Heaven in the Devil's Den; Wild Rock GC
Wild Rock Golf Course Review
By John Ehle
The Wisconsin Dells/Baraboo area seems to be presently famous as being the water parks capital of the world. When I was a kid, it was a Coney Island-like place to which Wisconsin families made an annual sojourn to see real Native Americans, go on boat rides on a river which was picture pretty and to bounce/splash around on some amphibious WW2 vehicles called "Ducks" if the family budget would allow it.
It was and is the most-visited town in Wisconsin and the allure continued as we grew up as it became a destination for high school class trips and, eventually, Dr. Laudon's Geology 101 class from UW Madison. Other college-age visits were motivated by less lofty goals.
The names attached to the unique sandstone and quartzite structures were created by the Winnebago Indians who lived there for thousands of years. Devils Lake, Devils Nose, Devils Doorway, and Devils Alley among them. The Winnebago legends tell us that the lake valley was formed by a meteor or by thunderbolts tossed by thunderbirds. In truth, the breaking of the ice dams from the last glacier created such an immense rush of water that the structures were formed in a relatively short period of time. OK, thunderbirds seem to be an attractive possibility.
The structures were captured on film by 19th century pioneer photographer Henry H. Bennett whose son had the foresight to buy river property and reforest it, insuring that a sliver of scenic tourism would remain to draw from the waders and splashers which make up the majority of the area's present visitors.
Part of the changing scene in the Dells has been the renovation and reconfiguration of local golf courses which were part of the attraction to the area for resort visitors over the years. The most recent and dramatic addition to local courses has been Wild Rock Golf Club. Wild Rock used a portion of the old Wilderness GC but it is very difficult to figure out where the old course stopped and Wild Rock began.
Mike Blazich, son of local clubmaker Bob Blazich and his wife Jan, has been the superintendent at Wild Rock since before its design and shaping. Blazich says that portions of only four holes were used in the new design and added that to be able to work with architects Mike Hurdzan and Dana Fry from the beginning was a life-changing experience. The Hurdzan/Fry Environmental Design team were the primary architects at Erin Hills.
The golf course is blessed with elevation changes which take advantage of the driftless topography, and the Hurdzan/Fry philosophy of moving as little earth as possible was perfect for the site. Less is more. It's fair, I think, to say that Dr. Mike Hurdzan is the agronomist and Dana Fry the shaper/technician of this team and Hurdzan convinced Blazich that California greens (all sand) were less expensive and more efficient in terms of getting rid of excessive amounts of rain. Puddling on these greens is minimal and user friendly after big storms. I played the golf course after a large thunderstorm and the swales in these undulating greens were indifferent to the massive amounts of water. They putted beautifully.
Unique properties with diverse topographic features foster memorable golf experiences. Wild Rock is one of them. Each hole can be recalled post-round as they evoke unique responses from the golfer who golfs his/her ball by thinking through a golf course.
In addition, for the observer of natural surroundings, this diverse biological community supports more than 600 species of plants and a trove of woodland birds. The walks between shots offer nature at its finest. I saw more orioles, tanagers, thrushes, woodpeckers and hawks at Wild Ridge than at any other Wisconsin course that I'd visited this year. A paradise.
Green fees at Wild Rock are attractive enough to make a visit to the Dells economically feasible in addition to offering the varied attractions which enable it to be a family experience. Find Wild Rock on the web at www.wildrock.com or call 608 253 GOLF(4653).
Article Tags: Wild Rock Golf Course Review, Wisconsin Dells
Revised: 11/08/2010 - Article Viewed 32,545 Times
About: John Ehle
John Ehle writes for GolfWisconsin.com, GolfTrips,com and other golf-related sites in the US. He has attended 6 Open Championships in the British Isles and many men's and women's US Opens and PGA Championships as well as Ryder Cups and President's Cups.
His primary international writing is golf course reviews and travel articles. He also writes about golf equipment and other golf-related products. Most recently he traveled to Cuba and will be in SE Asia for 6 weeks in February and March, 2012.
He writes a weekly column for a metropolitan newspaper in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin area. He is a 10 handicap golfer and has competed in many Wisconsin State Golf Association events.