Whistling Straits played host to the PGA Championship three times, in 2004, 2010 and 2015, but it’s unlikely the championship will return now that it has been moved up to May on the PGA Tour calendar.
That doesn’t mean the Kohler Co. has stopped pursuing championship golf.
“We still have the U.S. Open as a candidate,” said Herbert V. Kohler Jr., chairman of the Kohler Co. “And possibly even the Tour Championship, which moves into August.”
Kohler plans to build a fifth course in the city of Sheboygan, designed by Pete Dye and currently in a drawn-out process for final permitting and approval.
That course, to be constructed on bluffs overlooking Lake Michigan several miles south of Whistling Straits, would be pitched to the United States Golf Association as a potential U.S. Open venue. If it happened, however, it would be many years down the road.
More immediate could be Kohler’s pursuit of the Tour Championship, which is played at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta. The tournament moves up one month, from late September to late August (22 through 25 this year) on the PGA Tour’s condensed schedule.
“It could be rather difficult to keep it in Atlanta (because of the heat and humidity in August),” Kohler said. “We’ve talked to the Tour about it.”
One sticking point is that Atlanta-based Coca-Cola has been a main sponsor of the Tour Championship and if the tournament moved another sponsor likely would need to be found.
As for the PGA, the Straits probably is out as a host but not because of Wisconsin’s fickle weather in May and not because the course couldn’t be readied for the world’s best golfers.
“The PGA is most concerned about the quality of the rough, believe it or not,” Kohler said. “The problem is the length and density of the rough at that time of year.
“Kerry Haigh (the PGA of America’s chief championships officer) suggested I look at replacing the fescue with bluegrass. I can’t do that. It would completely change the character of the course.”