150 Yard marker in the middle of the fairway

Big Fish Golf Club

by Mark Sculati

The British are known for calling each nine holes of their golf courses as the “outward” nine and the “inward” nine. Here in the states, we refer to them as the front nine and back nine. At most courses the front(outward) and back (inward) nine are of a similar layout and or feel. Most traditional “links” style courses follow that feel for all 18 holes. Average golfers have problems with the wind and at traditional links style golf courses by hole 14 or 15 they are watery eyed and ready to get out of the wind - I’ve been that golfer.

While I love links style golf courses and their no trees, by the back nine I am usually looking for something different.

Well fellow golfers, we found something different at Big Fish Golf Club in Hayward, Wisconsin. And let me tell you - it was magical, pleasing to the eye different. It’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced and would love to capture that experience over and over again.

Let’s begin with the links-style outward front nine.

First a side note. While on the putting green a gentleman realized we were new to the course and went out of his way to help us/provide us with pointers- it was much appreciated and not something you always see.

Hole number one places you on an elevated tee over looking the wide open expanse of the front nine - just what you would expect from starting a links style course. What made this hole so appealing was the wide open fairway and the black and white 150 yard marker in the middle of the fairway. Every course should have these black and white barber poles for two reasons: 1) it gives golfers something to focus and aim at and 2) it speeds up play - you don’t have to be looking down all the time looking for yardage when a quick glance left or right gives you a realistic guess on a yardage. It sounds small and simple, but that’s what makes courses great - the little things.

Number two brings the first par five and a chance to score. Playing downwind our group ended up with two birdies, though it was 525 yards from the blues. We got great rolls on our tee shots and that remained consistent on the front nine. The fairways were perfectly compacted for maximum roll so do not be afraid at a par four measuring over 400 yards.

The first par three was up next and it was a beauty at 149 yards from the blues. The rolling mound and green were perfectly manicured and made for some interesting shot making (what links is all about) if you went right.

Numbers four, five, and six brought three consecutive par fours with hole number four being a beast as the number two handicapped hole at 437 yards from the blues. Number six was also sneaky long at 410 yards. You make three pars on these three holes and give yourself a pat on the back.

Unfortunately, we did no patting.

Number seven is where architect Pete Dye’s influence can really be seen. A long gradual dogleg left with a waste bunker and water along the left hand side of the entire length of the fairway - can anyone say number 18 at TPC Sawgrass? It’s a three shot hole for most mere mortals and a great hole to get off your cart and walk along the water.

The par five seventh.

After the short par four eighth you come to the par three ninth. An unusual hole to finish nine with (which makes it cool), it measures a mere 123 yards from the blues. The other cool thing is the greatest stop over ever built sits behind number nine and awaits you between nines.

Mulligans pub magically grows between nines.

It’s a great scene seeing the pub sprout out amongst the bumps and burns. You HAVE to stop here after your round for one. You are done with nine, had your break and now you are ready to take on the outward nine. The greatest disparity between nines that I have ever seen is about to unfold before your eyes and it is majestic.

Numbers 10 and 11 are two short par fours cut right out of the woods. Number 11 tee box is set back in the woods behind an old logging trail - like you are in another world and it is awesome.

You better score on those two because number 12 brings a great downhill par three. From way on high you hit down to a wide green with woods as a backdrop.

Par Three number twelve

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any cooler, up steps the par five 13th - the piece de resistance. After a pretty straight forward tee shot you are left with one of the coolest second shots ever invented on the planet.

Looking way down a valley you see the green beckoning below you. The view is spectacular and drew oohhs and aahhss from our group - simply outstanding.

Downhill shot at the par five thirteenth

Next up comes two par fours in 14 and 15 with handicaps of three and one respectively. Fourteen is a fun uphiller while 15 is a 460 yard monster that plays uphill. Bring your driver and over club on your second shot - if that’s possible.

Sixteen is a nice downhill par three while 17 brings a tough par five that showed our group should have been at the casino - scores of 7,7,7,7 - four double bogeys - ouch.

Eighteen is a great finishing hole that needs all of your concentration (what you have left) to get a par. While as a group we scored slightly better on the open front, the unanimous decision was that the back was fantastic. To come around the bend on number 13 and to look down that valley provided a sight few of us will ever forget.

Opened in 2004, Big Fish has received many awards from many sources and all are well deserved. One of the cooler things I’ve seen is the Big Fish cantina located on a hill to the left of eighteen green. Surrounded by rocks and littered with chairs, it’s a one of a kind place to sit and watch golfers come up 18.

Big Fish cantina located up and left from eighteen green

All in all, Big Fish is a one of a kind place. Any Minnesota golfer should make the short drive to Hayward to play - you won’t regret it.

To make tee times, check out rates etc., visit www.bigfishgolf.com.