 386 Yards
I love the difference in design of the third in comparison to the first hole. Again there is a bunker at the inside of the dogleg right, but this hole is best played away from the bunker to obtain the best angle to the green. The picture below is from the center of the fairway. Here you can also see the “pushed up” nature of the greens with very deep bunkers.
Hole 5 – Par 5 – 487 Yards
Short par-5s are always fun, and this hole is no exception. A good tee shot will catch a downslope and give you a good opportunity to reach in two. If you can’t reach, you need to lay a little further back to avoid a nasty grass bunker to the left and another to the right in the landing area for the second shot. This green is also one of the better on the course with some crazy interior contours.
Hole 7-Par 3-161 Yards
This is known as the “Boxcar” hole. The legend states that old railroad boxcars were used as fill to build up this green. As you can see in the photo below, there is a very severe wall short and right of the green. To counteract this nasty hazard, the green is one of the biggest on the course. There is a small buffer bunker left of the green as well to “save” those afraid of facing the boxcar wall.
Hole 8 – Par 4 – 339 Yards
This is my favorite hole on the course. It is very challenging even at 339 yards. The tee shot is blind and slopes slightly to the left and away from the tee. The approach needs to be a good one as it will usually be played from a slight downslope to an elevated green.
Hole 13 – Par 5 – 568 Yards
Rarely is a Par-5 considered to be the most difficult hole on any golf course. At Lawsonia’s Links course that may be the case. The tee shot is not difficult, just needing to avoid bunkers at the inside of the dogleg to the left. The second shot is also played to a wide landing area. The real difficulty begins with the third shot. Players need to decide whether to play further back for a flatter approach shot or to get closer to the green and face a more severe uphill approach. You can see in the photo below where the 150 yard stake is. The base of the hill is about 100 yards away. The approach also needs to get deep into the green or take the risk of trickling down the hill about 20 yards.
Hole 14 – Par 3 – 154 Yards
The shortest hole on the golf course has seen the most improvement over the last decade or so and it has nothing to do with changing the design of the hole. Ron Forse was put in charge of a Master Plan in 2000, this included removing dozens of trees. Many were removed from the area around this green which has vastly improved air flow and the quality of the putting surface. Sadly I did not take a picture of this hole, but I may add one later if I’m able to visit again next summer.
One other thing of note that isn’t visible in my pictures, due to some rain leading up to my visit, is that the course is generally pretty firm and fast. It’s not quite along the lines of Chambers Bay or National Golf Links brown, but the grass isn’t a perfect shade of green all the time. Fortunately more courses recently have adopted the “brown is good” theory for their conditioning. Not only does it save money but golf courses were generally designed to be played on the ground. All too often approaches to greens are too soft and don’t allow for this.
The Links truly is a fun golf course to play and most visitors to Wisconsin are doing themselves a disservice by only playing the Kohler courses. The Links really is a hidden gem and one of the few Golden Age courses that is accessible to the public.