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Playing Kohler

The Dean of the penal school of golf course architecture, Pete Dye is often accused of building more challenge into his courses than the average golfer can be expected to handle--a criticism he shrugs off. Asked if he thinks a golf course can be made too difficult, he says, simply, "No." But don't let Penal Pete scare you away from playing his killer courses at Blackwolf Run and Whistling Straits. All three are terrifyingly spectacular, and regardless of your level of play, you can survive these fifty-four unforgettably unforgiving holes without losing your mind or mangling your mashie into a metal pretzel. All you have to do is obey three rules.

1. Leave the Head Cover on Your Ego. Better yet, leave your ego at home. These are the kind of courses that make pros look like feckless hackers. At the 1998 U.S. Women's Open at Blackwolf Run, eventual winner Se Ri Pak and runner-up Jenny Chuasiriporn were tied at six over par after four rounds, the tournament's highest score in fifteen years--and this was on a composite of the River and Meadow Valleys courses that was shorter and somewhat easier than the layouts you'll be tackling.

The challenges only begin with the Great Big Bertha-busting lengths of the par fours: Over the three courses, eleven are more than 450 yards from the tips. But even if you play the middle or forward tees, you'll have to grapple with uneven putting surfaces, a Dye trademark. Be prepared for lots of three-putts, four-putts, even five-putts. (Note: If you insist on bringing your ego but can't face four- or five-putting, take a tip from a frustrated visiting pro who invented a game called Tee to Green. Leaving his flat stick in the bag, this pro played the River course at Blackwolf Run only from tee to green and gave himself a one-putt on each hole. Even so, he barely broke par.)

2. Keep the Golf Course (and the Scenery) in Front of You. No matter how desperate you get for a birdie, a par or anything less than a quadruple bogey, don't get suckered into devil-be-damned gambles. Dye is a master of mirage and illusion; otherwise tempting carries over water hazards and roughs are invariably much longer than they appear. On approaches, it is usually better to be short than long. You can almost always find your ball in a bunker or on a mound, but only Lucifer and his pal Pete know what lurks in the underworld beyond the green.

3. Bring Lots of Balls. You can estimate how many balls you'll need to play the courses at Blackwolf Run and Whistling Straits by looking at the scorecards, which recommend which tees (black, blue, white and red) are suited to specified handicap ranges. Just substitute ball numbers for the handicap figures, and you'll calculate the total you're likely to lose. If, for example, you're a zero to five handicapper capable of playing the black tees, you can count on losing zero to five balls per round. If your game is more suited to the blue tees (six to fourteen handicappers) or the white tees (fifteen to twenty-three), be ready to sacrifice no less than two sleeves and possibly as many as two dozen orbs. If your handicap is over twenty-four, bring the shag bag, filled with either lots of balls or large bills.

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