Fairways & Greens
June 25, 2017
|Forest Ridges Golf Course at Lakewoods Resort - The Definition Of "Northwoods"|
|Forest Ridges #13|
By Will BroganAbove the kitchen sink in one of the cabins at Lakewoods Resort that overlooks Lake Namakagon, there is a sign that reads, "count your blessings". Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney performed a song called "Counting My Blessings" in the classic 1954 film White Christmas, while spending their holiday season at a ski lodge in Vermont. Like Crosby, an avid golfer in his day, any guest of Lakewoods Resort that has the opportunity to play Forest Ridges Golf Course should indeed be counting their blessings, as it is perhaps the most spectacular display of a "Northwoods" style course anywhere.
Located in Cable, Wisconsin, about half an hour northeast of downtown Hayward, Lakewoods Resort takes pride in providing the best the Northwoods style has to offer, all year round. Fishing is always the dominant draw to the resort. Skiing plays a significant part in bringing guests to Lakewoods as well, but with the abbreviated winter in the Upper Midwest, the skiing season was almost non-existent. However, that is great news for golfers, as the course is already in mid-season form!
Forest Ridges Golf Course
Not only is Forest Ridges the "home of the best par 3's anywhere", according to their website, but it is the most aptly named course ever designed. Why? It plays exactly like the name, as golfers hit up and down ridges on virtually every driving hole while constantly being surrounded by the various evergreens of the Chequamegon National Forest.
Minnesotan Joel Goldstrand designed this spectacular track (which opened in 1994) that features a modest yardage of 6,062 yards and five par threes that create a unique setup to a par of 71. Though resort owner P.C. Rasmussen says the course "has the ability to naturally penalize every missed shot", the course is still susceptible to low scores, so long as you know where to put the ball and don't let the trees lining most fairways concern you.
Not many of the driving holes feature water as a hazard that should pointedly influence your thinking, but one of those exceptions is nicknamed "Pine Island", the short par four 16th hole. Just 350 yards at its longest, an open (but downhill) landing area should be hit with something less than driver. The approach opens up to a green down at the bottom of the valley surrounded entirely by water... and one really, really tall pine tree, which just happens to stand firm at the edge of a "bow" in the green. In fact, if the grass around the tree were mown at the height matching the rest of the green, you'd literally have a tree in the middle of the green! How's that for a unique hole?
What really sets the course apart from others of similar design is the outstanding quintet of par threes. You are greeted early with one on the second hole, which is a rather simple but significantly downhill shot to a gentle and receptive green. On the fourth hole, the drop in elevation is even more substantial, as are the trio of bunkers that offer little bailout. This hole also permits golfers to take a good look at Lake Namakagon in the distance.
The best par three on the front side, by far, is the seventh hole. A several story drop in elevation down to a marsh-guarded green shortens a reasonable 183-yard tee shot from the back tees. Be sure to look in every direction on this hole, on both the tee and the green. From the tee, you'll get a beautiful panoramic view of the Chequamegon National Forest, and looking back from the green you'll view the "stair step" pattern of the tee box layout that is truly a unique design by Goldstrand.
The eleventh hole is a similar tee shot (over a marsh), but does not have nearly the significance in elevation change as the 7th hole. However, you can catch a glimpse of the main building of Lakewoods Resort, which will already get you thinking about dining there after your round.
The last par three on the course is number thirteen. Simply put, this is one of the best par threes in golf. A natural setting that can only be done justice by your own eyes is what makes this hole so incredible, though the 181-yard tee shot isn't exactly easy. The thirteenth is set in a natural bowl that certainly looks as it if it was carved by a glacier. The best way to think of the tee shot at the thirteenth is this; imagine being at the top of a stadium, where instead of fans in the stands, you have a beautiful mix of every tree native to the area. Instead of a playing field that is at least three stories below you, there is a large lake. Now all you have to do is carry all of that native area and land your tee shot on a green that's cut on a hillside that feels like it's the size of a cubicle. Quite simply, it's one "helluva" tee shot, in both its challenge and its beauty. In fact, there is only one thing "wrong" with the thirteenth hole at Forest Ridges; it leaves you wanting another one because it's the last par three on the course!
Lakewoods Resort: So Many Options!
Though Forest Ridges Golf Couse is still a teenager, the resort itself is already firmly entrenched in its second century. Established in 1907, the main lodge houses two restaurants, Lakeside Restaurant and Buck's Bar and Grill, as well as a 400-seat banquet area below both dining areas. Buck's and Lakeside are joined on the outside by a roomy deck that offers great views of Lake Namakagon.
With a "motel" adjoining the main building that encompasses a large indoor pool, as well as a wide variety of condos, cabins, lake homes and villas, Lakewoods Resort can cater to parties of any sizes ranging from two to four hundred! Free wireless hotspots, several laundry facilities, two arcades and even firewood available for pick up are all part of the services offered at Lakewoods Resort, not to mention the outdoor activities like fishing!
Experience the "Northwoods" for yourself
Thanks to such warm weather this particular season, there is a special push being made to bring even more golfers to this tremendous property. "Golf groups are really big for us," says Rasmussen, "we'll usually get 25 or more per year, and each of those groups has twelve or more people. This year we're expecting even more. We're 'masters' at planning those small to medium golf outings."
Golf Digest kept Forest Ridges on their "Best Places to Play" list for seven consecutive seasons, beginning in 2004. But don't take their word for it, take the trip and experience the "definition of Northwoods golf" for yourself. You might just leave the course following Bing Crosby's lead and counting your blessings.
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