Thornberry Creek At Oneida – The One And Only

By E. Nolan

There can be only one THE. THE best-kept secret. THE best public course in Green Bay. THE best casino course in Wisconsin. THE official golf course of the Packers. There can be only one THE, but several noteworthy things can be true about that THE. Such is the case with Thornberry Creek at Oneida, in Green Bay, Wisconsin. There are many great truths about Thornberry Creek that are worthy of your attention. It might even be THE greatest course you’ve never played that you’re going to play this year. That is the ambition of this article: To get you over there to maybe make it THE best course you’ve never played before that you played this year.

Thornberry Creek has two courses – 27 holes of exceptionally conditioned golfers paradise. The original, 9-hole “Iroquois Course” has carved out quite a niche in the acclaim world. In 2015 it was rated “Best 9-Hole Course in the State” by the Wisconsin Golf Course Owners Association, and “Best 9-Hole Course in America” by Always Time For Nine. It’s also worth noting that the Iroquois Course is one of only ten official PGA Family Courses in Wisconsin. Par 36 with bonus Junior Tees at 1,100 and 1,800 yards (and two greens for each hole), Iroquois is a great introductory launching pad to the game, or an above par tune-up facility for those looking to take their game further below par. In any event, it’s a wonderful complement to the championship 18.

At 6,934 yards from the tips, the Par 72 Legends Championship Course is playable for all levels of golfers across four sets of tees, but intentionally built to challenge the most skilled players, too, with dozens of bunkers and nearly a dozen water hazards. The course kicks off over the famous Green Bay Packers logo and, for three holes you’re drawn down beautiful, tree-lined corridors to wide-open greens. You break out into the great expanse of greenness on holes 4 through 6, all great scoring opportunities if you’re wise and wary of the sneaky, snaking creek and pretty but dangerous wetlands. The playability of this course is particularly great, in that you can almost always stay away from trouble safely. (That sounds rhetorical but golfers understand it isn’t.) Holes 7 through 9 are pure awesome, though rather daunting, playing along the hazardous shores of Thornberry Creek’s spectacular lakes. The front closer is so intimidating from the tee that the only shot you know you can’t hit is often the one you do, but take solace in knowing you can make up for a triple at #9 in the next few holes (on the back nine).

The backside introduces fescue to the hazard equation but counters that potential negativity with the positively huge runways for fairways (especially on #11). If “Fairways Hit” is a statistical category you’re bent on improving, four of the first five holes on the back are built to comply – to easily bump up your performance percentage. The links-style holes carry over fluidly from the front, and water is less interactive, but it jumps in to catch your attention at captivating classics like the Par 3, 12th and what most contend is THE Signature Hole at Thornberry Creek – the have-to-see-it-to-believe-it split-fairway 15th. By the time you find that green on 15, you’ll be ready to dive back into a couple tree-lined hallways and the mammoth hybrid of links and trees that is the closing hole. From the 18th tee it seems as if you’re playing all the way to the water tower, but don’t worry… the water tower is closer than the green. (Just kidding.)

That’s just a quick spin around the beautiful Rick Jacobson/Bob Lohmann design. The course is a rewarding round of smooth transitions, from trees to no trees, tight to anything but, and challenging to easy, then back again. The local affinity for this meticulously maintained product is evident and not just based on their incredible rating on The passionate and ever quotable Chief Operating Officer, Josh Doxtator, says, “When everyone loves your course, it’s easy to be a people pleaser.”

Mr. Doxtator no doubt pays as close attention to public perception of his place as we golfers do in scoping out its money merit-ness. When the worst thing someone has to say about a course is that it’s “sometimes windy,” and the raves are neverending, it’s safe to say the tee sheets will remain full. “We have an avid and loyal fanbase of Packer fans and golf lovers in this area,” Josh adds, “and inside or out it should be obvious just how much fun we have at Thornberry Creek.”

For Real. Let’s talk about the inside a little – step inside the luxurious Thornberry Creek clubhouse. One look around The Sports Pub with the absurdly huge bar and the (basically) one-TV-per-person ratio of sports screens and you’ll not only want to play here more but eat here more. Take advantage of their BOGO Pizza Thursdays, (from Green Bay’s first true wood-fired pizza oven) Friday Fish Frys, and Prime Rib Saturdays or be more selective from their rotating A La Carte options and Game Day Menu. Enjoy the food and the vibe inside or dine out on the deck on a beautiful day (or night). There’s plenty of room for everyone.

Speaking of space… Thornberry Creek is an equally inviting setting for weddings and banquets. Given the property’s purposeful placement atop the highest hills overlooking Brown County and Green Bay, the drama in your photographic moments is as guaranteed as the memorability factor of your event. The Hawks Crest ballroom can hold up to 300 guests and the views from the Cupola Room are the icing on any ceremonial cake.

I mention that this property is built to host big events, and BIG takes on a whole new meaning from July 3-9 in 2017. The prestigious club will be hosting the inaugural Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic (one of only 33 LPGA tournaments held in the world) this year. 144 of the world’s best female golfers will be competing for a $2 million purse with coverage on NBC’s The Golf Channel. (You see… literally everyone wants to play here!) Talk about a great opportunity to play a course the pros play!

Wherever you’re coming from to experience Thornberry Creek, stay a while. Play it twice on a visit. (Or more, if you take advantage of their “All In-Unlimited Golf and Gambling Package… see below.) Spend the night at one of Green Bay’s premier hotel destinations – The Radisson Hotel and Conference Center adjacent Oneida Casino, just minutes from the golf course and Lambeau Field (across from Austin Straubel International Airport). Thornberry Creek’s “All In” Package offers unlimited golf, unlimited food, unlimited beer, one night at The Radisson and $25 in Casino cash at only $225 a person. You already know the lush comfort of the suites at a Radisson, but their pool and perks get a little perkier when paired with a little casino playtime.

The gateway to Door County is as popular a family draw as there is in the Midwest (especially for football fans on NFL Sundays), and places like Thornberry Creek keep the local love growing and flowing. “We provide an exceptional product and experience at a fraction of the cost,” Mr. Doxtator says. “That’s who we are.”