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The par-5 sixth hole on the Red nine at Mascoutin Golf Club. Trees dictate strategy here, and on many other holes. 

BERLIN – It didn’t take long for me to realize the importance of tee shot placement at Mascoutin Golf Club. On the first hole of the Red nine, I hit what I thought was a good drive down the right side, only to realize when I got to my ball that the approach to the green was blocked by a tree overhanging a good portion of the fairway.

Welcome to Mascoutin, where beauty – a panoply of trees – is the beast.

If you love parkland golf, Mascoutin is right up your alley. Speaking of alleys, that’s what many of the fairways are on the Red and White nines. You almost have to play the course backward, figuring out the best angle into the green and extrapolating where you must hit your tee shot.

It’s definitely a thinking player’s course – strong enough to have hosted the State Amateur in 2006 – and always in tip-top condition.

“Even before I started working here (in February) it was one of my favorite places to sneak away and go play, because it’s always in great shape,” said Jeremiah Hoffmann, the PGA director of golf, who moved over from Rolling Meadows in Fond du Lac. “I really like the fact that you have a traditional parkland, the original 18, and then you have what I would call a resort style on the other nine.”

The Red and White nines at the 27-hole facility were laid out by E. Lawrence Packard and opened in 1976. Packard was a prolific architect who designed more than 20 courses in Wisconsin, including Antigo Bass Lake, Baraboo CC, Steven Point CC, Bullseye Golf Club and Naga-Waukee. His claim to fame is the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook, home of the PGA Tour’s Valspar Championship.

The Blue nine, which opened in 1999 and has wider fairways and more water features, was designed by Rick Jacobson, who also has his name on The Club at Strawberry Creek, Thornberry Creek and several other highly regarded Wisconsin courses.

“It gives you two different kinds of golf courses in 27 holes,” Hoffmann said. “It’s not a stark difference, but there’s definitely things to distract you off the tee on the Blue nine. The reality is the fairways are probably a little more generous on the Blue nine than the Red and the White.

“Some of those penalty areas (on the Blue) are in strategic places to distract your eye and not let you realize quite how much space you have.”

I played the Red and Blue nines on a recent visit; the White was closed because the greens had just been aerified. A few of the trees were just starting to show fall colors, and the explosion of reds, oranges and yellows is just around the corner. I can only imagine how beautiful Mascoutin will be at the end of the month.

“Fall is a great time to be up here,” Hoffmann said. “September is very busy.”

I played sloppily on the Red nine and paid the price with a run of bogeys and a couple doubles. I hit a good shot on the par-3 fourth hole, 20 feet left of the hole, but didn’t read the green properly and watched my putt take a right turn and finish 8 feet below the hole. A three-putt ensued.

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A view of the ninth green on the White nine at Mascoutin Golf Club.

I finally got my act together with pars on Nos. 8 and 9 and then played well on the Blue nine, with a disappointing three-putt bogey on the finishing hole ruining my chance to break 40.

The second hole on the Blue is a cool little par-4; depending on where you hit your tee shot, the approach is blind to semi-blind to a green some 25 feet below the end of the plateau fairway. I hit my tee shot to the very end of the fairway – a few more yards and it would have been in jail – and then had a little 75-yard pitch to the green below. That was fun.

No. 5 on the Blue is a 525-yard par-5 from the back tee (I played it at 483) and is the No. 1 handicap hole on that nine for a reason. After a decent drive, I had about 185 yards left to carry a penalty area, which is pushing my 3-wood to the max. So, I laid up with a 9-iron ... right into the marsh. A one-putt from 10 feet saved my bogey.

Mascoutin was named after a tribe of Algonquian-speaking Native Americans who lived in the area some 300 years ago. The facility is just a 15-minute drive from The Golf Courses of Lawsonia and Tuscumbia CC in Green Lake, which gives the area 81 great golf holes.

“We have some stay-and-play packages with a couple different motels in the area,” Hoffmann said. “A fair percentage of golfers will play us and Lawsonia over a weekend or a couple of days.”

Starting Sept. 14, the rate to play all 27 holes with a cart is $69, a great deal. The rates for 18 holes are $48 with a cart and $31 walking. Twilight rates after 3 p.m. (5 p.m. on Thursdays) are $35 and $21.

With the trees starting to change, now is a great time to play Mascoutin. Don’t forget your camera. And your tree-iron.

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