The Baths of Blackwolf Run

An artist rendering of "The Baths of Blackwolf Run" short course scheduled to open in June 2021.

The Kohler Co. is taking the concept of the short course to a new level with “The Baths of Blackwolf Run,” which will combine a 10-hole par-3 course with a two-acre putting course and – get this – four “baths,” or swimming holes, built into the routing.

The complex, being built on 27 acres between the first and 11th holes of the Meadow Valleys course at Blackwolf Run, is scheduled to open in June 2021.

Starting with its name, which pays homage to the company’s history in plumbing and bath design, the short course promises to be markedly different from others added as amenities to golf resorts such as Bandon Dunes, Pinehurst Resort, Trappers Turn in Wisconsin Dells and Sand Valley in the Town of Rome.

“There’s a great deal of flexibility built into this space,” said Dirk Willis, vice president of global golf, retail and landscape for Kohler Co. “It’s not just your standard short course that you see a lot of facilities building. It’s designed for a variety of different functions. Short-game practice and short-game play is one of them. But it’s also designed for corporate groups, for outings, for events – specifically with the baths, with food and beverage service, with the combination of things that we’ll have up there.”

Artist's rendering of "The Baths of Blackwolf Run" short course scheduled to open in June 2021.

The four water features, or baths, will have sand bottoms and beach access. For typical daily play, they will be part of the course routing, though multiple tee boxes ensure that there are no forced carries over water unless desired. If a business or group schedules an event, part of the par-3 course can be closed so that the baths do not come into play.

“The design lends itself to being able to section it off into different parts, if you wanted to have two different parties on the course at the same time and create smaller experiences,” Willis said. “We’ve already started to think about that from an operational standpoint.”

The 10-hole short course was designed by Chris Lutzke, a protégé of the late Pete Dye – who designed the 72 holes at Blackwolf Run and Whistling Straits – with significant input from Kohler Co. executive chairman Herbert V. Kohler Jr. It was Kohler’s idea to include the swimming holes.

“This truly was a collaboration between Herb and Chris Lutzke,” Willis said. “Herb, with his experience working with Pete and traveling the world playing golf, he’s got a lot of ideas in his head. And in Chris, I think he found a perfect partner, just like he had in Pete, to help him bring those ideas to life.”

The short course will be incredibly flexible. Depending on the teeing ground used, it can be played entirely with a putter, with a wedge and a putter or with most of the irons in a player’s bag. The holes can stretch from 65 yards to more than 150. And it can be played in three-, four- or six-hole loops, as a warm-up to a round of golf on the Meadow Valleys or as a venue to settle bets post-round.

“What you’ll see on this course – and I don’t want to disparage other people’s products – but something like the Cradle (at Pinehurst) that is very small and compact, this is not like that,” Willis said. “This is a legitimate big-time, very well-designed par-3 golf course. You’re going to see some of the most visually stunning par-3s on this course that you’ll see anywhere on that property. And that’s saying a lot.

“Chris put his own stamp on it, too. It’s not like he walked in here as the Pete Dye protégé and just did what Pete would have done. He put his own stamp on it, and you can see that.”

The putting course, modeled after the Himalayas at St. Andrews, can be played as an 18- or 27-hole routing. Additionally, part of the putting course can be converted into two additional par-3 holes, which would bring to 12 the number of holes on the short course. The southern tip of the putting course serves as the green for the 10th hole.

“On a day-to-day basis, we’re going to promote it as a 10-hole facility, which it is, and the putting course,” Willis said. “But you could do a six- and a four-hole loop for two separate parties. You could even do a 12-hole loop if you had a large group, because the shape of the putting course lends itself to two additional par-3s.

The short course and putting course will be included in all Kohler golf packages as an unlimited-access add-on. For resort guests not on a golf package, the rate will be $75 for unlimited daily play. Youths 17 and under will use the facility free of charge when accompanied by a paid adult.

“It’s going to be a very affordable experience for a family of four to go out and spend an hour and a half before or after dinner, just relaxing,” Willis said.

Food and beverage will be available at the structure near the first tee of the Meadow Valleys course. Also, a grass and stone terrace will be built near the putting course, with fire pits, a grill pit and outdoor seating.

“The par-3 and putting courses will provide a dynamic experience for our international guests and local community,” Kohler said in a statement. “It is important for these courses to aid in our continuing efforts to grow the game by creating opportunities for players of all skill levels. The Baths will do it with the Kohler touch to create a unique experience.”

The Kohler Co. will pack a lot into a four-month span in 2021 with the opening of The Baths of Blackwolf Run in June and the postponed Ryder Cup in September.

“We are going to be busy,” Willis said. “We like it that way, though.”

Gary has covered golf in Wisconsin since 1980 and is a multiple award winner in the GWAA writing contest. He was inducted into the WSGA Hall of Fame in 2017 and joined Wisconsin.Golf in 2018 after a distinguished career at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

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