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Where 'Whistling Straits' got its name from and how the course's unique design came to be

Whistling Straits
Posted at 12:00 AM, Sep 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-23 12:25:59-04

SHEBOYGAN COUNTY (NBC 26) — Whistling Straits has a pretty short history, as far as golf courses go. Since it opened in 1998, the course has hosted three PGA championships, a U.S. Senior Open and now a Ryder Cup.

“It’s been a very busy 20-plus years out here at Whistling Straits," said Mike O’Reilly, Director of Operations. “It's an amazingly beautiful golf course. It's stunning for the spectators and the players themselves. I don't think you can get much better.”

Herb Kohler purchased the property in the late 90s, and had it designed by Pete and Alice Dye, with the hopes it would be used for big golfing events, said O'Reilly.

“It's very visually intimidating, even for some of the best players in the world," he said. "Off the tee box, looking at a fairway, or if it's on a par three, looking at the green. What's actually out there in front of you looks a little bit different from the tee box, so he did some things to kind of trick the player a little bit.”

Local golf fans, like Jeff Collier and his grandson, Jordan Krause, are excited to see how the players fare on this tough terrain.

“For me, I think it's going to be to see how much of a challenge it is for them," said Collier. "I think they'll have their hands full."

"It'll be fun to see if they can hit it straight and keep it on the fairway," said Krause.

As for how Kohler landed on the name ‘Whistling Straits’ --

“He named it himself," said O'Reilly. "As he tells the story, he was walking along the shore after he had acquired the property, before the golf course was being built, and the wind was whistling as he was walking around, along the straits of Lake Michigan. So it came to him that would it be Whistling Straits.”

Gates are open Thursday from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. The celebrity matches will be going on all morning; it’s a nine-hole scramble featuring celebrities from the U.S. and Europe. The Ryder Cup players will also have a practice round in the morning. The opening ceremony will take place in the Dye Plaza at 4 p.m.