The Oaks Golf Course
I-94's Best Madison Rest Stop
By Paul Seifert
June 15 was one of my best friend's bachelor party in Wisconsin Dells. We had 11:00 tee times at Coldwater Canyon at Chula Vista to get things started. It was destined to be a long weekend, and my friend Dan and I had no qualms with making it a bit longer.
After meeting up with Dan at 5 am on Friday morning, we arrived at the Oaks in Cottage Grove for a 6:30 tee time on a beautiful summer morning. Most people know the Oaks as the nice looking track north of Interstate 94 on the way to and from Madison. The looks open and beautifully maintained from the highway, and has a great looking clubhouse that overlooks it on the horizon. This scene apparently works well in piquing the interest of passers-by, as in just a few months it has become the most often viewed individual course write-up on my entire blog.
The Oaks is one of my favorite golf courses. Bent grass from tee to green, it is beautifully kept and has some great hole layouts. The course has an interesting mix of six par threes and five par fives, resulting in a par score of 71.
The distances for the par threes are fun. The longest, hole seventeen, is a monstrous 215 yards from the black tees, while the rest are more accessible between 148 and 161. Elevation plays a big role in the majority of them, while deep sand traps and very quick greens provide tough defense against easy scoring.
I am told that Steve Stricker plays the Oaks often, as one of the area courses with greens that most closely mirror PGA Tour speeds. Their green speeds closely mirror those at Hawk's Landing, another wonderful Madison area course that I really enjoy.
I was very impressed with the level of customer service at the Oaks, as well as the friendliness of the staff. PGA Director of Golf Jeremy Udovich runs a classy operation, and this was noticed in all interactions with his staff.
The length of the Oaks is a bit deceiving. At only 6,310 yards from the black tees (6,763 from the maroons, 6,011 from the blue, and 5,615 from the whites), the six par threes obviously play a major role in this.
The course looks wide open from the highway. Especially on the back nine, though, it is anything but. The first hole starts by the clubhouse and sets up with a tee shot that bends left to right. At 353 yards, a soft fade will set up a comfortable wedge from the middle of the fairway. The front of the putting complex rises from front to back, so go at the pin for a shorter putt.
The greens were not as quick as I expected early in the morning. The dew slowed them down considerably, and left us both comfortably one- and two-putting most holes to start. This changed drastically as the morning ran on, and putts that previously would have rolled ten feet were suddenly traveling 25. Those one- and two-putts were quickly turning in to two- and three-putts, and even one four. Save the Links course at Lawsonia or Hawk's Landing, these were probably the most challenging greens I have played in the past couple of years. I had 40 putts, in fact, while Dan finished with an 83 and staggering 42 putts.
The second hole is the first of the Oaks' par threes, and is one of my favorites. With a constricted flight area and long pond stretching down the right side of the fairway, the green is well-protected by huge bunkers on the right side, and trees everywhere else. To the left of the green is a steep hill that can be cheated toward for a favorable greenward approach. The green is narrow from left to right, but runs back to front quite long and is heavily sloped from the backside down. I thought the back-left pin location on two was one of the most challenging greens on the course, which says a lot.
The third is the start of a back-to-back set of par fives. At 525 and 526 yards, respectively, the third and fourth play in opposite directions, resulting in one drive with the wind and the other against it. Both fairways can be used off the tee to set up approaches. The third hole plays downhill, while the fourth plays upward and runs slightly right.
Fourteen is a phenomenal par four. The driving area plays over a huge fescue area with woods to the left. The distance is drivable, especially if you can play a draw. A drive to the left side of this fairway can leave a long approach over a second waste area that leaves 30 yards to the green. Cheat right, if you can, as that side is fairly open while the left side is all but unplayable. The fourteenth is really a wonderful golf hole.
Seventeen is the longest of the six par threes at the Oaks, and is definitely the toughest. At 215 yards from the black tees, stay out of the deep bunkers that run the right side of the green area. Finding one of these will result in a long sand shot that needs to be played with considerable loft.
Eighteen is a phenomenal finishing hole. The last of the par fives, the fairway runs slightly downhill and is probably the widest on the course. The hole bends left and over a large waste area, with woods left. Beyond these woods is about 30 yards of open fairway and sand traps, while the right side of the approach area will result in a lost ball or deeper bunkers. Play to the left side of the green for your best chance of staying safe. I found myself with a five-iron in, which I pushed right and in to all kinds of trouble. Getting up to the green, though, I was shocked to see how wide open that left side actually is. This is one of the most challenging approach shots I have found, and makes for a challenging finish to a fantastic golf course.
The Oaks has some interesting tournaments, too, including the end-of-year "Toughest Day of Golf" and "Easiest Day of Golf" October scrambles. The easiest day was just this past weekend, featuring scorable pin locations and forward tee boxes. The toughest day, on the other hand, is played from the tips to the course's most challenging hole locations.
The next time you are visiting the Madison or Wisconsin Dells area, I strongly recommend working a stop at the Oaks in to your itinerary. Bring your A-game, and make sure to spend plenty of time warming up your putting stroke. You will be hard pressed to find another course that is as well maintained, and with as fun a variety of hole layouts.
Article Tags: The Oaks, The Oaks Golf Course, Madison Golf
Revised: 10/23/2012 - Article Viewed 36,405 Times
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About: Paul Seifert
Paul Seifert is an often-proclaimed golf addict, and publisher of WiscoSportsAddict, a blog started in August, 2011, as a forum dedicated to reviewing courses and sharing the best of the best in the state with other avid Wisconsin golfers.
Having started playing in Hartland-area leagues at the age of 12, Paul is a classic over-thinker who averages between 80 and 120 rounds per year, and despite carrying a 13-handicap, is committed to the ongoing improvement of his game.
A health care equipment salesman by day, Paul does not claim to be an expert golfer, but is certainly an expert golf enthusiast who loves the sport and enjoys the writing, research, statistics and photography that make for interesting golf conversation.
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