Big Fish Golf Club – Hook, Line And Sink It
By E. Nolan
Most who fish have a story of “the one that got away” – the trophy catch that should be displayed on the mantle or wall. Most who golf have a similar story about their closest call to a hole-in-one… the shot, that with a little more luck, would’ve yielded a trophy ball for the wall.
The Hayward Lakes Area (The Golf Capital of Wisconsin) and Big Fish Golf Club present a unique opportunity to combine your odds to secure the two trophies that (might) have eluded you to date. Obviously there are hundreds of golf courses and lakes in northern Wisconsin and Minnesota where you can similarly gamble, but wouldn’t you love to have that signature moment on a place loaded with signature “fishing” holes like Pete Dye’s Big Fish? (That’s right, the guy who could be the greatest golf architect in history, who designed four of the Top 10 Public Courses in America, designed this place, too.) There’s your HOOK.
Maybe you’ve already been to Big Fish and given it a shot. Doesn’t take much to bring you back, does it? (Especially if you visited under current ownership.) Or, maybe you haven’t even been here yet. Maybe… just maybe… you haven’t even heard of it, in which case the question has to be “WHY”? A stellar Pete Dye design, in a prime family vacation destination, only 120 miles from the Twin Cities… kind of merits a closer look and visit doesn’t it? (The answer is “yes,” but…) Maybe it takes more than a “big name” to lure you in. (Good. It should!)
Here’s what you need to know -The (strong) Line. Big Fish is an enchanting trail of two very diverse nines. The front, mostly Links-style, gives you well-maintained, fast and firm open fairways guarded by fescue grass, and a lengthy pond on #7. The elevation changes are more subtle on this nine, mostly tucked underground, with mounding guiding your ball bounces and large open greens preserving your best approach shots. There’s no question the signature holes on the front are the par 3’s – both legitimate platforms for pulling in that Trophy Ace – and the lengthy water-guarded par 5, 7th hole. The front, on it’s own, is plenty of fun, but the back side adds the “un” to the front’s “believable.” The back makes this place a Big catch.
Pete has a tendency to impress on the way out and stun you on the way in. He likes to load his daunt and challenging on the back of his designs, to give you a chance to get your game in check before checking to see if you’ve actually got game. I told Director of Golf, Chris Hofer, how much more I enjoyed the conditioning and tempo of the front nine on this visit (compared to four years ago) and he quickly asked, “And the back?”
I had forgotten how beautiful it was. I’d always loved the short par 4, 11th, with its elevated green, but I’d failed to recall how the course just kept getting better and better – more and more scenic – each hole after that. It’s important to play Big Fish from the right tees, mind you. The course can stretch out to 7,231 yards, but the White Tees are perfect your first time around, and the Championship Tees are manageable on your second. There are so many great pictures to be taken on the back nine, from the signature par 3, 12th, to the insane and shapely par 5, 13th. My closest ever shot for an ace at Big Fish came on the downhill par 3, 16th, but then I LOVE the fact that every hole seems to play downhill, and I managed as many birdies as I did double-bogeys (4). Great fun for an 11-handicap.
I was originally wooed to Big Fish by the phenomenal Stay & Play packages through the Lac Courte Oreilles Casino Lodge & Convention Center down the road (as low as $120 pp), but calling Chris can otherwise get you set up (especially golf groups) in a lodge on a lake or a hotel in Hayward. Ultimately, new management wants you to make Big Fish a routine stop every golf season, so call them and let them build you a deal you can’t resist. Don’t let this be the one that got away!
The future is bright at Big Fish, and not just because the course and conditions have improved so much the past few years. They have a new 250-seat Event Center for weddings, business meetings, and golf groups, a new bar by the golf shop, a new Indoor Simulator for the offseason, and such an idyllic location at the heart of lake country in North Central Wisconsin. Secure the Trophy Fish. Commit to a visit. Line up your Ace and try to… Sink It.