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On the Course at Lawsonia (Links)


“Langford wasn’t obsessed with length, especially off the tee – I don’t think there is truly a “forced” carry off the tee on a Langford course,” notes Phil McDade. “The tee shot merely introduces you to the hole. Yes, you can choose either the tiger’s line off the tee or tack your way around the golf course safely, but it’s the second shot into those pushed-up greens where the great variety of approaches really tests the golfer. You can hit your driver all day long, but it’s a second shot golf course.”

Lawsonia also has a refreshingly atypical routing. First, instead of the boring, tired doctrine of symmetry formula of two par-5s and two par-3s on each side, Lawsonia has five par-5s and five par-3s, much like almost all of architect Jim Engh’s work, and much oof Mike Strantz’s. Also, the stretch of holes 9-14 has a par sequence of 5-3-5-3-5-3. Perhaps only Inwood Country Club with its 5-5-5-3-3 sequence has something to rival this uniqueness. It’s these interesting architectural nuances that make Lawsonia a course unlike any other.

The course opens with two blind drives, but neither is oppressive or a nuisance. Off the first tee, you can stray as far left as you like, you’ll just have the cavernous greenside bunker yawning in front of you on the approach. Instead, if you hug the right side, you’ll have a great angle into the green with the bunker well to your left, but your drive must flirt with the rough along the right side of the fairway. It’s great risk-reward golf right out of the gate. After cresting the hill on the second hole, the charming old dairy farm buildings provide an unmistakable reminder that you are in Wisconsin, and the verdant rolling farmland provides a tranquil backdrop for the day’s game.

Indeed, the entire front side is about as flawless a loop of nine that you can find, and each hole deserves to be studied. Highlights include the stretch of 6-7-8. The long par-4 sixth features a diagonally-set mounded bunker that sits almost in the center line of the fairway to challenge the tee shot, and a devious thumbprint in the back left of the green to confound unlucky players on the approach. A four here is hard-earned indeed.

The par-3 seventh is a unique and interesting spin on a “Short” hole as the entire heart-shaped green is perched atop a 15-foot mound with falloffs on all sides. It’s called the “Boxcar Hole” because legend has it that it’s built atop an old railroad car.

Here’s an idea: let’s figure out if the story is true once and for all. Archaeologists have sonar/radar equipment that can see beneath the earth. It should be relatively simple to take an x-ray-type photo and see if there is a boxcar or not. Call Mythbusters or your friendly neighborhood archaeologist and turn them loose! They have the technology readily at hand.

Archaeologist 1: “Aren’t these scientific breakthroughs great? We don’t even have to dig!”

Archaeologist 2: “Where’s the fun in that?”

Anyway, eight is a great drive and pitch hole. Even if you crush the ball to position A, you are still faced with a dicey, frightening pitch to a green that slopes off in every direction into a swale, or worse still a deep bunker. The shorter the hole, the more peril a great architect places around the green to defend par.

Next comes the 5-3-5-3-5-3 section of the course. While most players and writers love the par-5 11th and par-3 12th – and yes, the 12th green has some amazing interior contour and great bunkering – this writer likes the par-5 13th and the tiny par-3 14th.

“13 is a great challenge to both experts and bogey golfers alike,” says McDade. The diagonally placed bunkers off the tee can be challenged by the long hitter who can try for the green in two, while the safer you play, the further away form the knee of the dog-leg you get and the longer the second shot.” The expert can then try to carry the massive false front to reach the green, but if he fails, he has a 70-yard pitch to the green: the same shot the lesser player will have after playing a smart second. While trees are normally a nuisance on a golf course, the trees ringing the green merely provide a scenic backdrop and shelter the green from the wind.

The same trees also ring the entire 14th hole, so your best hope to not fall victim to the swirls that confound players trying to get close to the pin with an aerial attack might be better suited to punching a lower lofted club instead and keeping the ball out of the wind. It’s great change of pace from the rest of the course.

Finally, the terrific 17th green is shaped like a diamond with the point coming directly down the axis of the fairway, making the target appear much smaller than it really is. Don’t go long as the back bun ker is ten feet deep.

Langford and Moreau also used a variety of other strategic hazards. Cross bunkers coupled with mounds and bunkers 20-60 yards shor5t of the green are reminiscent of the work of such other celebrated Golden Age architects such as Devereux Emmet. Indeed, no less a personage as Ran Morrissett, one of the world’s leading experts in golf courser architecture said Lawsonia is much more interesting from 50 yards in than Bethpage Black and he’s 100% right.

Finally, you can’t beat the price. The highest rack rate is $65, but most people get away with paying much less. And that’s finding the great $20 steak. After all, if you’re going to visit America’s Cow Country you have to have a great steak.

Steak at the end too…if you’re gonna visit cow country you might as well have a steak.