The Natural Beauty of “The Bog” Golf Course

The Natural Beauty of “The Bog” Golf Course
by  John Schneider

Back in 1995 Arnold Palmer, yes that Arnold, brought his golf magic and legendary reputation to Wisconsin by creating a new, beautiful, and enchanting golf course.  He put his transformational touches on a parcel of land adjacent to the Cedarburg Bog, located near the town of Saukville, and The Bog was born.  Working with the wetlands, elevation changes, trees, and natural grass lands the Palmer Course Design Company fashioned a fantastic and very scenic golf course.  Located just 25 minutes north of Milwaukee The Bog (800-484-3264; is a par 72 championship golf course that is beautiful to play and beautiful to look at.

The golf course lies next to the Cedarburg Bog, a natural wetland that occupies over 1,700 picturesque acres.  In 1952 the site was designated by Wisconsin as a State Natural Area and is also listed as a National Landmark.  In 1992 the owners of the course purchased acreage next to this natural wonderland with the desire and intention to create a masterpiece golf course.  Later that same year Arnold Palmer’s golf design company started designing the course.  The location in-and-around the natural bog necessitated that the course construct multiple wooden bridges and causeways totaling 1,000 feet to cross the many wetlands.  Given the delicate ecosystem, it took intense discussions and negotiations with the Town of Saukville, the County, and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to get the approvals needed to move forward.  Late in 1993 construction started and by the end of 1994 the course frameworks were established; the first tee shots were hit in June 1995.

While this course is challenging, it offers many options to play at your level.  The 18 meandering holes offer 87 separate tee boxes.  Playing the tips will give the best players everything and more.  The Black tees run just over 7,200 yards with a rating of 75.3 and a slope of 143.  Tell me that is not a challenge…  The Bog clearly understands that not everyone is the next Rickie Fowler or Rory McIlroy by offering 5 sets of tees.  The Gold tees have you playing 6,700 yards with a rating of 72.9 and slope of 138.  The Green tees are just short of 6,400 yards, but still have a slope of 71.1 and rating of 133.  Additionally you can play the Blue or White tees that keep the PGA’s “Play It Forward” approach alive.

The course’s 18 holes are filled with various degrees of length, elevation changes, doglegs, and carries.  This is not a course where you can simply rely on your driver and a short iron.  Approach shots to the green range from 3 woods all the way down to a sand wedge.  On hole number 12, for example, one might initially think that the 306 yard distance would make this a pretty easy par four layout.  However, that is not the case; this hole is deceptively interesting and requires thoughtful play.  In order to successfully navigate it your tee shot must clear a bunker and reach the uphill fairway.  From that vantage point you are open to a 120 yard shot downhill to a very small green.  Did I mention that the green is very small?  Seriously, the greens keepers can probably manicure this postage-stamp in less than 5 minutes.  Adding to the difficulty of approaching this green you must loft a shot over a small river and an intimidating retaining wall of craggy boulders.  Be careful not to hit it too deep (or left / right) into the marsh.  Everyone in our party today either hit the bridge, rocks, or water.

On this glorious, sun filled, hot and humid day, we played from the Green tees.  Believe me, between the sand traps (all 116 of them), bogs, slick greens, and the humidity, we were happy right where we were.   Our group truly felt like we owned the course.  Given the hills, trees, and other nature, we rarely witnessed another group on the course with us.  That is good since I did not need anyone to see the putting show I put on.  The greens at The Bog are very fast, however they play very true.  If you strike the ball with correct force and direction it will behave nicely, however if you misjudge your speed you will not enjoy the results.  On this day we witnessed more than a few puts roll well past the cup.  At the end of the day I was quite pleased with my 85 (even though I ended the round with a couple of painful 3 putts).

Besides giving average hackers like us at First Light Sports an opportunity to play, The Bog is also the home course to Marquette University’s NCAA golf team.   As graduates of Marquette University, we were proud to play the course “The Warriors” (we certainly refuse to use the “Golden Eagles” nickname) call home.  Hail, Alma Mater…

Included in the cost of golf is the use of a wonderful practice facility with 6 target greens to hit towards.  Target greens and flags even have mounds and sand traps nearby to enhance the practice experience.  The practice range has over 40,000 square feet of bentgrass tee boxes.  The huge practice putting green, with undulating elevation changes, has at least 15 holes to get your putting aligned and acquainted with the slick speeds.  This facility is unique due to the availability of various mounds and bunkers to practice what you will inevitably face on the course.  In 2010 The Bog was honored to become home to the only David Leadbetter Golf Academy in the Midwest.

The Bog is a must play for any avid golfer in the Wisconsin, Upper Illinois, or Eastern Minnesota area.  The list of accolades and awards earned by The Bog is long and impressive.  Golf Digest rated this course a 4.5 and ranked them in the top 10 places to play in Wisconsin.  Additionally it seems that every other year The Bog is chosen to host one of the major WSGA (Wisconsin State Golf Association) events.  Even if you are farther away this is a great summer time golf vacation destination.  Besides The Bog there are many other fantastic golf courses in the area to play.  Whistling Straights (2004 & 2010 PGA Championships; 2020 Ryder Cup), Erin Hills (2011 US Amateur; 2017 US Open), The Bull at Pinehurst Farms (Jack Nicklaus Design course) and Brown Deer Golf Course (former PGA Tour stop and Tiger Wood’s first professional event) all are within less than an hour’s drive.

The Bog will cost a little more than your average Wisconsin golf course, but you are clearly not playing an average course.  At most times you can get a premium tee time for a little less than $90.  With a little bit of looking around and some time and date flexibility you can play a round for under $70; a real value when compared with the top notch experience you will have.

Being one of the Midwest’s elite golf courses also means that they have a wonderful pro-shop, full-service bar, and spacious dining room.  A natural fireplace and outside decks make the clubhouse a great place to linger, relax, and reflect on your game after your round is over.  The professional staff has everything in place to host and manage tasteful and graceful corporate or charity events.

After playing the course and visiting with the staff, we here at First Light Sports strongly recommend that you make a point of playing this premier golf course.

Published August 2011

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