A 268-yard par-3? A 270-yard par-4?
How about both, on the same course, in the same round.
Golfers who make the 36-hole cut in the Wisconsin State Amateur will be greeted Wednesday at historic Milwaukee Country Club with one of the most interesting course setups in championship history.
The ninth hole will play as a drivable par-4 of 270 yards. The 17th will be the longest par-3 in State Amateur history at 268.
Bill Linneman, the longtime director of rules and competitions for the Wisconsin State Golf Association, is respected statewide for his fair but challenging course setups. In preparing Milwaukee CC, the classic Harry Colt-Charles Alison design, he came up with a third-round setup sure to create a buzz.
“I joked with someone that when you have a 270-yard par-4 and in the same round a 268-yard par-3, obviously the demarcation line is 269,” Linneman said with a laugh. “Of course, it’s not.”
The United States Golf Association in recent years has blurred the lines of yardage and par in its championships. There is nothing in the rules that says a par-3 must be under 260 yards, or a par-4 must require two shots to reach the green.
And for young players who carry the ball 300 yards in the air with their drivers, the three-shot par-5 almost no longer exists. In fact, the par-5 seventh and 10th holes at Milwaukee CC will be converted to par-4s of 470-plus yards for the State Am, so par for the course is 70.
Said Linneman, “If somebody said to me, ‘Why are you changing seven and 10 to a par-4?’ If I turned it back into a question and I said to every single one of these players, ‘Whether it’s a par-4 or par-5, are you going to try to be on this green in two?’ The answer is going to be yes, right? Well, we’re going to call it a par-4 then. These kids hit it so flipping far.”
But a 268-yard par-3? What’s that all about?
“If you think of this logically, back when the course was built, the original back tee was 232 yards,” Linneman said. “The intent was to get a scratch player to hit a 3-wood or a 5-wood to the green. Well, today’s 3-wood and 5-wood go 250 to 275. So, we are going to make sure that these players are hitting a 3-wood or a 5-wood or a very low-lofted hybrid. There won’t be anyone hitting an iron on that hole.”
The tee markers for the 17th hole actually will be on the back of the No. 2 tee box.
The handful of senior players in the field likely will have to hit driver. And a couple of them won’t be able to reach the green.
“This tournament is not set up for senior players, and they know that,” Linneman said. “They have their own senior championship. This tournament is meant to identify the best player in the state.”
At 270 yards, the par-4 ninth hole will yield plenty of birdies and perhaps some eagles in the third round. But just because the green is drivable doesn’t mean the hole is easy.
“I want every single player that makes the cut to stand on the ninth tee and give it a crack in trying to drive it,” Linneman said. “Some of these kids will get home with a 3-wood. But I can also tell you that the design of the hole is such that if you don’t hit it in just the right spot, that 270-yard hole can lead to triple-bogeys and quads. It’s going to be a very entertaining hole.”
The course setup for the first two rounds will be more traditional because of the size of the field (156 players) and pace of play concerns. Linneman also wants a more conventional setup for the final round.
But the third round promises to be interesting.
“They’ll definitely enjoy that round,” Linneman said. “It will be a fun State Am.”