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Breezy Point

Fairways & Greens
August 18, 2017

Big Fish Golf Club - You'll Be Drawn in and Instantly Hooked
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Big Fish Golf Club #9
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Big Fish Golf Club #9
Will Brogan

Once, while playing a round at TPC Sawgrass' famed Stadium Course, a playing partner of mine, claiming to have gone to school with P.B. Dye, said a Yogi Berra-esque quote that's always stuck with me: "On a Pete Dye-designed golf course, to hit a fade you have to draw the ball, and to hit a draw you have to hook it."
This was partially humor, of course, but when playing a Dye-designed course like Big Fish Golf Club (which his understudy Tim Liddy did most of the groundwork on, Dye will tell you) in Hayward, Wisconsin, you are much better off hitting your shots in a "right to left" fashion on a consistent basis. Even if the angles aren't necessarily ideal for scoring by staying left (though most are), you'll stay away from a majority of the trouble that the golf course presents. Keep in mind, however, that Dye is a true master at "on the tee deception", so don't let appearances fool you!
The Front Nine
After four years of playing golf courses to write about them for Tee Times, the Front Nine at Big Fish is on the short list of fond memories playing across dozens of courses in Minnesota and Wisconsin. The links inspired, 3,550 yard front side starts with a modest right-to-left par four that does give a golfer a chance to, well, not need a breakfast ball. In fact, on the entire front nine, you can probably play it with only one ball! Wide fairways are offset by links-like long fescue grasses that will make playing the ball difficult, but probably not finding it. That's nice to hear, right?
Only the par five seventh hole features water, and you'd really have to have lost your mind or your swing to end up wet on that hole! Still, perhaps the most challenging hole on the front nine is the 458 yard par four sixth hole. The longer you try to hit your tee shot, the more accurate you'll have to be in both line and shot shape. Following your drive, you're faced with a football-shaped green with the "points" parallel to you - meaning you have no margin for error missing right or left, and better have your yardage right to get it anywhere close to the pin. It's a hole that fits Dye's typical layout: right to left, more challenging as the distance increases, and deception everywhere! Considering that you're probably coming off at least a birdie opportunity at the short par four fifth, you may want to check the mental gauge before letting loose on this one.
The Back Nine
Big Fish's back nine sees the same width, the same deceptive angles, the same "safe haven" of the left side of the fairway, but a totally different look! The forests and hills that are so prevalent everywhere else in Northwestern Wisconsin make their presence felt shortly after you pass "Mulligan's Pub" at the turn. One can only relate it to riding down a ten-lane freeway to suddenly find yourself driving in a four lane tunnel. It feels that different, even if your approach really shouldn't change.
Perhaps the most fun hole on the golf course is the 525 yard par five thirteenth. While it looks nothing like the counterpart about to be mentioned, it has a similar playability: the 13th hole at Augusta National, coming out of Amen Corner. It has a similar right to left "turn" off the tee, to the point where you can't really see the fairway continue to the left. The hole moves somewhat downhill to a low point on the property, (though no comparison to Rae's Creek can be made) requiring you to hit over a valley to a green with some fun contours. Those who are big hitters and can work the ball right-to-left should be able to easily reach in two. Those who can't, well, be smart with your club selection as it pertains to the angles of attack. You may inadvertently give yourself tree trouble, even when you have a fairway lie!
Getting Better - Year After Year
"We're going into our fourth year under our new ownership, and it's getting better year after year. We're not changing anything to the course. We took a great turn last year and this year we came out of winter in great shape," explained General Manager Scott Simmons, "It's always been a great layout!"
Still, improvements are being made to the "club" side of things. While Big Fish will likely never venture toward the country club feel - preferring to let the golf course itself continue to be the big draw - they are tweaking the experience to make the facility open year round. Some of these upgrades will be completed this summer, like a 150-person capacity banquet facility, expected to be finished while this issue of Tee Times Magazine is still on the shelves. Additionally, the course will feature an indoor golf simulator for members to keep their swings fresh during the snowy offseason.
A Must Play - Period!
Hayward is known as "the golf capital of Wisconsin", among many other nicknames given to the small city with an incredibly outdoor sporting heritage. It's a trip that Upper Midwesterners typically take on a yearly basis. Some would call it more of a "pilgrimage" than a "golf trip" or "vacation". When Big Fish opened a decade ago, it instantly became the new "must play" of the area, and has continued to build on that reputation over the last several years.
So when it comes to the best pure golf course in Hayward, or perhaps Western Wisconsin, make no mistake: the Pete Dye inspiration and Tim Liddy execution will draw you in. Heck, after just one round, you'll likely be hooked, kinda like, well, a big fish.

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