Look to Central Wisconsin for Value on Top Golf Courses
Fly to California's Monterey Peninsula and reserve a tee time at Pebble Beach Golf Links and you can expect to shell out greens fees of $305 per round (plus cart). Stay closer to home and play a round of golf at Kemper Lakes in Long Grove and you'll pay greens fees of $130 per person (including cart).
Who says golf isn't a rich person's sport? Why, the folks in Central Wisconsin say just that - and with good reason. At local high-caliber courses they have come to expect uncrowded fairways and budget-friendly greens fees ranging between $30 and $50.
For example, at Lake Arrowhead at Nekoosa, ranked by Golf Digest as one of the best golf values in America, golfers pay only $47 per round. At The Ridges in Wisconsin Rapids, greens fees run only $42 for an 18-hole course with challenging elevations and plenty of water and woods - white birch, green willows and towering pines. At RiverEdge at Marshfield, site of many state tournaments, you can play 18 holes for less than $30.
Lake Arrowhead, 42 miles north of Wisconsin Dells and only 13 miles south of Wisconsin Rapids, ranks among the top public golf courses in America and is one of only three Wisconsin clubs to earn the "great value" designation from Golf Digest, an award given to the top 100 courses nationwide in this category.
The Lake Arrowhead golf complex consists of two 18-hole courses: the Pines and the Lake. The Pines course, opened in the early 1980s and designed by well-known course architects Killian and Nugent, challenges the five-handicapper as well as the weekend golfer. It features a manicured par 72 layout combining bentgrass tees and fairways, velvet-like greens and strategically placed sand traps.
Carved out of Wisconsin's big timber country, the course has fairways flanked by lofty oaks and pines and includes five spectacular water holes. Whether or not you make your shot, there is always the scenic beauty of the North Woods surrounding you to make it all worthwhile.
For those interested in combining a little fishing with their golf, 300-acre Lake Arrowhead is stocked with bass, northern pike, walleye and panfish. During summer, the Shermalot Ski Team performs every Wednesday and Saturday evening at the Rome Lions Park.
One of the up-and-coming Central Wisconsin courses is The Ridges Golf Club at Wisconsin Rapids. Around since the mid-1960s, it has been reshaped and vastly improved by its present owners, brothers Dan and Todd Goska. Besides major course improvements, the Goskas added a lighted driving range and a new clubhouse.
Sit in that clubhouse restaurant and watch golfers tee off for the back nine with a shot that begins on an 80-foot-high ridge into a valley flanked by tall pines and a twisting creek. The redoubtable back nine is wooded and tight with several holes that bring a winding stream into play. Overall, you'll find the course deceptively challenging with a spaciousness that belies its tight fairways and the increasing density of trees that enclose the finishing holes. On Sundays $25 buys unlimited golf plus a cart after 1 p.m.
While in Wisconsin Rapids, take time to drive along The Cranberry Highway. The community, located in the geographic center of the state, sits in the heart of one of the nation's major cranberry-producing areas. Although many people visit during harvest in autumn, June brings pretty white-to-pale-pink cranberry blossoms. Blossoms resemble the head of a crane - hence, "crane berry."
As motorists travel the highway, they can stop for a cranberry shake or cranberry muffin or visit a cheese factory for (you guessed it) "cran-jack" cheese, studded with dried fruit. The route runs about 40 miles and includes visits to numerous marsh areas, historic sites, museums, markets, shops and restaurants. …