MIDDLETON — There aren’t many views in Wisconsin golf quite as unique — or as captivating — as the one that golfers enjoy while walking up the 18th fairway at Bishops Bay Country Club.
Each step of the 433-yard, par-4 finishing hole brings them closer to the shores of Lake Mendota. The closer they get to the green, the more they see activity out on the lake against the backdrop of the unmistakable Madison skyline with Wisconsin’s distinguished capitol as the centerpiece.
Since 1995, Bishops Bay Country Club has provided its members and their guests with outstanding fellowship, recreation and social facilities. Whether you play golf, tennis or enjoy social amenities of a country club, Bishops Bay Country Club presents something for everyone in your family!
Bishops Bay’s signature view now lasts start-to-finish on the home hole thanks to subtle renovations to the course directed by Mike Oliphant and Craig Haltom of Oliphant Golf. They included moving the tee box on the 18th hole about 50 yards left of where it once sat, giving golfers a straightaway view of Lake Mendota as they head down the final hole.
“That was one of the key selling points to our club: Let’s have that view happen at the tee,” said John Shipshock, the head golf professional at Bishops Bay. “This is one of the best views in the state of Wisconsin. Let’s try to expand that. Now, you can’t see the capitol from the tee box, but you can still get that ‘ah-ha’ moment as you work your way out on the fairway. As you approach the center, you’ll see the capitol, which provides that ‘Wow!’ Having that view of the lake from the tee gives you a sample of it. But then you get the full experience as you get out there.”
The new-and-improved experience doesn’t end there, however.
To further wed the view with the adventure, Oliphant and Haltom moved the 18th green about 55 yards closer to Lake Mendota. It doesn’t quite hug the shoreline tight to the water, but it is close enough that golfers can theoretically dip a toe in the lake a few steps from their last putt.
“In the past, you’d get done and think ‘Well, this is cool, but why is (the green) essentially 80 yards from the lake?’” Shipshock said. “There are multiple theories as to why that way; I’m not going to get into that. But we took this as an opportunity to move (the green) closer to the lake. Now, when you’re putting out, you’re right there and it brings the capitol even closer.”
In the process, one of Wisconsin’s most popular selfie stations just got a better backdrop.
“Here I am, working here since 1996, and I’m still out there taking pictures; that tells you how breathtaking it is,” Shipshock said. “You’d think, at this point, I’d be a little numb to it, but I’ll still play and be like ‘I gotta take another picture.’ It really achieved what we were looking for, for that experience.”
Shipshock told the story of a recent member-member event with 80 to 100 golfers, practicing safe social-distancing, standing around the 18th green as the final group finished. As he watched along with them, Shipshock noticed that not all the observers were on dry land.
“I was up on the green and there were about three boats that had pulled up fairly close, just to see what was going on,” Shipshock said. “Now that the green has been brought even closer (to the lake), you see even more curiosity from the boaters coming up to kind of check it out.
“It’s impressive from their angle, too.”
Indeed, Bishops Bay – celebrating its 25th anniversary this summer – has made it difficult for golfers to want to venture too far away from all the activity the club has to offer along the lake.
Just recently, the club unveiled its new Lakeside Pizza Kitchen, currently a three-seasons patio overlooking the lake it hopes to have enclosed during the winter for year-round use. It features a wood-fire pizza oven with the capacity to cook up to four 16-inch pizzas in 90 seconds.
In this week’s Wisconsin.Golf Conversation, Jeff Murray — general manager and chief operating officer at Bishops Bay — joins Shipshock inside Lakeside Pizza Kitchen as they talk about the unexpected buzz of activity at the club where COVID-19 forced it to tweak its intended motto for its milestone year from "Leading The Way By Redefining Excellence" to "Leading The Way Through A Worldwide Pandemic." Yet, play is up 20 percent over 2019, according to Shipshock, and that means golfers are noticing improvements to the course that go far beyond a better view on No. 18.