The SentryWorld Experience
By Erik Mrotek
For more than three decades, SentryWorld has been heralded as one of the most unique and best golf courses in the Midwest. Centrally located in Stevens Point, it takes less than two hours to reach from Madison and is well worth the drive. Allow us to explain why.
Owned and operated by Sentry Insurance, SentryWorld was created to be more than just a corporate asset-it’s a part of the community. It was the vision of then Sentry CEO John Joanis to construct a world-class golf course and accompanying sports complex right across the street from Sentry’s home office. His idea was to provide a resource to serve employees and their families, area residents, and visitors.
Joanis partnered with course architect Robert Trent Jones, Jr. to create something beyond a mere 18 holes of golf, something that Jones eventually called his Mona Lisa. SentryWorld. The inaugural round was played on June 13, 1982 and the course quickly became famous for its world-class caliber and stunning signature “Flower Hole.”
SentryWorld’s opening arrived with great local, regional, and national acclaim and soon became Wisconsin’s first destination golf course thanks to its championship-level golf course and state-of-the-art sports complex-complete with pro shop, event space, indoor tennis and racquetball courts, an indoor golf driving range, and an onsite restaurant.
As a result, we were named the first-ever winner of Golf Digest’s Best New Public Course award, along with securing a ranking in the top 10 courses of Golf Digest’s Wisconsin Best in State category-an honor we’ve received every year since the course opened.
In 2013, Jones returned to SentryWorld, and in collaboration with course architects Bruce Charlton and Jay Blasi, oversaw a 20-month renovation to the 200-acre course, with upgrades, improvements, and changes to everything from the layout, greens, grasses, and bunkers to the irrigation system, water features, and even the onsite sports complex, now called the Fieldhouse.
To make it even more challenging for experienced golfers, length was added from the championship tees, making the total golf course yardage more than 7,200 yards-7,237 to be exact. The variety of shots, both in distance and angle, is increased. Every shot presents the low handicap golfer with options, requiring them to make use of every club in their bag during a round.
The added variety also makes the course more playable and enjoyable for average golfers. Recreational golfers can now choose from several tee boxes, adjusting the hole lengths to accommodate their skill level and style of play. Wider, more open fairways allow golfers to play around hazards. Recovery slopes and closely mowed areas around the greens provide more options in approaching the hole. And the iconic sixteenth hole-the Flower Hole-is enhanced.
While every hole at SentryWorld was redesigned and the features rebuilt, there were certain elements of the original design that the architects wanted to preserve in the new layout. Bunkers with high flashes and visibility fell into that category. Each was improved for playability, access, and drainage. To enhance their visuals, truckloads of white sand were brought in from Ohio to maximize the beauty and contrast of each bunker placement.
Learning from three decades of developments in turf and turf grass maintenance practices, the team planted leading-edge grasses that are more disease-resistant and designed for today’s green speeds. Fairways and tees are seeded with Memorial bentgrass, a newer variety ideal for the Midwestern climate. Greens and green surrounds feature 007 bentgrass, allowing for faster green speeds and a variety of shots around the greens. Finally, the roughs have been sodded with a hearty, local bluegrass.
Providing golfers with top-notch practice facilities has always been an important aspect of the SentryWorld experience. The existing practice tee area is extended, reconfigured in angle, and enhanced with a variety of targets within the range itself-including target greens, fairways, and bunkers. Both natural turf and mats provide local golfers, golf teams, and other users with a dedicated space for practice, whether for an hour or for an entire day.
Reconfiguring the original practice tee allowed for the addition of a warm-up tee and putting green. There’s also a short game practice area with two dedicated green complexes. Players can focus solely on putting or chipping and work on their short game with shots from a bunker, fairway, or rough, as well as from a downhill or an uphill lie.
A dedicated lesson area also provides the ideal environment for budding players, both in an individual or a group setting.
From the very start, we’ve worked to make SentryWorld a strong supporter of the USGA as well as the Wisconsin State Golf Association (WSGA) and the PGA-specifically the Wisconsin section. Our rolling green fairways, sparkling blue waters, and impeccable white sands have led to numerous awards and accolades, allowing us the privilege to host a variety of golf tournaments, championships, and other events. Our honors include:
• First ever winner of “Best New Public Course” from Golf Digest-1983
• Ranked as a Golf Digest Top 10 course in Wisconsin: Best in State category every year since the course opened
• Host: 1984 WIAA State Tournament-Winner: Steve Stricker
• Host: Sentry Challenge Cup in 1985 and 1986-Participants included Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, and several other PGA and LPGA tour stars
• Host: 1986 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship-Winner: Cindy Schreyer
• Host: 1989 WSGA Father-Son Championship
• Host: 1993 WSGA Senior Amateur Championship
• Host: 2001 U.S. Open Qualifier
• Host: 2005 Wisconsin State Senior Open Championship
• Host: 2005 WSGA Two-Man Team Championship
• Awarded Golf Course Owners of Wisconsin “Golf Course of the Year” in 2007 and 2009
• Host: 2011 Wisconsin State Women’s Open Championship
• Multi-year host: SentryWorld Junior Girls Championship
• Ranked #15 Best New and Newly Remodeled Courses of 2014 by Golf Digest
• Ranked #2 Most Anticipated New Courses of 2015 by GOLF
• Ranked #4 Best in State by Golfweek for 2015-2016
• Ranked #5 Best in State by Golf Digest for 2015-2016
• Ranked #78 “Top 100 Courses You Can Play” in 2016 by Golf Magazine
• Ranked #4 “Best Golf Courses You Can Play in Wisconsin” in 2016 by Golf Magazine
• Ranked #5 “Best in State (Wisconsin)” in 2016 by Golf Digest
• Ranked #5 “Best Courses You Can Play in Wisconsin” in 2016 by Golfweek
• Host site for the 2022 Wisconsin State Open
SentryWorld also features our own onsite restaurant. PJ’s – SentryWorld is named after PJ Jacobs and pays homage to the man who moved a small insurance company to Stevens Point more than 100 years ago and changed the course of the city by creating what would become Sentry Insurance.
PJ’s features a Wisconsin-inspired theme to create a warm, inviting, and relaxed atmosphere where you’ll feel comfortable gathering for lunch or dinner.
The menu is a tribute to the flavors of Wisconsin, using locally sourced ingredients wherever possible. The restaurant also features a wood oven, used for handmade pizza and other entrees. The pizzas are a fusion of Neapolitan-style and Wisconsin comfort, featuring a thin crust. You’re even able to watch them bake in the 900-degree Fahrenheit wood oven.
You’ll also enjoy a wide variety of soda, wine, beer, and cocktails to pair with your meal. Among the more than 27 tap beers served is PJ’s White Ale, a private label exclusively brewed by Point Brewery for us.
And in recognition of our Midwest hospitality, we welcome our guests without the need for a reservation.
The four counties surrounding Stevens Point provide many opportunities for convenient lodging. In fact, the counties of Portage, Marathon, Wood, and Waupaca have more than 6,000 hotel rooms. There are also hundreds of vacation rentals available. Most are in cities less than an hour from SentryWorld.
We hope you enjoyed learning about our history, our course, and our amenities. We welcome you to visit SentryWorld and experience firsthand why this is the perfect venue for your next golf outing. We look forward to seeing you soon.