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Whistling Straits: The US Ryder Cup Venue That Wants To Be Irish

Whistling Straits: The US Ryder Cup Venue That Wants To Be Irish
By Jonathan Byrne

This week the European and United States Ryder Cup hopefuls will be navigating the course at Whistling Straits.

The site has played host to the PGA Championship on three occasions; in 2004, 2010 and 2015. The two courses in Sheboygan County are the work of legendary golf architect Peter Dye.

Whistling Straits consists of two links-style courses; the Straits Course and the Irish Course. Competitors at this year's Ryder Cup will be playing their golf on the former of the two.

The club owner, Herb Kohler, drafted in Dye to design the courses based on his love of Irish golf course design and his fond memories of playing on Irish grass.

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In 2010, Philip Reid of the Irish Times recalled Dye's encounters with Herb during the design process. "I went out there with Mr Kohler and that’s what was there, this flat plateau and it was about 70 feet above the lake.

"And Mr Kohler said, 'The next time I see this land, I want it to look like Ballybunion'. And I was about to say ‘are you crazy?’ but I knew him pretty well, and I had enough sense not to say anything."

The land on which Whistling Straits was designed used to be a former military base and looked far from become a marquee hosting venue for the world's top golfers.

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Nonetheless, through it's design and careful planning, Peter Dye managed to capture the essence of a top venue with plenty of Irishisms thrown in for good measure.

An Irish Examiner piece in 2004 recalls the infamous 'Irish signpost' erected on the course. "As we pass mock signposts indicating Portrush is 3607 miles away and Ballybunion just a little less."

"The man's love for Ireland is now in full flow. And it filled one with pride that such a man should think so highly of our country."

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There's also the Irish tricolour flag that is flown alongside the American one outside the clubhouse, which was designed as an old Irish manor house from the 19th century.

The attention to detail is remarkable, but also flattering to Irish architecture and design. When building the clubhouse, Reid revealed that Herb Kohler wanted it to look right.

In fact, even the drains used in the locker rooms are replicas of the 19th century drains that were commonly used in the Ireland of that time. And, when the clubhouse was being built, Kohler instructed the workers to turn the rough, unfinished side of the whitewashed stones outward to give the building a more rugged and more natural appearance.

What Whistling Straits has achieved is a close comparison, and homage of sorts, to an Irish course in a country that has their own niche when it comes to designing fairways and greens.

Even if the course will play into the hands of Team USA's bit hitters, there's no doubt that the likes of Shane Lowry and Rory McIlory, under the watchful eye of Padraig Harrington, will feel a semblance of being close to home this week.

See Also: Golf Caddies Give Insight Into Europe's Ryder Cup Dominance

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