Whether it’s one of the acclaimed courses at Grand Geneva Resort & Spa or Geneva National Resort, or enjoying the views and challenges at one of the many other nearby links, players quickly realize why the Lake Geneva area is one of Wisconsin’s top golf destinations.
With more than 20 golf courses located within minutes of the banks of picturesque Geneva Lake, Lake Geneva’s century-old reputation as playground for the rich still rings true today, with the modern-day emphasis on “playground.”
Situated between Milwaukee and Chicago, Lake Geneva was in a perfect location to welcome the fledgling game of golf to the Midwest. Lake Geneva is absolutely a Wisconsin city, but there’s no denying its Illinois influences dating back to the 1870s, when wealthy Chicago families fled north to the resort town as the city was rebuilding after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. When the first Lake Geneva golf holes were laid out in the late 1890s, there was already a willing population of potential golfers awaiting their arrival.
Come the 21st century, sprawling resorts with multiple courses anchor Lake Geneva golf on both ends of town.
Golf is just one of the many activities available to guests at bustling Grand Geneva Resort & Spa, a AAA Four-Diamond resort located on the eastern edge of the city. There are two championship courses here – The Brute and The Highlands – and, despite the common ground they share, they have vastly different histories. Robert Bruce Harris designed the Brute in the late 1960s as a showpiece for the then-new Lake Geneva Playboy Club, which years later became Grand Geneva Resort & Spa.
The Highlands was built in the mid-1990s when architect Bob Cupp replaced a course called the Briar Patch that opened in 1971. The Briar Patch never matched the quality of its big-name designers – Jack Nicklaus and Pete Dye – so Cupp essentially started over. The Highlands – a pretty Scottish links-themed layout – measures 6,659 yards from the back tees.
The Playboy days are long gone, and Grand Geneva now boasts a lot of family activities besides golf, including horseback riding, waterparks, tennis facilities, hiking, biking and numerous dining facilities. The resort also offers a range of spa services year-round in its WELL Spa + Salon.
Geneva National Resort, located just north of town, has always been associated with three big names in the world of golf, as Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino and Gary Player designed its three golf courses
The Player course was the last of the three to be completed because an environmentally sensitive routing had to be found around wetlands leading down to the property’s Lake Como shoreline. The course is considered by many to be the best of the trio, as it has appeared on Golfweek magazine’s Best Courses You Can Play list.
Six days a week, Geneva National sets aside one of the three courses for its private membership, while the other two are open to the public. Tuesday is the only day all three courses are open for daily-fee players.
The Inns of Geneva National and Geneva Ridge Resort are lodging options, so stay and play packages including rounds of golf on the Geneva National courses are offered.
In nearby Fontana, Abbey Springs GC was designed by Ken Killian and Dick Nugent and opened for play in 1971. The par-72 course measures 6,644 yards from the back tees. The rolling, wooded terrain here presents a terrific landscape for golf, and many of the holes look much different in person than they do on the scorecard.
Abbey Springs is a private club, resort course and daily-fee facility all rolled into one. It is located near and works in cooperation with the Abbey Resort, but they are separately owned. The course is open to daily-fee players and is a popular spot for golf outings, but its private membership gets priority for weekend tee times.
Country Club Estates is a pretty nine-hole golf course also located in Fontana. The par-35 layout measures 3,011 yards from the back tees and is a fun, sometimes quirky place to play. Once private, Country Club Estates is always open to daily-fee players.
Hawk’s View GC, which opened in 2001 and was designed by Craig Schreiner, offers a couple unique 18-hole courses.
Par-72 Como Crossings is the championship golf course at Hawk’s View GC, and it measures 7,074 yards. Como Crossings makes excellent use of the property’s varied terrain, which used to be home to a ski hill called Mt Fuji. The course has a 15-foot waterfall on the 14th hole and some nice elevation changes thanks to that old ski hill heritage. In many cases, fairways are bordered by wetlands and stands of long fescue grasses.
Barn Hollow is Hawk View’s par-3 course, measuring 2,708 yards. From the back tees, holes range from 106 yards to 222 yards. From the forward tees, holes average around 100 yards.
There are two popular golf facilities in Delavan, about 10 miles east of Lake Geneva, and both date to the 1920s.
Lake Lawn Resort is a full-service resort occupying two miles of Delavan Lake shoreline. Part of that shoreline is devoted to Lake Lawn’s 18-hole golf course – par-70 and 6,201 yards – that opened in the 1920s.
Delbrook GC is a 27-hole facility that opened for play in 1928 and was a private club until purchased by the city of Delavan in 1945. The city has operated it since then, adding the third nine in 2001. All three nines – North, South and Middle – play to a par of 35 and measure between 3,185 and 3,376 yards with four sets of tees.
About 10 minutes north of lake Geneva, two courses reside in the Walworth County community of Elkhorn. Evergreen GC is a 27-hole facility that is often one of the first courses to open in the spring and last to close in the fall. All three nines at Evergreen are par-36 and play over rolling terrain with numerous water features.
Aptly named Lauderdale Lakes GC is located on the Lauderdale Chain of Lakes just off Highway 12/67. and offers a nine-hole course measuring 3,003 yards from the back tees
In East Troy, Alpine Valley Resort offers a ski hill in winter and a major concert venue in its outdoor amphitheater through the warm-weather season. The rock stars that play the theater have been known to tee it up on Alpine Valley’s 18-hole golf course before and after their gigs.
Nippersink Resort in Genoa City lines near the Illinois state line in a lakeside setting. The resort, which dates to the 1920s, offers an 18-hole course, lodging and facilities for banquets and weddings.
Finally, the Lake Geneva area offers some exceptional private golf clubs. In Fontana, Big Foot GC is a pretty private facility named after an 18th century Potawatomi chief who lived in the area. His name translated to Big Foot, and Geneva Lake was once known as Big Foot’s Lake. Tom Bendelow designed big Foot CC’s championship course.
Lake Geneva CC, located on the south shore and founded in 1895, is a busy place during the summer season. Robert Foulis, who won the second U.S. Open Championship in 1896, designed the first holes at Lake Geneva CC.
Another private facility, Lakewood GC, opened in 2000.