Other holes on the Irish course just feel awkward. At the par-five eighteenth, for instance, the second shot for most will be a blind layup to a target bounded by woods and a bog. The hole is nicknamed "Black and Tan," after the combination of lager and stout that often concludes a round in Ireland. After playing the Irish course, a golfer may need one. Or two.
Both the Straits and the Irish course are walking only, and there is a full complement of caddies. It's wise to take one.
The premier lodging in Kohler is at the American Club, a hotel with a history. Herb Kohler's uncle, Walter, built its nucleus in 1918 to house laborers in his plumbing-fixtures factory. The workers paid $27.50 per month for room, board and laundry. Amenities included a bowling alley and a library. Most of the tenants were immigrants, and Walter Kohler encouraged them to learn English and study for citizenship—hence the hotel's name. Everything in the place has been carefully renovated, restored and expanded, and the spectacular Waters Spa added in 2000. The rooms are plush, if not large, and each is equipped with a whirlpool bath manufactured, of course, by Kohler. For the budget-conscious, the village has the Inn on Woodlake. Guests at either have complimentary access to the Sports Core health club. They also receive priority on tee times at all courses—a veritable necessity for securing access to the immensely popular Straits and Irish tracks.
WINING AND DINING
The resort has nine restaurants, counting those in the golf clubhouses, where the fare varies from hearty and simple Midwestern dishes to gourmet dining. As patrons eat, they can watch sheep graze on the dunes through the mullioned windows of the clubhouse at Whistling Straits or the river flowing by at Blackwolf Run. Options include formal dining at the Immigrant Room, hearty American fare at the casual Horse & Plow or, for those in the mood for tasty desserts and pastries, the charming Greenhouse solarium. If venturing off campus, Trattoria Stefano in Sheboygan offers outstanding Italian cuisine. Of course, if one happens to go during the first weekend in August, during Sheboygan's annual Brat Days, it's a good bet he'll want to sample the local homage to the sausage in Kiwanis Park.
The resort will arrange shooting, hunting, fishing, horseback riding, hiking, canoeing and kayaking excursions. But, hey—those can be found at a lot of resorts. What can't be found at Pebble Beach or the Greenbrier is a tour of the Kohler Design Center, a self-proclaimed "mecca for kitchen and bath design ideas." It features the "great wall of china," a stacked array of porcelain plumbing fixtures as imposing as the Green Monster at Fenway Park. After touring the design center, check out the sculptures that line the village's winding walkways. The pieces are made mostly of cast metal and many were created by various artists-in-residence in the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan. Indeed, they're almost as impressive as the four works of art Pete Dye has created nearby.
TRIP PLANNER: KOHLER
BLACKWOLF RUN (River), 800-344-2838. Yardage/Slope: 6,991/151. Greens Fees: $176-$199. Architect: Pete Dye, 1988. T+L GOLF Rating: *****
WHISTLING STRAITS (Straits), 800-344- 2838. Yardage/Slope: 7,362/151. Greens Fee: $272. Architect: Pete Dye, 1998. T+L GOLF Rating: *****
BLACKWOLF RUN (Meadow Valleys), 800-344-2838. Yardage/Slope: 7,142/143. Greens Fees: $141-$164. Architect: Pete Dye, 1990. T+L GOLF Rating: ****1/2
WHISTLING STRAITS (Irish), 800-344-2838. Yardage/Slope: 7,201/146. Greens Fees: $141-$191. Architect: Pete Dye, 2000. T+L GOLF Rating: ***1/2
THE AMERICAN CLUB, Kohler; 800- 344-2838, destinationkohler.com. Rooms: $142-$520. Suites: $552-$1,040.
THE INN ON WOODLAKE, Kohler; 800-344- 2838. Rooms: $90-$266. Suites: $172-$327.
BRAT DAYS (German), Kiwanis Park, Sheboygan; August 5-7; sheboyganjaycees.com. $
THE GREENHOUSE (Dessert), the American Club; 800-344-2838. $
THE HORSE & PLOW (American), the American Club; 800-344-2838. $$
THE IMMIGRANT ROOM (Contemporary Gourmet), the American Club; 800-344- 2838. $$$$
TRATTORIA STEFANO (Italian), Sheboygan; 920-452-8455. $$$
KOHLER DESIGN CENTER, Kohler; Monday- Friday 8 a.m.-5 p.m.; Saturday, Sunday and holidays 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; 920-457-3699.