Erin Hills new putting course

Artist rendering of Erin Hills' new putting course.

Golfers talk about elevation changes on golf courses. They rarely talk about elevation changes on greens.

At Erin Hills, a 62,000-square-foot putting course scheduled to open later this year will have 10 to 12 feet of elevation change, according to Dana Fry, who designed the mammoth green with associate Jason Straka.

“It’s unbelievably dramatic,” Fry said. “You might have double-breaking putts that break 10 feet one way and five feet the other way. Over a hill and then up eight or nine feet. The tee might be up high and you’re putting down a steep slope.”

The addition of a putting course will give golfers and especially overnight guests one more thing to do at Erin Hills, which played host to the 2017 U.S. Open and is ranked No. 42 on Golf Digest’s list of America’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses, but has just one 18-hole course.

“It’s just another way to expand the experience, whether for daily golfers or for overnight guests,” said John Morrissett, the competitions and marketing director at Erin Hills. “If someone doesn’t want to play 36 holes in a day but wants to spend one or two nights there, there are still other things to do.”

Putting courses such as The Punchbowl at Bandon Dunes in Oregon and Thistle Dhu at Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina have proved to be popular additions to world-class golf destinations.

The 1¼-acre, 18-hole putting course at Erin Hills will be located just to the north of the practice putting green. It was shaped and cored last fall and will be seeded by the end of April, weather permitting. It is scheduled to open Aug. 1.

There will be no additional charge for golfers or overnight guests to use the putting course.

Because it was built in part over the back tees of the par-5 opening hole, a new set of tees was built north and west of the original clubhouse, now called the Lodge.

“The forward three tees before the wetlands stayed,” Fry said. “The back three tees were eliminated. We filled that whole valley floor up and basically spread the dirt over a two-acre area, probably 100,000 square feet, and that’s where we built (the putting course).

“We built some new tees to the left, sort of over by the (practice) putting green. It changes the angle dramatically. It becomes a hard dogleg.”

The contours will be so dramatic on the A-4 bentgrass putting course that the speed of the grass probably will be slower than the speed of the greens on the course, which typically run 11 to 12 feet on the Stimpmeter.

“My guess is they would be never more than 10,” Fry said. “There’s too much contour.”

Morrissett envisions foursomes tackling the putting course between rounds on Erin Hills or larger groups, drinks in hand, trying crazy putts after dinner. The course will be lit at night.

“Part of the hope is that players will face putts that they haven’t faced before,” he said. “It will be entirely for fun. Whether between your rounds or after dinner, it’s just another thing to do.”

Said Fry, “I think you’ll have people putting into the late hours of the evening and some gambling going on. You’ll have guys trying outlandish putts.”

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.