PGA Tour Inc.

09/19/2021 | News release | Distributed by Public on 09/19/2021 08:21

Five Things to Know: Whistling Straits

After an extra year of anticipation, the Ryder Cup is back. It's been three long years since Europe dominated the United States on a tight and penal Le Golf National layout outside Paris, winning 17 1/2 - 10 1/2. The United States has the benefit of being back on home soil this week as it tries to avenge the loss.

The U.S. has outscored Europe, 47-37, in the last three Ryder Cups in the New World. Only one historic collapse on the final day in 2012 kept the U.S. from sweeping all three competitions. Big, Midwestern ballparks have been a big part of the United States' home success.

Whistling Straits, located about an hour north of Milwaukee, fits that description. It was the longest course in major history when it hosted the 2004 PGA Championship. The PGA has been played three times at Whistling Straits, and victories by Jason Day and Vijay Singh, as well as close calls by Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson, prove that distance is an advantage there. Pete Dye's design also has done a good job of identifying the best player, as all three winners at Whistling Straits took over the top spot in the world ranking shortly after their win.

While the course setup may look familiar this week, there are few venues that compare with the site of this year's Ryder Cup. 'In my lifetime, I've never seen anything like this. Anyplace. Period,' said Dye. He transformed a flat site on the shores of Lake Michigan into one that features dramatic dunes reminiscent of the linksland of Ireland. The course's lakeside views and Dye's distinctive design philosophy should only add intrigue to this long-awaited showdown between the United States and Europe.

Here's 5 Things to Know about Whistling Straits before the Ryder Cup begins:


Whistling Straits is a home venue for the U.S. team, but the family behind the course traces its lineage back to the Old World.

The Kohler Co. was founded in 1873 by a 29-year-old Austrian immigrant named John Michael Kohler. He started with a small foundry that cast farm equipment before creating the company's first bathtub by enameling an iron trough and standing it on four feet. The Kohler Co. quickly became a leader in the construction and design of plumbing fixtures.

Herb Kohler, the man responsible for adding golf courses to the family's business portfolio, became CEO in 1972.

In the late 1970s, he transformed the American Club - which had once served as a dormitory for Kohler Co.'s immigrant artisans and craftsmen - into a resort. Visitors kept making one suggestion, however.

'You consider yourself an upscale resort hotel but you don't have a golf course. Do it,' Herb Kohler recalled of his guests demands. Herb, a mid-handicap player with an outsized passion for the game, was happy to indulge their desire. He hired Dye for the job.

The controversial, and iconoclastic, architect was the perfect fit for a company focused on design and innovation. Kohler's first course, Blackwolf Run, opened in 1988. The tee sheet quickly filled, and even another 18 holes couldn't keep pace with the demand.

That sent Herb Kohler searching for an additional site. His quest brought him to a piece of land on the shores of Lake Michigan that had fallen into disuse. The two-mile stretch of shoreline was once owned by the U.S. Army, which used it as an anti-aircraft training facility in the 1950s.

'An old runway still peeked through flat, grassy terrain, and dairy grazing lands surrounded the site on three sides,' Dye wrote in his autobiography. 'The fourth side bordered the chilly waters of Lake Michigan and featured 70-foot bluffs.

'When I first walked the land, I was mesmerized by the potential for several lakeside holes.'

He started work on Whistling Straits in 1995. The course opened three years later, in the same year that Se Ri Pak beat amateur Jenny Chuasiriporn in a playoff to win the 1998 U.S. Women's Open at Blackwolf Run. Pak's victory was the catalyst that led to the success of so many of her South Korean countrywomen on the LPGA.