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Hartford Golf Club

Lift, Clean and Chase

By Steve Pease

If Wisconsin golf courses were T.V. shows, Hartford Golf Club is the regional "Mad Men".

Located in the heart of a marvelous cluster of public courses 45 minutes west of Milwaukee - including Kettle Hills, Washington County and the buzzworthy Erin Hills - Hartford Golf Club just seems to have a certain, well, ... swing to it. After a gorgeous drive in past Holy Hill, I arrived at the course about 7: 40 a.m. on a Sunday, and parked in front of the Mid-Century modern dining room fronted with signage that gives the course a Rat Packian-vibe. Which makes sense, considering the second (front) nine was added in 1968 on to the existing 9-hole (back), built in 1928.

Hartford has fluctuated between private and public, and is now listed as semi-private. However, this is a club where you need not worry about hoity-toity traditions, or a pro shop full of men buying hats so bad they should get a free bowl of soup.

I arrived about 7:40 a.m. on a Sunday without a confirmed tee time. Head Pro Bill Rabuck welcomed me, nonetheless, gave me a little direction, and challenged me to finish 18 before a 10 a.m. shotgun start outing.

Challenge accepted.

In an instant, Rabuck pulled up my "buggy" outside the pro shop (now that's old-school service) and instructed me to follow a foursome of regulars off the tee. A breakfast ball later, I was off, chasing my Titleist 2 down No. 1 as the morning mist began to burn off. It was the start of a rapid round of lift, clean and chase.

After being pleasantly surprised by the receptive layout (it plays only 6,281 from the whites), I quickly adopted a "grip it and rip it" mentality on the tee. (Note: I'm a dad with a 3 year old and a 3 month old at home being overseen by a patient wife, so I welcomed fast play.) To paraphrase the band Cake "I was going for distance / I going for speed."

No. 3 is a reachable par-5 with a two-headed water hazard, complete with a fountain sending out a siren song for you to go for it. Next, No. 4, a 136-yard par-3 with a fairly deep green, is a delightful little test which forfeited my first par of the day.

Hartford has massive fairways. Save for church pew fescue on No. 6, the rough isn't rough, and rarely gets higher than a half inch. I can honestly say I didn't have a bad lie the whole round, and I sprayed the ball like a college pro painter.

On the back, the course begins to give you uncharacteristic holes, requiring strategic shots into smaller greens. No. 11, an uphill 213-yard 3-par, was my favorite hole. My attempt to finesse-fade a 3/4 3-wood got jussst a little too cute, coming up short and below the elevated green. No. 12 appears to give the golfer a narrow chute, but again you'll find a wide landing area that opens up to a double dogleg left par-5.

Tree "skirts" are hiked high across the course, and were particularly welcome - allowing banana balls on the (theoretically drivable) Nos. 13 and 14 to be punched under limbs and along a medicinal path to back to the short stuff. With the exception of soggy bunkers, course conditions were, for the most part, favorable. Greens were in fine shape for late September. Nearly every one sloping from back to front, and rolling subtle and smooth - just like a "Dino" solo.

Can you dig?

Tee time: 262-673-2710 (Clubhouse doesn't open until 7, don't be surprised if no one picks up). Thursday's Men's League, and Wednesday is for the ladies.
Green's fees: On weekdays it's $15 to walk / $26 to ride. Weekends it's $17 to walk / $32 to ride.
Club dues: For $1,145 you can get a single membership, unlimited play, with reciprocity and some area fine clubs.
Beer after your round: A microbrew in the dining room (it was closed), or a lovely Guinness pint at the Tally Ho down the road.

Revised: 10/03/2013 - Article Viewed 33,814 Times - View Course Profile

About: Steve Pease

Steve Pease Steve Pease, resides in Wisconsin and carries the burden of a 13 handicap. He enjoys microbrews, the Pack and Twitter. Often at the same time. He plays TaylorMade R9 irons, an old-school R7 driver and whatever putter is "working."

He has worked for four golf courses in his life (pro shop attendant, then later, the more prestigious title of course ranger. Ha!) In 2008, he took a part-time job at Golfsmith, custom-fitting clubs when he wasn't running his own freelance writing business. He also experimented with a golf blog.

His favorite interview was ex-USGA executive director David Fay.

Golf writers he reads: John Feinstein, Herbert Warren Wind, Nicklaus (the guy is a little too "feel-oriented" to really provide tangible advice), Jason Sobel and Alan Shipnuck (latter two on Twitter). Although, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel beat writer Gary D'Amato is his "favorite."

Interested in: golf travel writing; course reviews; freelance golf writing; club reviews; Wisconsin golf culture reports; the art of golf gambling; the rules of playing music at low volumes while on the course (read: no Rodney Dangerfield impersonations); learning how pros never, ever accidentally knock the ball off the tee at address, and other stuff.

Greatest moment on a golf course: Uhhhh ... yeah.

Most embarrassing moment on a golf course: Trying to high five Steve Stricker only to have him give me the "knuckle-knock," only it was too late. It ended in more of a "knuckle-hug" and my "best friend" doubling over in laughter.

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