Thunderhawk soars among among public courses
By Jerry Slaske
About an hour south of Milwaukee just across the Wisconsin-Illinois border in Beach Park is one of America's finest public golf courses.
Owned by the Lake County Forest Preserves, ThunderHawk Golf Club is a Robert Trent Jones, Jr. design, putting it in the same league as Madison, WI's University Ridge (reviewed in this column the previous month) and the recently redone SentryWorld in Stevens Point, WI. Nevertheless, ThunderHawk is in a league all its own, being the first public course in the country to achieve Audubon Signature Sanctuary certification.
The minute you turn into the club's roadway leading to a sprawling rustic lodge and 240 acres of pristine-like forest, marsh, and prairie, you know you're someplace special. From your first tee shot, you're in a world of your own. Each hole is isolated from the other 17 so you can focus solely on your game and ThunderHawk's beauty. Despite that solitude, it's also very walkable.
And despite the course's popularity, our group finished its round in just over four hours with a 7:45 tee time on a sunny weekday in July. Before 7:50am, green fees are only $35, which has to make ThunderHawk, opened in 1999, one of golf's best values anywhere.
While every hole is a work of art with greens that are large, fast, and undulating - in many cases, severely undulating - this course saves its best for last: #s 16, 17, and 18 are masterpieces. You've heard of the "Bear Trap" at Jack Nicklaus' PGA National (Champion) in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida and the "Snake Pit" of the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook in Palm Harbor, Florida, well, I'm anointing these holes the "ThunderHawk Talons" because if you're not careful, a good round could be quickly clawed and snatched away from you.
Number 16 is a double dogleg par 5 (578 yards from the back tees) over marsh and around water. It requires three solidly struck shots with lazer-like accuracy to reach a green that runs away from you and is fronted by water and sand. The penultimate hole is a par 3 (182 yards from the backs) with water on the right and long rough and sand on the left. The green is extremely long and uphill from front to back. The last hole is another par 5 (600 yards) and another double dogleg. Your first two shots better be long and positioned correctly so that you have a somewhat comfortable downhill shot into a pedestal green nestled among trees and fronted by a marshy ravine and bunkers. If you play these last three in even par, consider your round a success.
But no matter what your score, enjoy this elegant piece of Mother Nature and be thankful you can still play courses like ThunderHawk in a world that has gone eco-nuts.
Revised: 08/20/2014 - Article Viewed 20,720 Times - View Golf Course Profile
About: Jerry Slaske
KEY Milwaukee is a tradition in Wisconsin's largest city. As the leading visitor guide in Southeastern Wisconsin, we're distributed in hotels, motels, restaurants and visitor centers throughout the metropolitan area, beginning at the Illinois-Wisconsin border.
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Key Milwaukee - Golf Writer